NORTHBROOK, Pa.--A big crowd, delighted to be back at the races after a two year Covid gap, saw exciting finishes in all four races over timber atthe Brandysine Hills Point-to_Point on April 3.
Jockeys Skylar McKenna and Teddy Davies, along with four intrepid side saddle riders, provided the most hotly contested races, with their mounts jumping the last fence side by side before the duel to the finish line.
The spectators also brought along their kids, who provided huge and enthusiastic entries in the stick races.
Luckily, all the pony, lead line and stick races were finished before a menacing thunder storm blew in at about 1:30.
The first timber race was postponed for just 15 minutes, and the storm blew through with driving rain and fierce wind, leaving the rest of the afternoon clear, although the strong wind came up again for the last couple of races.
Entries were light due to Green Spring Valley Point-to-Point moving from its usual date of Saturday on the first weekend in April to that Sunday so that it would avoid going up against the sanctioned meet at Camden.
BECAUSE the trees in the Myrick Conservancy have grown so thick and tall, much of the course now can't be seen, so Brandywine devised a novel solution.
Jay Meister, who has professionally announced the races for many years, called most of each race by watching the live stream on a computer in a tent opposite the finish line, while Katelyn Callahan, an announcer-in-training, was on the top of the judges' stand and announced the end of the race from where the competitors came back into view over the second to last fence.
Jockey's Theresa Dimpfel and Sam English gave spectators the first exciting finish in the 3 mile Lady Rider Timber, which had just the two entries.
Kinross Farm's Blackhall (Ire), trained by Joe Davies and ridden by Dimpfel, won in the stretch over Battle Aray, owned and trained by Billy Meister and ridden by English, after the two horses jumped the last fence together.
"It was so much fun," said Dimpfel, who worked for Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard before his retirement. "I love this little horse. This is the third time I've ridden him, but this is the first race I've ridden him in. I schooled him before the Foxhall Farm team race. I bugged Joe to let me ride him here, and he was kind enough to oblige. Blackhall heard Billy's horse coming to him at the last fence and he wasn't going to let him past."
The Amateur Apprentice Rider Timber and the Novice Timber were combined, with Irv Naylor's Withoutmoreado, trained by Kathy Neilson and ridden by McKenna, winning in another exciting finish by 1/2 length over It's Nothing, owned by Sally Read & Molly Sharp, trained by Neilson and ridden by Theo Sushko.
This was the fastest race of the day, finishing in a time of 6 minutes, 32 seconds.
"He's a very nifty jumper," said McKenna. "He's aimed for the non-winners of two at the Maryland Grand National. He's a big, strong galloping type."
Andale, owned by Gary Fischer and Meister, trained by Meister and ridden by Sam English, was a distanced third to the two in the Amateur race but won the Novice Timber as the only entry.
"A mini pony was running back and forth in front of the third to last fence, and I had to pull up, "said English of her reason for being so far behind the other two. "These were the first two races I've ever ridden in. It's great. I've worked for Jonathan Sheppard and Kathy Neilson, and then on the track in New York for Shug McGaughery. I've been hunting with Billy, and I've learned a lot from the man who's won the Maryland Hunt Cup."
After jumping the last fence together, Teddy Davies on Armata Stables' Our Friend (Ire), trained by his father Joe, drew away to win by 1/2 length over McKenna on Armata Stable's Highway Prince (Ire), trained by her mother Neilson, in the Open Timber.
"This was the first time I've ridden him in a race," said Davies. "I ride him at home, ad he's been hunted all winter. We went out in front, and he settled after the first fence. He jumped great. I think this course set him up perfectly for the Manor."
The final race was the Side Saddle race that included six fences, and although the pace was very slow over the first five fences, after the last fence, jumped abreast by all three riders, they took off in a wild flying finish, with Lauren Apple on owner/trainer Jule Nafe's Sky Babe winning over Nafe on her own Noble Weed, with Olivia Sitar on her Nova, trained by Nafe, third.
Raines Gammon on Frosty won the Small Pony Junior Field Master race over Skye Gammon on Olney Yes Ma'am.
Ellet Sharp on Fiona won both the Medium Pony Junior Field Master Race and the Medium Pony flat race, the only entry in both races.
Sophie Sage on Justin Time won the Large Pony Junior Field Master race in a walkover.
In the Small Pony Flat race, Zach Scherer on Olney Lightening Bug won over Savannah Hutchins on Quick Draw McGraw, with Emma Rogers on Olney Merlin third.
Thomas Houghton, who seems to have a strangle hold on the Large Pony races, won again on Charmed, beating Kendall Rosier on Margarita.
Perry Jonas won the Lead Line Pony race in a four horse field over Charlotte Alberts on Olney Lightening Bug.