Category Archives: Horse Racing

Montpelier Hunt Races

It was an overcast, dreary day for this year’s Montpelier Hunt Races held at the home of James and Dolley Madison in Montpelier Station, Va, but the racing was good. The horses race past the mansion and some try to jump the mulch covered road.Montpelier_Mansion_Races

They held the dirt race for the first time in a few years. Pride of the Fleet won.

Pride_of_the_Fleet_Montpelier_Hunt_Races  Those farther back in the field had a face full of dirt.Montpelier_Hunt_Races_Dirt_

There were some very handsome horses in the paddock. Montpelier_Hunt_Races_Paddock Decoy Daddy won the Noel Laing Stakes race for an unprecedented third time.Montpelier_Hunt_Races_Steeplechase


Would you like photos of your race or show horse at the next event? Let me know!

Also posted in Steeplechase

Virginia Derby at Colonial Downs

I should have known better than to try and arrive at Colonial Downs 30 minutes before the first race of the Virginia Derby meet. People were crashing into each other on I64 and it took me 40 minutes from the highway exit to the parking lot, a distance of about 5 miles. I missed the first two races. Upon arrival they didn’t have anyone directing traffic, signs indicating that the preferred parking lots were full, or even attendants to tell people that there were no more handicapped spots. But they did have golf carts running from the far reaches of the parking lot to take the less mobile racing fans up to the entrance and fortunately the weather was lovely for the rest of us.

Apprentice jockey Sarah Rook just started her professional jockey career this year. She is currently third in the Colonial Downs standings for the season, including a win on the 30-1 longshot, Softly Lit, in the Tippett Stakes on Saturday. She won the Tippett by a head on the rail, so all you can see in my photo is Softly Lit’s head and nothing of Sarah at all. Here she is in an earlier race on Live the Dash.


Major Magic won the Chenery Stakes for 2 year olds. Major Magic has two starts, one on the dirt at Charles Town, where he broke his maiden, and now a turf stakes race.


The Chenery Stakes race is named for Penny Chenery, breeder and owner of Riva Ridge and Secretariat. Ms. Chenery attended the races and presented the trophy. I think she looks fabulous.

Excited was the winner of the $150,000 Virginia Oaks (gr III) stakes race for 3 year old fillies. Here she is approaching the finish line with John Velazquez, just ahead of Summer Savory and Kent Desormeaux.


The $600,000 Virginia Derby (gr II) is a 1 1/4 mile turf race for three year olds. Some very impressive horses have won it in the past including Paddy O’Prado last year. This year nearly every entry had at least one stakes win, many of those graded stakes wins. This is a photo early in the race of Benergy, Newsdad and Crimson China, none of whom won but I liked the photo.


Banned was the favorite going to post but he was edged out by Air Support and Alex Solis.


And here is Air Support looking very handsome in the paddock before the race.


North American Point-to-Point Association Championships

On Sunday I went to the North American Point-to-Point Association Championships for the first time. I frequently photograph the junior field master chase races at various point-to-point meets but never this one and it was lots of fun. It was held at Great Meadow and used many of the same obstacles used during the Gold Cup field master chase and Steeplethon races. One lady, looking a bit stunned, noted that they don’t see those types of obstacles in kids’ races in Pennsylvania.

Snickersville provided the outriders and just before the first race, the hounds paraded on course as it began to pour. They gamely came through the water obstacle, although I suppose at that point they couldn’t have gotten much wetter.

NAPPA Championship

Perhaps my favorite event of the day was the lead line races, which were much more exciting than sedate lead line classes at hunter shows. The rules stated that if the pony cantered, the leader had to circle and stop for a few seconds before trotting on. This was the first division for five year olds and under; in their little racing silks they were simply too cute for words.

NAPPA Championship

They held a Foxhunter Steeplethon, a cross between the regular foxhunter races we commonly see at point-to-point meets and the Steeplethon run at Gold Cup and a few other National Steeplechase Association meets. It was 2 3/4 miles long and wound all over the race course, going through the water obstacle twice. The first time through the water, Global Genius dumped Natalie Wales in the drink but ran and jumped with the rest for the remaining 2 miles. He didn’t stop until the very end when he saw the truck and trailer that was there for emergencies and decided he’d rather get a ride home.

NAPPA Championship

Three fences from home, Tate Shaw and Ice Is Nice were running and jumping well in the lead but after the stone wall they turned left instead of straight and went off course. Seems to me this pair did something similar at Piedmont…

NAPPA Championship

At that point there were only two horses left in the race and at the last jump Bart Poole and Jeb’s Crowner parted ways. I told Bart as he got to his feet that in the old days he could have gotten back on and finished the race but he said no, thanks.
NAPPA Championship

Meanwhile, Orlik ran out with Alex Bazdar at the last jump while Jeb’s Crowner was coming to grief. Alex circled around, took the last jump and headed to the finish but she was disqualified by the stewards.

NAPPA Championship

It was the first race I’ve seen where no one finished.

The last race of the day was a flat race for NAPPA alumni. Rosie Napravnik, who rode Pants on Fire in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, competed on Classic Storm, a horse trained by her steeplechase trainer sister, Jazz. No wonder Rosie rides on the flat because she’s a little bit of a thing. Unfortunately, although Classic Storm is very handsome, he doesn’t run as fast as Pants on Fire. 🙂

NAPPA Championship

A great time was had by all and I encourage you to check out NAPPA’s schedule for future events.

Also posted in Foxhunting, Steeplechase

Virginia Gold Cup Jockeys

Instead of the usual jumping and running photos, I thought I’d post some of the jockeys who rode in the Virginia Gold Cup Races. For more Gold Cup photos, please visit Susan M. Carter Photography

Willie Dowling in a state of dishabille.
Middleburg Hunt Point to Point

Gus Dahl is practicing his male model look.

Middleburg Hunt Point to Point

Jeff Murphy’s shades are definitely cool but I’m not so sure about the underwear.

Middleburg Hunt Point to Point

I think this is Emily MacMahon but since she’s not a regular on the Virginia racing circuit, I’m not 100% positive. If I’m wrong, someone please correct me.

Middleburg Hunt Point to Point

Paddy Young and Lake Placid were both smiling.

Virgina Gold Cup Races

And here are all (or almost all) of the jockeys before the first race.


Also posted in Steeplechase

Charles Town Classic

Charles Town Races held its biggest meet of the year on April 16th with six stakes races on the card. It had been raining off and on for the past two weeks and Saturday evening we had torrential downpours with tornado warnings. I thought I left plenty of time to get there but I had to take multiple detours because of washed out roads and missed the first race. Both the first and second races were delayed because of lightning, with the second going off 50 minutes behind schedule. But they shortened the time between races and were back on schedule by the big race, the 10th. Please contact me if you are interested in photos from the night.

The track was labeled “sloppy” and they weren’t kidding. Luckifee and Travis L. Dunkelberger won the second race while it was still thundering. I’m glad I wasn’t the tallest object out on that flat oval, wearing metal shoes no less.


Travis L. Dunkelberger was on a hot streak. He won three races, including the Webb Snyder Stakes on Immortal Eyes and they set a track record. The race was 4 1/2 furlongs – I didn’t even know that Thoroughbreds ran that short a distance, it was practically a Quarter Horse race!

A Maryland bred mare, Sweet Goodbye, won the $250,000 TVG Sugar Maple Stakes race with J.D. Acosta up.


The main race of the night was the $1m Charles Town Classic. This is the third year that it has been run and this year it was designated a Grade 3 stakes race. This was especially historic because in the 78 years since its founding there has never been a graded stakes race at Charles Town. The only sad note was that being a graded stakes race changed the entry criteria and Researcher, the horse that won the first two years and set a track record, was unable to get in. I thought he should have gotten an automatic slot as the reigning champion. But it was still a very exciting race and was the first non-Breeders’ Cup race since 2006 to have a field of 10 or more horses that had all won graded stakes races.

The winner was Duke of Mischief. Here he is going down to the start with jockey Joe Bravo. I wish I knew the pony rider’s name.


I mostly watch steeplechase and turf races and the handful of times I’ve been to Charles Town have mostly seen low level claiming races. Black type stakes winners running on dirt, even if sloppy, showed the sport at a whole other level. I was actually standing on the track and these horses were blazing past me. Duke of Mischief was flying as he crossed the finish line more than two lengths ahead of Game On Dude. Joe Bravo had a big smile as he went by.


Joe was rightfully very pleased with the performance!


Orange County Hunt Point to Point

Back to lovely Locust Hill for the Orange County Hunt point to point races. For more steeplechase photos please visit Susan M. Carter Photography.

Locally bred Forest Bell made an impressive start to his jumping career, winning the maiden hurdle with Jeff Murphy. Forest Bell has won his last three starts in the Virginia bred flat race series and this was his first race over fences.


Lonesome Nun high kicked her way down to the start with Keri Brion for the novice rider flat race. Lonesome Nun and Keri came in second.


From 2002 to 2008, Sur La Tete was a multiple stakes winning steeplechase horse who retired at the age of ten to be a foxhunter. Apparently he didn’t like standing at checks or cantering demurely behind the master and three years later he and Chris Read are racing together again.

Surprisingly, Sur La Tete was beaten by his stablemate, Humdinger. Humdinger was claimed away from Kinross Farm but has returned to Neil Morris for training. Although there are many steeplechase claiming races, horses are rarely claimed. Sort of like “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail” [Harry L. Stimson], I guess gentlemen don’t claim each other’s horses. Humdinger and Matt McCarron edged past Sur La Tete to win by a neck.


Jockeys frequently show the horses the fence before the race starts. For a moment, both jockey Paddy Young and I thought More Fascination was going to jump it from a stand still.

More Fascination must really have been ready to jump because he went on to win the open timber race, beating G’Day G’Day among others, seen here.


Also posted in Steeplechase

Piedmont Hunt Point-to-Point

For additional racing photos, please visit the steeplechase gallery at Susan M. Carter Photography.

Piedmont Hunt Point-to-Point is held across the street from the Upperville Horse Show grounds, the oldest continuous horse show in the U.S. It is a spectacularly beautiful area with picturesque stone wall jumps that feature prominently in the races. Here Westbound Road and George Hundt, Jr. clear one of the walls with the mountains in the background. The pair won the owner rider timber race.


Early in the week, the weatherman was calling for all sorts of unpleasant weather, including possible snow. Fortunately the snow held off and race day, although cold, had lovely blue skies with a smattering of clouds. This is the open flat race.

Timber races usually have smaller fields than hurdles but Piedmont’s maiden timber race was as big as any race on the point-to-point circuit with eleven starters. Here they go over the fifth jump.

The feature race of the day was the Rokeby Challenge Bowl, a three and a half mile race over timber. Incomplete and Charles Fenwick, III won the race for the third time, retiring the trophy.

Last summer Genghis suffered from atrial fibrillation and his owner, Sara Collette, thought that he might not be able to continue racing. Genghis is full brother to the famous Salmo and I considered giving him a retirement home. In the end, I acquired a half brother to two time Charles Town Classic winner, Researcher, and Genghis went back to racing. Here he is with Diana Gillam in the Lady Rider Timber race.


Also posted in Steeplechase

Warrenton Point to Point

Warrenton Hunt Point to Point races were held last Saturday on the grounds of the Airlie Conference Center, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The grounds are lovely and the many ponds and wetlands host the largest captive free-swimming swan collection in the northeastern Unites States. For more photos of the races (but none of the swans) please visit the Warrenton races gallery at Susan M. Carter Photography.

Jockey Carl Rafter and trainer Julie Gomena teamed up for two hurdle wins, one in the maiden hurdle and one in the Airlie Steeplechase Open Hurdle. Here is Carl and Greg Ryan’s Devil’s Preacher in the open hurdle race. It still looks weird to see anyone other than Greg in these silks.


Jacob Roberts and Pres On won the restricted maiden hurdle. They navigated cleanly and quickly around the course while other horses refused jumps and lost jockeys.

Natalie Wales and Pizarro crossed the finish line first in the Owner Rider Timber race but here at the last jump she interfered with Justpourit (IRE) and George Hundt, jr and was disqualified into second place.

According to the program, Todd McKenna should have been wearing blue and white silks in the amateur/novice hurdle race. I guess he left them at home. It looks like he grabbed a suit coat off someone and stuck it over his racing vest. Wish I had his form over fences, though…

Virginia Steeplechase Association president Don Yovanovich served as starter. The novice riders for the flat race had a hard time getting organized but eventually Don got them pointed in the right direction.

No one wanted to start in the novice timber race. The flag is down but neither Gus Brown nor Paddy Young were in any hurry to go.


Also posted in Steeplechase

Blue Ridge Point to Point

The Virginia point to point season now begins with Blue Ridge in March instead of Casanova in February. A lot of rain during the week leading up to the races made the footing very nice. I had expected it to be soggy so I can only imagine how hard it would have been without the drenching rains. You can find more photos from the races on Susan M. Carter Photography.

So Amazing (Ire), ridden by Ross Geraghty, beat two hurdle stakes winners to win the open hurdle race.

Sam Cockburn and Meshwaar were the Virginia Steeplechase Association Amateur/Novice Hurdle champions in 2010 and they started the season off right with another win.
The Novice Timber race featured three horses making their first start over timber. Thynnus, ridden by Chris Read, was the youngest with the least racing experience but still won. He was jumping like a deer, although he is named for a fish – a tuna to be precise!
BK’s Double Jade, by contrast, has years of experience over hurdles and hasn’t yet figured out that he needs a different style over solid jumps. His young jockey, Gus Dahl, did a good job.

Mary Motion and Orpington have been cleaning up in the Junior Fieldmaster Chase for the past couple of years but now she has moved up to the regular races. This was her first race over jumps and she won the Foxhunter Timber race. You go, girl!
I almost didn’t recognize Pat Cooney (left) without a big red apple on his chest. He pointed out that I couldn’t have gotten any good photos because I had none of him since he wasn’t riding. So now I have at least one good photo from the meet.
Legend the yellow lab is ready to enter the races with the big boys. He doesn’t know he is small. 🙂


Also posted in Steeplechase

Virginia Steeplechase Association Calendar

Each year the Virginia Steeplechase Association prints a nice little black and white calendar for its members listing the racing dates for that year and including photographs from the previous year. You can join VSA, get a calendar and support steeplechase racing in Virginia. You can see more photos of Virginia steeplechase and point-to-point meets at Susan M. Carter photography. Here are some of the photos from the 2011 calendar.

Miss January is Mary Motion and her partner Orpington. Mary and Orpington won every junior field masters chase they entered during a three year period.

Mr. March is Radio Flyer with Gus Brown aboard winning the Rokeby Bowl.

Messrs May are Church Ghost and Jake Dunning, Marino Feliz and William Santaro, and Harry’s Crown and Sam Cockburn.

Mr. and Ms. June are One Sea (Roddy Mackenzie) and Farah T. Salute (Willie Dowling).
Mr. September is I’m Telling with Jacob Roberts winning the Samuel H. Rogers Memorial at Morven Park.

Mr. October is He’s a Conniver with Jody Petty winning the International Gold Cup.

Mr. December is Endless Mountain and Ben Garner winning the open timber race at Old Dominion.


Also posted in Steeplechase