OCALA, Fla.--Finally, a sign of spring with the first two point-to-points of the year, and with recognized steeplechases soon to come.
Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point is March 19, followed by the Foxhall Farm Team Chase March 20, and recognized meets begin March 26 with Aiken, followed by Cheshire Point-to-Point, with two recognized races on March 27 and then Brandywine Hills Point-to-Point April 3.
The next steeplechase in Chester County, Willowdale, will run this year against Iroquois on Saturday, May 14.
Iroquois will feature the first Grade 1 race of the year and will be the site of the highly anticipated renewal of the battle between The Mean Queen, trained by Keri Brion, and Snap Decision, trained by Jack Fisher.
“We decided after 2019 to hold the Willowdale races on Saturday instead of Sunday because we normally run on Mother’s Day weekend, “ said Race Chairman Dixon Stroud. “ We wanted to give people who had other traditional Mother’s Day arrangements the chance to see the races as well. We think we’ll have better attendance running on Saturday. This year our designated weekend in the Steeplechase calendar does not fall on Mother’s Day weekend, but we still want to run on Saturday. The caliber of steeplechasers running here at Willowdale is different than at Iroquois so horsemen will still take advantage of the opportunity to race their horses here. Also, apprentice and amateur riders will have greater opportunity to ride if many professional jockeys are riding at Nashville”.
LESLIE YOUNG sent two horses down to Ocala to support the new Florida Steeplechase, which for this year ran as a point-to-point.
The organizers are hopeful of getting it recognized in the future.
Being so early in the year, neither Florida nor the Rappahannock Point-to-Point, both held Saturday, March 5, drew many entries, with the exception of the three pony races at Rappahannock.
Young was the only trainer to have two winners on March 5, and both her winners were in flat races.
Ballybristol Farm's Cause for Pardon, ridden by Virginia Korrell, won the Open Flat at 1 1/2 miles, and Thomas Rice and Van Cushny's Bee Major, ridden by Gerard Galligan, won the Open Flat at 1 1/4 miles.
Cause for Pardon came late with a strong finish to win by a head over Secret Temple, trained by Clair Walker, and Geranium, trained by Theodore Gregory.
Bee Major raced behind the slow pace of She's a Threat, trained by Walker, to rally in the stretch and win by a head.
"My horses were coming all the way from Pennsylvania," said Young. "I sent my assistant trainer Timmy Wyatt with them. I just wanted to support the organizers, Archie Macauley and Jessica Berry."
"It was really just a first work for my horses," said Young. "I told then just to let them gallop. Those two will hopefully go to Aiken. I heard Florida sold out the infield and that it was a great success."
Young, who now stables her horses at Ashwell, formerly Jonathan Sheppard''s training barn.
The facility has a wood chip track that Young said is being completely revamped, and that new stalls had been moved into the stable on March 8.
Three ran in the first race at Florida, a 2 mile Maiden Hurdle, with Kate Dalton's trainees Declareatruce and Seb's Welcome running first by a head and second over Big City Dreams, trained by Kathy Neilson.
In the Open Hurdle, The Happy Giant, trained by Allison Fulmer, won by 2 lengths over Kenya Road, trained by Dalton and Three O One, trained by Lilith Boucher.
In the Maiden Flat 1 1.4 mile race, Truth and Honesty, trained by Joseph Hennessy, won by a neck over Cast No Stones, trained by Fulmer and The Region, trained by Boucher.
AT RAPPAHANNOCK, in the 2 1//2 mile Open Timber, Fletched,, trained by Forrest Kelly, won by a head over Bet the Pot, trained by Neil Morris.
Boyfriend Brian, trained by Will Driscoll, won the Foxhunter Timber by 7 lengths over What a Charmer, trained by Sam Cockburn.
Five ran in the 1 1/4 mile Open Flat, with Animal Kingdom, trained by Morris, winning by 4 lengths over West Newton and Fightinirishtabit, both trained by Ricky Hendriks.
Diva of Saville, trained by Casey Pinkard, won the Maiden Flat by 1/2 length over Criticize, trained by Morris and Mercoeur, trained by Young.
Chewy, ridden by William Slater, won the Small Pony over a field of six, Charleston, ridden by Yomar Ortiz, won the Medium Pony over a field of four, and Goose, ridden by Carly Kern, won the Large Pony over a field of six.