KENNETT SQUARE, Pa.--Willowdale Steeplechase Chairman Dixon Stroud has made some alterations to the timber fences over the last few years.
This year, he decided to scrap the changes and go back to the original Hugh Morshead construction.
Solid, yet safe, because of their placement on the course – just like they were when the race first was run in 1993.
“Why re-invent the wheel? “asks Stroud. “Ok, I have added and altered some fences of the Willowdale Steeplechase since 1993. But the basic premises remain in effect full force for May 14, 2022.”
Hugh Morshead, 39 years old in 1993 and an Irishman transplanted to Canada, deserves most of the credit.
He came down to Willowdale and built the jumps practically single handedly, and his philosophy is reflected in what you will see this year.
The timber fences are solidly built post and rail construction and offer no give to the passing horse.
THESE JUMPS may seem imposing to most spectators, but they actually encourage a better approach by the horse.
“A horse respects a solid fence and will jump much better over it, “says Stroud.
The Willowdale Steeplechase also features an uphill approach to the fences and a seldom seen water jump.
The jump is ideally laid out and encourages less speed and more jumping.
Both Morshead and Stroud believe that this style of run makes for less wear and tear on the horse.
In addition, a lot of thought had to go into the drainage of the field when the course was constructed.
“Footing, not fences, injures the horse, “said Morshead." Dixon has gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that this racecourse has excellent footing.”
Willowdale is not just better for the horses.
Attendance will be at full capacity this year, and those spectators will benefit from the unique style of the races and the spectacle of the Water Jump.
Located on the hills bordered by Routes 82 and 926, the site can accommodate thousands of cars and its natural amphitheater allows for viewing of almost the entire racecourse.
This Chester Country tradition features six sanctioned horse races, pony races, Jack Russell Terrier races, boutique shopping and activities for children.
There’s a tailgate contest, and a hat and best dressed contest.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Stroud Water Research Center and Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center.
For more information, tickets and tailgate packages, go to willowdale.org.