Author Archives: Aiden Turnge-Barney

Chris Gracie of Gracie Bloodstock Breeds Success in Middleburg, VA

Chris Gracie, a Pennsylvanian who grew up riding in Kennett Square and is now owner of Gracie Bloodstock, came into the racing industry as an amateur steeplechase rider. He amassed many accolades in the sport such as being the youngest rider in history to win the Maryland Hunt Cup in 2003 on Swayo. He won that race again in 2006 aboard Bug River. But at 6’4 he always knew he was going to be too tall to continue riding competitively and committed himself to his studies at the University of Kentucky, earning a degree in Business Management. He used those skills as he transitioned to the breeding industry. Chris did everything, working with stallions, preparing yearlings, working on consignments, and at breeding farms. After spending time in Kentucky learning the trade, he set out to start his own business.

 About 3 years ago Chris took over Locust Hill Farm in Middleburg, VA. The historic property was previously owned by longtime Virginia horsewoman and member of the Virginia Steeplechase Association Hall of Fame Magalen (Maggie) Ohrstrom Bryant. She was known for breeding excellent steeplechase and flat horses, and she campaigned V.E. Day, winner of the 2014 Travers Stakes (Gr. I) at Saratoga. Her Virginia-bred Deputy Fling won at Colonial Downs in the 2011 Bert Allen Stakes. Two of her steeplechase horses, Plated and Gustavian, found success at Great Meadow. Her Personal Start captured the Grade 2 David Semmes Memorial Stakes at the 2018 Virginia Gold Cup meet.

Chris fell in love with the Middleburg area and is excited about his adopted home’s lucrative equine breeding programs, specifically the Virginia-certified and Virginia-bred programs. “We have been foaling a ton of mares now because the program has gotten so good.”  He has seen an increase in the number of people who want to bring down mares to the state. “I think myself and my clients are making a big investment in Virginia-Breds due to the trajectory of the program.” He continued “outside of Kentucky this is the best breeding program in the country, especially for people who breed commercially, it has a lot of upside.”

Solid evidence supports Chris’ enthusiasm about the Virginia-Certified Residency Program. More than 5,000 horses have been enrolled since the project’s inception in 2017. A recent study commissioned by the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) shows the Virginia-Certified Residency Program generated an estimated economic impact of $86.2 million between 2017 and 2023.

Chris is projecting to have 35 foals this season, a number he believes is just the right amount for his operation. “We have people ship horses in, I have a bunch of my mares, and I have some with partners. We are looking forward to having some Virginia-Breds.”

The horses that have been foaled or certified at Gracie Bloodstock have been tearing it up on the racetracks across North America.  Book’em Danno was the New Jersey horse of the year with 4 wins and 2 seconds in his 6 career starts, notably winning the Black-type Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs and the Futurity Stakes at the Belmont at the Big A meet. He recently finished second in the Grade 3 Boutique group Saudi Derby Stakes, pushing his lifetime earnings to $560,625.

Carmelina, who was just named 2023 Virginia-Certified Filly Champion by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA,) was also certified by Chris. She has had 8 starts in her career, including four wins and a second. She won the Black-type Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel Park, the Black-Type Shamrock Rose Stakes at Penn National, and the Keswick Stakes at Colonial Downs. She has earned $263,300 in her time on the track.

Despite all these major successes outside of Virginia, Chris still has a sweet spot for Colonial Downs and looks forward to bringing his horses down to race at his adopted track. “The racing at Colonial is getting better all the time!”

VTA/ VHBPA Owner Suites Open for the Colonial Downs 24 Season

The horsemen’s suites will be available daily to VTA/ VHBPA members during the Colonial Downs race meet, July 11th through September 7th. The first post will be at 1:30 on Thursdays and Saturdays and 4:30 PM on Friday evenings.

*The suites will be used for paid events on August 10th Colonial Downs Turf Festival and September 7th Virginia Derby Day*

VTA/ VHBPA Owner Suites Open for the Colonial Downs 24 Season
The horsemen’s suites will be available daily to VTA/ VHBPA members during the Colonial Downs race meet, July 11th through September 7th. The first post will be at 1:30 on Thursdays and Saturdays and 4:30 PM on Friday evenings.

*The suites will be used for paid events on August 10th Colonial Downs Turf Festival and September 7th Virginia Derby Day*

Arlington Million at Colonial Downs 23, Photo by Coady Photography
                               Arlington Million at Colonial Downs 23, Photo by Coady Photography
Arlington Million at Colonial Downs 23, Photo by Coady Photography

2023 Virginia Thoroughbred Association Champions to be Recognized at May 3 Awards Ceremony 

Diamond T Racing and Iapetus Racing’s Gigante will be recognized as 2023 Virginia-Bred Horse of the Year at the Virginia Thoroughbred Association’s annual awards night scheduled for Friday May 3 at Great Meadow in The Plains, site of the Virginia Gold Cup the following day. The Steve Asmussen trainee also earned Three-Year-Old Colt Champion honors based on an outstanding sophomore campaign in which he earned $800,975.

Gigante in his win of the Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Of four stakes wins Gigante recorded, the biggest came in the Grade 2 Secretariat Stakes at Colonial Downs over the Secretariat Turf Course, on the 50th anniversary of Big Red’s record-breaking Triple Crown sweep. The Steve Asmussen trainee won that $500,000 stakes in thrilling come from behind style by a neck over Nagirroc at 23-1 odds with Javier Castellano up. Gigante recorded a trio of other stakes wins last year – in the Caesars Handicap at Horsehoe Indy, Commonwealth Turf at Churchill and Woodchopper at Fair Grounds December 30 to close out the year. He is out of the Empire Maker mare, Summertime Green. Breeder Ann Mudge Backer and Smitten Farm will accept both awards May 3.

Gigante in his win of the 2022 Kittens Joy Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Three-Year-Old Filly Champion honors will be awarded to Susan Moulton’s Tufani who earned $173,942 in purse money last year courtesy of four wins. The Distorted Humor filly prevailed in a maiden special weight at Delaware, a Laurel allowance and in a pair at Fair Grounds — a November 18 allowance and the December 30 Pago Hop Stakes. The Michael Stidham trainee also took second in the Brookmeade Stakes at Colonial. Tufani was bred by Chance Farm and Distorted Humor Syndicate and is out of the Mineshaft mare, Windhoek.

Tufani in her win of the Pago Hop Stakes at the Fairgrounds (Hodges Photography/ Amadna Hodges Weir)

Country Life Farm’s Galilei will receive honors as Virginia-Bred Older Mare Champion. Bred by Audley Farm Equine — who was named Co-Breeder of the Year with Ann Backer — the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid is a Michael Trombetta trainee won the Brookmeade Stakes at Colonial by edging Tufani by three-quarters of a length. Galilei finished third as well in the Nellie Mae Cox Stakes and earned $109,990 from seven starts last year. 

Galilei prevails in the 2023 Brookmeade Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Virginia-Bred Older Horse Honors go to Double B Racing Stables’ Repo Rocks who had four stakes wins from six starts in 2023. The now 6-year-old Tapiture gelding was best in a pair of Grade 3’s — the Westchester at Belmont and the Toboggan at Aqueduct — in addition to the Blitzen Stakes at Parx and the Stymie at Aqueduct. The Jamie Ness trainee was bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III and has career winnings of $803,371.

Virginia-bred Repo Rocks won an $82,000 allowance at Aqueduct Dec. 10 (Coglianese Photography).

D. Hatman Thoroughbreds & Kingdom Bloodstock’s Determined Kingdom will collect a trophy for Virginia-Bred Colt Turf Sprint Champion based on two big stakes wins in New Kent — in the Meadow Stable and Punch Line — his third and fourth overall stakes wins at Colonial. He previously scored in the 2022 Punch Line and 2021 Jamestown. The Animal Kingdom gelding is trained by Phil Schoenthal and was bred by Audley Farm Equine. 2023 earnings of $199,240 pushed his career tally to $448,189.

Determined Kingdom in his win of the Punch Line Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Owner/breeder Sam English III’s Chambeau had a superb 2023 summer at Colonial Downs, winning a stakes pair and an allowance, and has been named Virgnia-Bred Turf Sprint Champion as a result. The now 7-year-old Karakontie mare captured the Tyson Gilpin/Glenn Petty and Camptown Stakes and was trained by Anthony Aguirre in 2023. Chambeau, who did not begin competing until the age of five, earned $264,400 from five starts.

Chambeau in his win of the Camptown Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Carmelina will be recognized as 2023 Virginia-Certified Filly Champion. The daughter of Maximus Mischief, who had three stakes wins as a two-year-old last year, is trained by Robert Reid and was bred by Lilith Boucher. Carmelina connected at Colonial in the Keswick Stakes, at Penn National in the Shamrock Rose and at Laurel in the Gin Talking. She is out of Complete St by St. Averil.            

Carmelina in her win of the Keswick Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady Photography)

Virginia-Certified Colt Champion honors go to Woodslane Farm’s Wolfie’s Dynaghost who had five wins from eight starts, good for earnings of $541,544. The 6-year-old Ghostzapper gelding got his picture taken in three stakes –- the Kentucky Cup Classic and Prarie Bayou at Turfway and the Autumn Stakes at Woodbine. Jonathan Thomas trains the consistent competitor whose career bankroll is approaching seven-digit status at $892,889.

Woflie’s Dynaghost in the Winners Circle after the 2022 Bert Allen Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady photography)

Five-year-old New York-bred Kant Hurry Love powered home to four wins and three runner-up finishes in 2023, earning the title of Virginia-Owned Champion. Ken Wheeler, Jr. will accept hardware on behalf of his five-year-old mare who captured three allowance races at Aqueduct and won the Dancin Renee Stakes as well. He was runner-up in the Garland of Roses Stakes and Union Avenue Handicap. 

Kant Hurry Love in the Winner’s Circle at Belmont Park after winning the Dancin Renee Stakes (Coglianese Photography)

Virginia-Bred Two-Year-Old Champion Low Mileage is owned by Bird & Grady, LLC and is trained by John Salzman. Bred by Audley Farm Equine, the Mineshaft filly won the Jamestown Stakes by 3¼ lengths and also scored a maiden special weight win at Laurel. She earned $126,000 in her freshman campaign.

Low Mileage in his win of the Jamestown Stakes at Colonial Downs (Coady photography)

Neil Morris, who had five wins at the Colonial Downs summer meet with a combination of jumpers and flat horses, will be recognized as Virginia-Based Trainer of the Meet. Morris scored with steeplechasers Junonia, Animal Kingston and Dante’s Fire, jumper Riptide Rock who won a two-mile race on the flat, and Gospel Way who prevailed in a $87,500 flat allowance. 

Jockey Graham Watters and Trainer Neil Morris

Virginia Co-Breeders of the Meet, noted above, were Smitten Farm (Gigante) and Audley Farm Equine (Low Mileage, Galilei and Determined Kingdom).

Scenic Audley Farm
Scenic Smitten Farm

Details on the May 3 Awards Night and May 4 Virginia Gold Cup can be found at vabred.org.                                    

VIRGINIA-BRED PROGRAM:

Registered thoroughbreds foaled in Virginia. Beginning with foals born in 2024, the foal’s dam must reside in Virginia from September 1st of the year of conception until foaling the following year.

Breeders

  • Breeders will earn bonuses for registered Virginia-breds finishing 1st through 3rd in any open race in North America (excludes state-bred and state-sired races).
  • Breeders’ bonuses will be earned for all 1st through 3rd finishes at Colonial Downs and NSA sanctioned meets.
  • Breeders of registered Virginia-breds born before 2024 will continue to earn breeders’ bonuses for state-bred and state-sired races at recognized meets in North America, including NSA sanctioned meets.

Developers

*Beginning with foals of 2021* Developers (owner of the horse when it makes its first lifetime start) will earn up to a 25% bonus for open race wins in NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV & VA, including NSA sanctioned meets in the Mid-Atlantic.

Owners

  • Owners earn o 50% bonus on purses 1st-4th in open races of Colonial Downs.
  • Increased purses for VA-Restricted races of Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Five $125,000 VA-Bred & VA Sired stakes of Colonial Downs.
  • Two $150,000 VA-Restricted two-year-old stakes of Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Four $150,000 VA-Restricted Handicap races of Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Owners of foals born prior to 2021 earn up to a 25% bonus on all race wins in NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD & WV, including NSA sanctioned meets in the Mid-Atlantic.

Virginia-Certified Program:

Registered thoroughbreds that are not Virginia-Bred or Virginia-Sired, but that reside in Virginia for at least 6 months before December 31st of their two-year-old year.

Developers

  • Developers (owner of the horse when it makes its first lifetime start) will earn up to 25% bonus for any open race win in NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV & VA, including NSA sanctioned meets in the Mid-Atlantic. Developers earn a 10% bonus for state-bred restricted races in NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, & WV.*
  • Developer awards will not be earned for out-of-state wins during the Colonial Downs race meet in the Mid-Atlantic. *Beginning with fools of 2023, bonuses will not be earned for wins in West Virginia*

Owners

  • Increased purses for VA-Restricted races at Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Two $100,000 VA-Restricted two-year-old stakes of Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Four $100,000 VA-Restricted Handicap races of Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-cerlified horses).

Virginia-Sired Program

Registered thoroughbreds conceived in Virginia and sired by a Virginia-registered stallion but foaled out of state or otherwise not eligible to be registered as a Virginia-bred.

Developers

*Beginning with foals of 2021* Developers (owner of the horse when it makes its first lifetime start) will earn up to a 25% bonus for open race wins in NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV & VA, including NSA sanctioned meets in the Mid-Atlantic.

Owners

  • Owners earn a 50% bonus on purses 1st-4th in open races of Colonial Downs.
  • Increased purses for VA-Restricted races at Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Five $125,000 VA-Bred & VA Sired stakes of Colonial Downs.
  • Two $150,000 VA-Restricted two-year-old stakes at Colonial Downs (includes
    VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Four S150,000 VA-Restricted Handicap races at Colonial Downs (includes VA-bred, VA-sired & VA-certified horses).
  • Owners of foals born prior to 2021 earn up to o 25% bonus on all race wins in NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD & WV, including NSA sanctioned races meets in the Mid-Atlantic.

Snap Decision, Schoodic shine at Middleburg Spring Races

Originally posted on Nationalsteeplechase.com on 4/23/2024, written by Tod Marks

Saturday proved to be a banner day for two of the sport’s premier athletes, while the human side of the equation produced equally stellar heroics. At the Middleburg Spring Races in Virginia, a full house of approximately 8,000 fans witnessed Bruton Street-US’ perennial powerhouse Snap Decision begin his 10-year-old campaign with an exclamation mark in the Grade 2 $75,000 Temple Gwathmey Stakes, while Dolly Fisher’s Schoodic, last year’s timber champion, proved he hasn’t lost a step at 14 as he kicked off his quest for a second title with a victory in the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup. Hall of Fame conditioner Jack Fisher and jockey Graham Watters once again combined to produce those winning results, and they teamed up twice more for another pair of wins.

Meanwhile, trainer Leslie Young, the NSA’s leading conditioner for the past two seasons, had three winners on the nine-race card, with Jamie Bargary riding two of them.

Photo by Nick Hahn

Snap Decision is spectacular in 10-year-old debut

A star on the NSA circuit since 2019, Bruton Street-US’ Snap Decision put on another astounding display by winning his third Gwathmey in four years at Glenwood Park. Keystone Thoroughbreds’ Noah and the Ark was second, with Riverdee Stable and Ten Strike Racing’s Awakened — both G1 winners — third.

With regular rider Graham Watters aboard, the Phipps-bred sensation sat behind pro-tem leader The Hero Next Door for most of the 2 1/2 miles and exploded heading toward the final fence, drawing clear of a star-studded field by 8 lengths.

As usual, the Hard Spun gelding was spotting plenty of weight to his opponents, from 10 to 20 pounds, but it made little difference.

Snap Decision’s victory added another $45,000 to his bankroll. A millionaire in combined earnings on the flat and over jumps, Snap has now amassed $839,400 in his National Steeplechase Association career. That moves him into fifth place all time, ahead of Divine Fortune and $100,000 behind Demonstrative. Ahead of them are McDynamo, with $1.310 million, Good Night Shirt, with $1.006 million, and Lonesome Glory, with $965,809.

Photo by Nick Hahn

Schoodic soars in 14-year-old debut

The 2023 champion timber horse picked up where he left off last year, with an authoritative wire-to-wire victory in the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup at 3 1/4 miles.

Ridden by Graham Watters for trainer Jack Fisher, Dolly Fisher’s ageless star broke swiftly and never looked back, prevailing by 2 1/4 lengths over Irv Naylor’s late-closing Family Tree and Harry Beswick. The Hundred Acre Field’s Cracker Factory, who stalked Schoodic throughout, was third.

For the winner it was his third straight stakes score, and continued a remarkable skein of nine consecutive top-three finishes dating back three years. Overall, it was his 16th career win and elevated his bankroll to $589,606.

Schoodic photo by Tod Marks

A horse to watch

It’s not often we get to see an accomplished European flat runner make the transition to NSA jump racing at the allowance level.

But at Middleburg, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers and trainer Leslie Young unleashed a dynamo named High Definition that turned heads. Making his first NSA start following a career in Europe in which he won a Grade 2 and boasted multiple top three finishes in G1 and G2 competition, the six-year-old son of Galileo rallied from fifth to first. Initially, High Definition repelled a challenge from Gill Johnston’s Bickley over the last fence, and then held on by a neck over hard-charging Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ stablemate Rampoldi Plan (Paddy O’Hanlon) in a $50,000 non-winners of two allowance.

High Definition, a multi talented runner who also earned a maiden victory over jumps at Leopardstown and followed that start with an ambitious attempt at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, also finished a solid sixth in the 2023 Belmont Gold Cup at 2 miles on the flat on Belmont Stakes Day, when he was trained by Joseph O’Brien. On Saturday, Jamie Bargary was aboard for the win.

Photo by Nick Hahn

My Forever Annie breaks maiden in first career start

The five-year-old Irish-bred daughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Champs Elysees gave trainer Leslie Young her second of three victories on the card, rallying from fourth to first to score going away in the $30,000 filly & mare maiden hurdle by 5 1/4 lengths.

With Paddy O’Hanlon aboard, My Forever Annie sat patiently in mid pack, drawing even with Greg Hawkins’ Camcha (Ben Ffrench Davis) at the final fence, and drawing off convincingly.

Photo by Nick Hahn

Tiz a Giant comes up big in NSA debut

Making his first NSA appearance following 14 starts on the flat, Riverdee Stable’s Tiz a Giant roared home 16 lengths in front of the field — the biggest blowout of the day — in one of two $30,000 open maiden special weights hurdles.

With Graham Watters again in the saddle for trainer Jack Fisher, the five-year-old Florida-bred son of Tiznow stalked early leader, Buttonwood Farm’s By the Riverside, took command when the pacesetter fell three fences from home, and scored under hand urging through the stretch. Kinross Farm’s Price Talk, under Harry Beswick, finished second.

Photo by Nick Hahn

Kitten Mischief, an NSA newbie, breaks his maiden at first asking

In yet another victory by a runner making the transition from the flat, Gill Johnston’s Kitten Mischief, a five-year-old son of Into Mischief, rallied with two fences to go to take the day’s other $30,000 open maiden special weights hurdle.

The winner, piloted by Graham Watters for Jack Fisher, sat in fourth for the first mile and a half, then hooked leader Boffo Kid (Bernie Dalton) at the final fence, outkicking his foe in the stretch to score by three lengths.

It was the Kentucky-bred’s first try over jumps after a dozen starts at tracks from Keeneland to Del Mar, and Aqueduct to Ellis Park.

Photo by Nick Hahn

Evie’s Prince takes $20,000 maiden starter for Morris, Beswick

Shannon Hill Farm’s Evie’s Prince, coming off of a third in a optional claiming maiden to start the season in Aiken, made his move two fences from home and withstood a late challenge from Over Creek Stables’ Little GT to take the maiden starter hurdle for horses who previously started for a claiming tag of $20,000 or less.

With Harry Beswick riding for trainer Neil Morris, the seven-year-old son of Animal Kingdom was never farther back than fourth in the field of 10, moved up to third after the first 1 1/2 miles, and assumed the lead with about three furlongs remaining. Little GT, ridden by Zach Miller, closed steadily to get up for the place position.

Photo by Nick Hahn

Order in the “Court”

Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ remarkable Court Ruler has truly made the most of a carefully managed, abbreviated career. A 10-year-old with just 19 starts under his girth, the Irish-bred son of Court Cave has captured nine of those starts, with six seconds, and a third, for earnings of $156,900.

On Saturday, the Leslie Young-trainee, with Jamie Bargary aboard, led from start to finish of the $20,000, 2 5/8 mile steeplethon over mixed obstacles, besting Hickory Made Stables and Celtic Venture Stable’s Eye of Gunfighter by 3 3/4 lengths.

The victory gave Young three winners on the card and Bargary a riding double.

Wicked West triumphs on the flat

Rounding out the day’s action — or should I say kicking off the day — was a training flat contest at 1 1/2 miles over the undulating terrain of Glenwood Park. Ten horses went to the post and most of the field remained bunched up most of the way, cutting the corner and turning into the narrow home stretch.

At the wire, it was Genet Racing’s Wicked West, with Ben Ffrench Davis in the irons, who prevailed in a scintillating duel with Will Russell’s Seismic Wave (Graham Watters) by a neck. Much of the field was within a couple of lengths of the winner, trained by Todd Wyatt.

Scenes From The April 6th Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point

Originally posted on Nationalsteeplechase.com on 4/8/24, written by Tod Marks

Photos courtesy of Douglas Lees

Three races, three different winning combinations score at Virginia Point to Point

With substantial purse money on the line, Saturday’s Old Dominion Hounds Point to Point in Washington, Va., attracted some budding maiden and veteran timber talent. And by day’s end trainers Doug Fout, Sean McDermott, and Parker Hendriks had their first winners of the young season while leading 2023 rider Graham Watters notched his initial score. McDermott and Hendriks, who also do double duty as jockeys, also had winners on the card. For McDermott it was his first of the year, while Hendriks earned his NSA-leading fourth.

Here’s a recap of the three-race, $80,000 card at Ben Venue Farm:

Late surge propels Hold Hard to open maiden hurdle victory

Rolling Tide’s Hold Hard came on with a burst in deep stretch to overtake Runnymoore Racing’s Clifton Down and land the $30,000 opener by a half length.

Hold Hard ridden by Parker Hendriks won the $30,000 Ben Venue Maiden Hurdle race at Old Dominion

With Parker Hendriks riding for trainer Doug Fout, Hold Hard sat in second in the field of 10 for most of the 2-mile race, never more than about four lengths behind Clifton Down and jockey Jamie Bargary. Clifton Down still maintained a comfortable advantage heading over the 11th and final fence, and that’s when Hendriks quickly swung to his inside, moved alongside Clifton Down and edged clear in the final strides.  Irv Naylor’s Travesuras, under Gerard Galligan, was well-placed throughout and snatched the show spot.

The Irish-bred five-year-old winner was making only his fifth career start and fourth over jumps since launching his career last August.

Love Saga out finishes Camcha to take filly & mare hurdle

Ivy Hill Stable’s Love Saga had the lead, relinquished it, and fought back to repel Greg Hawkins’ Camcha in the $30,000 filly & mare hurdle, also at 2 miles over 11 fences.

$30,000 Filly and Mare Maiden hurdle race winner Love Saga ridden bt Sean McDermott on the way to the winners circle

Trained and ridden by Sean McDermott, Love Saga, a Maryland-bred five-year-old, was making just her third start over jumps. As soon as the flag dropped, Camcha and jockey Gerard Galligan burst to the front, with Potter Group USA and Ashwell Stable’s Fox in the Park, and Love Saga in close pursuit.

There was little change in position until the beginning of the second circuit around the course when McDermott nudged his mount to the front. At about the same time, Camcha hooked the leader and as the two battled, Rolling Tide’s Easy Squeeze made her move. It was still anyone’s race at the second to last fence and as the field moved over the final jump, Easy Squeeze, with Parker Hendriks, made a bold bid for the lead on the outside, briefly taking charge until falling.  Love Saga, on the far inside, avoided traffic, as did Camcha and the two dueled to the wire with Love Saga scoring by a length. Michael Smith’s Split in Two (Jamie Bargary) was third. Both horse and rider were up after the spill.

Watters, Lap of the Gods takes timber allowance

Parker Hendriks, who captured the first of three NSA sanctioned contests at Ben Venue, then missed a golden chance when his mount fell on the lead at the last fence in the second race, lost the opportunity to make it two for three when he had to take off his Lap of the Gods, who put in a late run to take the $20,000 timber finale at 3 miles.

Lap Of Gods ridden by Graham Watters winner of the $20,000 Leeds Don Timber race

But Lap of the Gods, who Hendriks also trains for owner Stewart Strawbridge, was in good hands under two-time leading NSA rider Graham Watters.

Leeds Don winner #2 Lap of Gods ridden by Graham Watters, jumping over a fence

Sitting patiently in second (of four starters) behind Armata Stable’s Fashion Line (Conor Tierney) early in the event over 18 wooden fences, Watters and Lap of the Gods eased back to third behind Irv Naylor’s Family Tree (Harry Beswick) as the quartet began the second circuit of the course. Still running easily alongside Stooshie, a second Naylor runner, Lap of the Gods and the two others remained in striking distance of Fashion Line, a three-time winner in 2023, whose lead began to shrink the third time around the undulating course.

Lap Of Gods connections rider Graham Watters and trainer Parker Hendriks after race

The lead evaporated entirely when Fashion Line bobbled and lost his rider just past the 14th fence, giving Family Tree a one-length advantage over Lap of the Gods, who was looming ominously on the outside. Lap of the Gods had all the momentum heading to the final fence, when he accelerated and extended his advantage to 5 3/4 lengths at the wire. Stooshie was third.

The Leeds Don $20,000 Timber race winner is on the left #2 Lap of Gods ridden by Graham Watters jumping over a fence next to 2nd place finisher #3 Family Tree ridden by Harrison Beswick

The evening after the races, Tierney reported he was doing well and plans to ride next weekend. 

Sam Cockburn after winning Foxhunter part of combined race
Open hurdle winner Outperform ridden by Gerard Galligan
Restricted Young Adult flat winner Auction Kingdom with rider Connor Reddy in the winners circle
Novice Rider Flat race winner Artistic Choice ridden by Brian Barry
Virginia Bred, Sired, or Certified Flat race won by Graham Watters on Mission North
Maiden Hurdle 1st Division winner #3 Moonshine Time ridden by Mell Boucher
2nd Division Maiden Hurdle race at Old Dominion winner Auchincruive ridden by Andrew Burke leaping over a fence
1st division maiden hurdle race winner Moonshine Time ridden by Mell Boucher approaching the winners circle
2nd Division Maiden Hurdle race last fence left to right: #2–Auchincruize(Andrew Burke Ott, up)–1st; #10–Doesnt Sting(Graham Watter, up)–2nd; #5–Tiz A Giant(Whitney Schweizer, up)-2nd.
The Old Dominion Hunt Cup Amateur and Novice Rider and Foxhunters Timber winner Keys Discount ridden by Sam Cockburn
Left to right: #3–Post War(Zach Miller, up)–2nd; #1–Overdrawn(Virginia Korrell, up)–1st in the Amateur and Novice Rider Timber race

Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Recap

The Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point took place on March 30th, at the Woodley Farm in Berryville, VA The card was made up of eight races, ranging from a mile to three miles around the track. This meet is important to local fans of the sport who get to come out in the Northern Virginia area and see one of the first racing events of the year.

The day of racing was highlighted by two new $15,000 races for Amateur or Apprentice riders. These races were sponsored and Sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association (NSA).

The spring PTP season continues at Ben Venue Farm in Washington, VA on April 6 (Old Dominion Hounds), Morven Park in Leesburg April 21 (Loudoun Hunt) and Glenwood Park in Middleburg April 28 (Middleburg Hunt).

Photos courtesy of Douglas Lees

Trainer Leslie Young talking to rider Freddie Procter after Novice Timber race
Novice Rider Flat Race Winner Auction Kingdom (American Flag Silks) ridden by Conner Reddy
2nd Division Maiden Hurdle Race Winner Honeymooner ridden by Andrew Burke with Trainer Todd McKenna
Graham Buston, Blue Ridge Huntsman
$15,000 NSA sanctioned Amateur or Apprentice Rider Timber Race Winner Bob’s Bar ridden by Andrew Burke
Huntsman Graham Buston with Blue Ridge Hounds
Stick Pony Races
Trainer Mark Beecher congratulates Dan Nevin on his win on Decisive Triumph in the NSA sanctioned Amateur or Apprentice Rider Hurdle
Decisive Triumph and his groom walking to the winner’s circle
Virginia Bred and Sired flat race winner E.P.Milton ridden by Conor Tierney in the winner’s circle with connections including trainer Susan Cooney
Race Chairman Jeffrey LeHew, MFH
1st Division Maiden Hurdle winner Exuma ridden by Dan Nevin

Saturday’s “Secretariat Racing into History” Statue Dedication to Be Streamed Live by the Virginia Equine Alliance  

(WARRENTON, VA —- 3/28/2024) —- Racing fans in Ashland, Virginia will celebrate Secretariat — the Commonwealth’s most famous thoroughbred racehorse — with an annual birthday bash this Saturday March 30 and this celebration will offer something extra special. After a year of being trailered around the country to tracks like Churchill Downs, Pimlico, Belmont, Saratoga and Virginia’s two pari-mutuel tracks — Colonial Downs and Shenandoah Downs (harness) — for fans to enjoy, sculptor Jocelyn Russell’s magnificent bronze statue of Big Red has been permanently placed at the new Reynolds Family Plaza just outside the Randolph Macon college campus grounds in Ashland. Locals and visitors can now enjoy this famous Virginia-bred 365 days a year.

A formal dedication of the “Secretariat Racing Into History” statue will take place this Saturday at 2 PM and feature guest speakers like Russell, Kate Chenery Tweedy and others, along with musical performances and a ribbon cutting. The Virginia Equine Alliance, whose mission is to sustain, promote and expand the horse breeding and horse racing industries in the Commonwealth, will be live streaming the entire ceremony via its Virginia Horse Racing YouTube and Facebook channels so fans around the country – and world — can enjoy the special occasion. Viewers can simply click here on Saturday and link directly to the festivities. 

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The 83rd Annual Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-To-Point Recap

The Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point took place on March 23rd, at the historic Salem Racecourse in Upperville, VA. The card was made up of eight races, ranging from a mile and a quarter to three and a half miles around the track. This meet is important to local fans of the sport who get to come out in the Northern Virginia area and see one of the first racing events of the year.

The spring PTP season continues at the Woodley Farm in Berryville March 30 (Blue Ridge Hunt), Ben Venue Farm in Washington, VA on April 6 (Old Dominion Hounds), Morven Park in Leesburg April 21 (Loudoun Hunt) and Glenwood Park in Middleburg April 28 (Middleburg Hunt).

Thanks to Douglas Lees for the Exceptional Photography!

VHBPA flat winner Grunion ridden by Michael Woodson
Maiden Flat winner Band Tour ridden by Manuel Aquilera
Open Flat Race Winner Scanno
Rokeby Challenge Bowl winner To Be or Not to Be along with rider Teddy Davies and the rest of the connections
Rokeby Challenge Bowl Piedmont race field led by Piedmont Huntsman on way to the post
Ladies Timber Race Winner Gaye Breeze ridden by Virginia Korrell jumping over a fence
Foxhunter Timber race winner Keys Discount ridden by Sam Cockburn
Amateur and Novice Rider Timber winner The Butler Yates nearing the finish line, ridden by Freddie Proctor
Amateur and Novice Rider Timber race winner The Butler Yates jumping over a fence ahead of 4th place finisher Post War
Suzanne Stettinius of Mint Meadows Farm congratulates Yomar Ortiz on his win in the medium pony race. Stettinius is also the trainer of the winner Blueberry.
Maiden Timber race winner Eternal Story ridden by Freddie Proctor
Junior Pony Race winner Janneydancer ridden by Yomar Ortiz