Spring has sprung, flower and vegetable gardens are flourishing, and people are spending more time out of doors. Three days of racing took place in Loudoun County – with spectators! – although numbers were restricted in compliance with Covid safety precautions even for outdoor events. The racing is all pretty special from start to finish, especially with reams of interesting info on the internet about the horses and people involved. You can’t beat the photogenic settings which host these rural events, including Upperville Horse Show. How about helping to support these sports and activities which require vast open spaces, especially where horses are involved…      

Glenwood Park, situated on the outskirts of the village of Middleburg, is a jaw-droppingly gorgeous rural expanse of green, shaped like a giant amphitheater, with the dark smudges of the Blue Ridge Mountain along the far western horizon that have always reminded me of sleeping dragons. The panoramic view of the nearly perfectly bowl-shaped racecourse with its slopes and dips provides a spectacular setting for two local sporting traditions: Middleburg Spring Races (5/1) and Middleburg Hunt Point-to-Point (5/9). 

Still fresh news: on April 18, Loudoun Hunt Point-to-Point enjoyed a double celebration: the return of racing to Morven Park for the first time since 2011. The occasion also marked Loudoun Hunt’s relocation from longtime land host, Oatlands, gracious historic plantation south of Leesburg on Rt. 15. The Loudoun races debuted the new hurdles in an improved design called EasyFix – lots of info on the internet about this wonderful advance in greater safety for horses and riders. Morven Park is a mansion estate reflecting Virginia history with tours and other activities and events – suitable for the entire family, even grandparents and grandkids.

In the rural western part of Northern Virginia there are three lovely “open space” preserves – Glenwood Park, Morven Park and Great Meadow – which offer horse racing among other equid-related sports and disciplines.  Racing is fun and exciting. If you lost touch with Great Meadow, this lovely land host, convenient to Rt 66 in The Plains, is home to the Virginia and International Gold Cups, along with other sports and disciplines, human and equine. Story and photos about Virginia Gold Cup will appear in the June issue… 

Glenwood Park, Morven Park, and Great Meadow deserve both recognition and support so they can keep these open spaces going in perpetuity for future generations.

Middleburg Spring Races

Speed Alert scored a thrilling victory in the Filly and Mare Maiden Hurdle, 2-mile and 1-furlong, for owner-breeder Beverly R. “Peggy” Steinman. In only her second effort over hurdles, Speed Alert performed brilliantly, holding onto her ¾-length advantage over second-placed Tap Dance Star, owned by Virginia Lazenby Racing Stable. Speed Alert is trained by Doug Fout, currently in eighth place on the National Steeplechase Association’s Top Ten Trainers for Races Won.

Ms. Steinman is a loyal, longtime supporter of the entire racing and horse industry. She has every right to be proud of her homebreds. 

Many consider her to be one of the nicest people on the planet. Only met her in person once, at Glenwood Park, after she had been in the winner’s circle with Speed Alert and Fout and their entourage. She seems very nice, and you can find some great stories online about this “grand dame” of the horse world. 

Julie Gomena, another very local trainer, holds seventh place on the current NSA top ten standings for Trainer – Money Won. Gomena’s preparation of Bon Nouvel Chasers’ Repeat Repeat fought for first place to win the Allowance Hurdle (2 mile and 1-furlong) by ¾-length over Animal Kingston, trained by Neil Morris for owner William Russell.

In the Maiden Hurdle, Middleburg Spring witnessed Sara E. Collette’s Pageland Farm homebred, Eryx, break his maiden in a well-earned victory with a ride from relative newcomer, Dylan McDonagh, crossing the finish line a comfortable 6¼-lengths ahead of the nearest competition. Seven finished, one pulled up. The Collette’s homebreds have earned some serious prizes on the NSA circuit as well as supporting local meets, both sanctioned and point-to-points.

On April 17 in Butler, Md., Gomena scored a huge win in the Grand National Amateur Timber Stakes with McLane Hendriks aboard Le Chevalier, owned by local enthusiast, Michael A. Smith. This American Grand National is a prestigious timber stakes race with a treasure trove of stories and spectacular history. The 118th running made a bit of history: the first time that a Virginia-owned and Virginia-trained horse won the Grand National. 

Repeat Repeat and Le Chevalier, both trained by Gomena for different owners, are tied for seventh place in the NSA standings for Horse, Money Won. Puts a new spin on sibling rivalry…

Middleburg Hunt Point-to-Point:

In the Middleburg Hunt Cup Amateur Rider Hurdle, Shannon Hill Farm’s All Out of Aces, trained by Neil Morris and piloted by Parker Hendriks, prevailed by six lengths over the only other finisher, Keri’s Find, Dan Nevin in the irons, trained by Keri Brion. Five horses started – two pulled up, one horse lost its rider.   

Beverly “Peggy” Steinman’s Elusive, ridden by Tom Garner and trained by Doug Fout, won the first division of the Samual E. Bogley Memorial Maiden Flat (about 1¼ miles on turf). When Elusive got to the front, he held his own in the stretch duel with North Yorkshire, owned and trained by Jeremy Gillam. Elusive motored across the finish line a clear neck in front. Gillam also owns and trains The Monk, winner by 2½ lengths in the second division of the Maiden Hurdle. The race card was full of contenders from Maryland and Pennsylvania, making the competition level out of this world with the likes of horses trained by Jack Fisher, Elizabeth Voss, Leslie Young, etc. 

We seem to be making a good transition toward summer, fortified by little good things, such as the debut of new hurdles designed to be as safe as possible for steeplechase horses and the return of horse races to Morven Park. Upperville Horse Show is coming up quickly – with spectators! Also, be sure to check out Great Meadow’s outdoor events.

Stay safe, be healthy, and enjoy!