The 61st Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point organizers braved date changes and a thunder storm forecast this year but pulled off the event on Sunday May 2nd with aplomb. Snow on the track in March necessitated the change according to Doris Stimpson, race coordinator. Billy Eyles, Point-to-Point committee chairman said, “We’re making it happen. It’s a nice day. I’m happy with the turnout.”
Traditionally, the Blue Ridge Hunt holds the event on the first Sunday of March. “March in the horseman’s world – that’s Blue Ridge’s date,” said Eyles. “Fifty, sixty years, it’s always been that date.” Eyles explained that the March date for the Blue Ridge Point-to-Point offers an advantage for the trainers and owners. “The point-to-point races traditionally are used as training grounds for young horses and as stepping stones for horses to go on to sanctioned meets where big purses are involved. Like Gold Cup yesterday, the smallest purse was $25,000. So two weeks ago there was a point-to-point somewhere and these trainers took their horse and ran over whatever course they were prepping their horse for.”
Since the Blue Ridge race occurred one day after the Virginia Gold Cup this year, several participants were scratched who had raced the day before but other sanctioned races occur later in the season and the region’s owners and trainers supported the meet admirably. The May sunshine brought out the tailgate party enthusiasts as well as those who prefer rail-side action. Attendance was estimated at several thousand.
The race card initially contained eight races. With the cancelling of the first race, the Junior Field Master’s Chase, the balance of the event featured two timber races and five flat races.
Rider Kristin Fischer on Farah T Salute of Flying Horse Farm finished first in the second race with a substantial lead in the four horse field. The Novice Rider Flat was rounded out with John Delaney on Maximize in 2nd, Ben Garner on Just A Prince in 3rd, and Alex Thomas on Kenny Benny B in 4th.
The third race was the Clarke Courier Cup; a Lady Rider Timber over a three mile course. Sarah Green on Wheatland Farm’s Sing and Hoist took 1st place ahead of Natalie Wales on Pizarro and Suzanne Stettinius on Smooth Flight. Green’s winning time was 7:06. Though Stettinius came in well behind the winner, she commented that she was glad to be back in her first race since an injury last year.
Race four was the prestigious Woodley Cup contested by a five horse field. The Virginia Bred or Sired Flat was won by Liam McVicar on Expel of Northfield Farm for the $2000 purse. He was followed closely by Roddy MacKenzie on Gordon C. Keys’ I’m A Wahoo in 2nd and Ben Garner on Jeran Stables’ Make Up for 3rd. Bruce Daley on Rutledge Classic and John Delaney on Red Dirt Girl placed 4th and 5th.
Race five, The Owner Rider Timber, fielded three contestants for the three miler. Patrick Cooney on Crypto Cousin knocked out 1st place in 7:16. He was followed by Allen K. Shreve III on Cool Fellow and Michael Cooney on Crimson Lode.
The Maiden Flat of race six, featured a spirited run by Roddy MacKenzie on Under Shirt. The horse is a brother of the award-winning Good Night Shirt of Riverdee Stables. Liam McVicar took 2nd on Schoolhouse Woods of Kinross Farms. Ben Garner rode Gordon C. Keys’ Millard for 3rd. Mike Woodson on Western Select and Sarah Green on Easy Eight rounded out the five horse field.
The seventh race was the Open Flat. Scratches pared the original five horse field down to two. It was Ben Garner on Colvin G. Ryan’s Three Bridge Road and Bruce Daley challenging on Mary Fleming Finlay’s Dr. Ramsey. Dr. Ramsey shadowed Three Bridge Road for the length of the one and a half mile course but Three Bridge Road prevailed in the heat to win.
The final race of the afternoon was the Maiden Flat of about six furlongs. The race fielded the largest number of horses, seven in all. Ben Garner captured his second 1st place riding Its A School Night of Kinross Farm. John Delaney took another 2nd place for the day on Atleta owned by Frank Zureick. Roddy MacKenzie made another showing with Fleeing the Scene owned by Simon Hobson for 3rd place.
At a gallop until the end was 18 year old Vika Monroe on Olympias Gold owned by Sean McGinnis and trained by William Aylor, Jr. Before the race, Donna Aylor of Aylor Racing Stable gave Monroe encouragement and rooted enthusiastically for her young rider. Aylor’s horses had done well the day before at the Virgina Gold Cup with Meshwaar taking 2nd place in the Fifth race. Looking ahead to the sanctioned race at Willowdale on May 30th, Donna Aylor made the only logical prediction in racing, “We’re going to win!”
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