The 76th running of the Warrenton Hunt Races, Virginia’s oldest Point-to-Point, had to contend, once again, with fickle Mother Nature as March came in like a lamb, conning peepers into singing their mating songs and trees into budding, before roaring like a lion with migraine. Deep snow and heavy winds forecast early in the week dwindled into a relative dusting. On Saturday, March 18, the footing at the Airlie course was rated “good” and that’s important for the horses. It turned into a lovely day for racing.
Trainer Jimmy Day of Daybreak Stables (Clarke County) saddled five and posted two wins for owner Bruce Smart of Upperville: Full Colors in the Amateur/Novice Rider Hurdle and Officer’s Oath in the Virginia Bred/Sired Flat.
The Maiden Hurdle, always an exciting contest, especially early in the season, was split into two divisions, each with seven starters. In the first set, Ross Geraghty piloted the Ricky Hendricks-trained Quarla in her debut over hurdles. The 6-year-old mare ran once on the flat last year at the International Gold Cup last year, but at Warrenton she won by a head, besting the pacesetter Balistes, Kieran Norris doing the honors for owner Sara E. Collette. Third place went to Magalen O. Bryant’s Cryptos’ Holiday and Kieran Norris.
In the second division of the 2-mile Maiden Hurdle, Jazz Napravnik traveled down from Monkton, M with Flying Horse Farm LLC’s Jesse O and engaged Jeff Murphy to ride the 5-year-old bay gelding in his first start over hurdles. Last year, Jesse O ran on the flat five times, placing second in his final start of the season at Montpelier in November. This year, Napravnik watched the grandson of Pleasant Colony go to the front, set the pace throughout and cross the finish line 8 thrilling lengths in front of the closest challenger.
Doug Fout saddled the most runners, 8, with 6 finishing in the top three, including a 1-2 result in the Open Flat with Magalen O. Bryant’s Last Farewell, a head in front of Pure Deal, owned by Beverly R. Steinman.
There’s plenty more racing on the calendar, now that Warrenton launched the point-to-point season. Piedmont runs this Saturday, March 25, with Orange County on Sunday, April 2, and Old Dominion on Saturday, April 8. Loudoun takes place at Oatlands on Sunday, April 16, followed by Blue Ridge, which postponed from March 12 to April 23.
April also cards two sanctioned meets: Middleburg Spring Races at Glenwood Park on Saturday, April 22, and Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville on April 29. Middleburg Hunt provides the month’s finale on Sunday, April 30, at Glenwood Park.
On Saturday, May 6, the Virginia Gold Cup Races hold court at Great Meadow.
2nd Race Awards
Amber Hodyka made her racing debut over hurdles aboard Bruce Smart’s Fall Colors, trained by Jimmy Day, winning on a technicality when a lost weight pad resulted in disqualification of Slaney Rock and Erin Swope in the Amateur-Novice Hurdle. Pictured: Amber Hodyka and Melanie Bartenstein, who presented the trophy in honor of her late father, Andrew Bartenstein, with her children.
4th Race Awards
Max Tufts (far left) presented the trophy in honor of his late mother, Sally Spillman Tufts, ex-MFH, to the winner of the Open Flat, Mrs. Magalen O. Bryant’s Last Farewell, ridden by Brendan Crowley and trained by Doug Fout (second from left).
6th Race Awards
Emily Day, owner Bruce Smart, trainer Jimmy Day, and Emily (neé Smart) Rogan pause for a photo after Officer’s Oath, bred by Daybreak Stables and ridden by Liam McVicar, scored a 5-length victory in the Virginia Bred/Sired Flat.
7th Race Awards
Will Allison ex-MFH and his wife Christina Allison, Robert Bonnie, Mark Beecher: Le Chevalier trained by Julie Gomena (not pictured), owned by Over Creek Stables LLC, romped to a 10-length victory in the Springs Valley Open Timber.
9th Race Awards
Zoe Valvo, who partnered her Addones Last Hurrah to win the Amateur & Novice Rider Timber, and Douglas Lees, Eclipse-Award winning photographer and sponsor of the race, who presented the trophy in honor of his late father, D. Harcourt Lees ex-MFH.