HUNT VALLEY, Md.--Skylar McKenna won thee races, including the featured Open Timber, and also placed second or third in four others to hit the board in all seven of the races she rode in on the nine race program at the Races at Shawan Downs on Sept. 26.
Due to having to be run without spectators, thus losing one of it's major fund raisers, Shawan Downs ran as a unrecognized point-to-point, without purse money, and stressed amateur and apprentice races..
Riding Charles Fenwick's Royal Ruse, trained by her aunt Sanna Neilson, McKenna led for most of the race and, when Curve of Stones, who had been stalking in second, lost his rider at the second to last fence, she went on to win by about 15 lengths over Mystic Strike.
"I'm very fortunate to be able to ride Royal Ruse," said McKenna. "I rode him in races this past spring, and I fox hunt him. He's a vey nice hore, super classy and a very good jumper."
It was appropriate that Fenwick's horse won one of the two featured races as Fenwick is the moving spirit behind the Shawan Downs races.
Sideling Hill was third and Doc Cebu, past Timber Horse of the Year, was fourth, although he just galloped along in the rear of the pack for most of the race and didn't seem to be seriously contesting the race.
McKENNA rode Welcome Here Farm's Second Amendment, also trained by Sanna Neilson, to win the Amateur Apprentice Timber over Pincer Movement and Coastal Moon.
"He's a very game horse, and very competitive," said McKenna. "I fox hunted him all winter. He was one of three I hunted regularly."
McKenna's third winner was Mrs. S,K, Johnston's Brianbakescookies. trained by Jack Fisher in the Amateur Apprentice Flat race.
As she is still an amateur and an apprentice, many of McKenna's rides have been on horses trained by her mother Kathy Neilson and aunt Sanna.
"When I first started riding for other trainers, I was a little nervous," said McKenna. "But then I figured, well, it's just another horse race."
"I had never ridden Brianbakescookies before," said McKenna. "He was a really nice ride. I got some pointers from Mikey Mitchell, his regular rider, before the race."
"When she first started riding in races over fences, I was super nervous," said Kathy. "Now, I look more at the position she's in in the race. I don't take it lightly, but I'm not awash in nerves."
During the races, which were live streamed, Kathy announced that Willowdale will hold a steeplechase on Oct. 17, with a few point-to-point races and one NSA recognized race, an amateur apprentice race named in honor of the father, Paddy Neilson.
"Getting Willowdale just happened last week," said Kathy. "I reached out to BNY Mellon Wealth Management and Selkirk Partners, and they funded the race in honor of my father. Dixon Stroud had proposed a point-to-point, and this all came together."
McKenna was also second on Optical Illusion, owned and trained by Alexandra White, in the Maiden Amateur Apprentice flat race, which was won by Hail Michigan, trained by Joe Davies, and second on Pureed It, trained by Kathy Neilson, in the Restricted Young Adult Flat race. won by Agravain, trained by Todd Wyatt.
In the Amateur Apprentice Hurdle race, McKenna was third on Adjutant, trained by Kathy, to Armata Stable's Zanzi Win, trained by Ricky Hendriks, and also third in the Maiden Hurdle on Scherzo, trained by Kathy, to Holwood Stable's Road to Oz, trained by Mark Beecher.
In the co-feature, the Open Hurdle, Rather Be Racing's Our Legend, trained by Jack Fisher and ridden by Graham Watters, won by 1 1/2 lengths over Corky Lemon, trained by Beecher.
Leslie Young trained both first and second horses in the Maiden timber, winning with Leiper Fork Steeplechaser LLC's Tomgarrow, with Bruton Street-US' Satish second.