By Tod Marks
The first two of 11 meets through mid-November take place this weekend at Shawan Downs near Hunt Valley in Baltimore County, followed by the Foxfield Fall Races in Charlottesville, Va.
After two months of high-profile flat-track steeplechase action at Saratoga, Colonial Downs, and Aqueduct, the National Steeplechase Association returns to the hunt-meet circuit this weekend for a combined 13 races that have drawn 129 entries.
What separates racing at the flat tracks from the hunt meets is the relaxed, family-focused atmosphere at the latter. At Shawan, for example, you’ll find a kids zone and vendor village, petting zoo, and face painting, while Foxfield offers fun activities and events like a truck touch, pony rides, stick pony races, and junior pony races.
Seven races worth $167,000 are on tap for Saturday’s fall opener in the Legacy Chase at the Shawan Downs equestrian center in Cockeysville, Md. Anchoring the eclectic card is the $35,000 Brown Advisory timber stakes at 3 ⅛ miles, where seven veterans, including two champions, are expected to face the starter.
At 13, Andi’amu, who runs in the colors of Tom and Roxy Collins’ Ballybristol Farm, is still in top form. A winner of 11 races – nine stakes – in 16 outings since 2018, Andi’amu has finished second four times. In his 2023 debut, Andi’amu won the Middleburg Hunt Cup in April by a neck over a hard-charging Mystic Strike, a multiple stakes-winning 14-year-old, who turned the tables on the 2019 and 2022 timber champion in the four-mile Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow in May. This will be Andi’amu’s first start for new trainer Neil Morris.
This season’s leading conditioner, Leslie Young, who formerly trained Andi’amu, sends out Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow, the 2019 timber champ. Tomgarrow began 2023 with a win in the My Lady’s Manor stakes, and had won four of his previous five starts coming into the Virginia Gold Cup, where he fell. Young, who maintains a commanding lead in the standings, also saddles Boudinot Farm’s Elusive Exclusive, who exits a narrow, hard-fought allowance win over The Hundred Acre Field’s Cracker Factory in a timber allowance to close out the spring at the Radnor Hunt Races.
Cracker Factory, who is entered at Shawan, finished third in the Middleburg Hunt Cup for trainer Mark Beecher, less than six lengths behind Andi’amu and Mystic Strike, but went off course in the Virginia Gold Cup. Storm Team, who runs in the colors of Sheila Fisher and Northwoods Stable, was a stakes winner over timber and hurdles, and began a new career chapter last spring in steeplethon competition over mixed obstacles. But after a dazzling 14-length win at Great Meadow, he returns to timber seeking a second straight score in the Brown Advisory for Hall of Fame trainer Jack Fisher.
Rounding out the field is Fat Chance Farm’s Flaming Sword (Richard Valentine), who was third in the Brown Advisory last year.
The rest of the card consists of a $20,000 maiden hurdle for three-year-olds; $30,000 maiden special; $25,000 handicap for horses rated at 115 or less; $35,000 allowance hurdle; $15,000 maiden timber; and a $7,000 allowance race over timber restricted to apprentice riders.
First race post time is 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 10 a.m. For additional information, click here: https://shawandowns.com/events/legacy-chase/
For full entries, click here: Entries
Six races set for Foxfield
Following a two-year hiatus, fall steeplechasing resumes at historic Charlottesville, Va., for the second straight year on Sunday.
After years of decline, the meet was put on hold in order to reimagine the event. During that time new leadership was put in place, leading to partnerships with charitable organizations, major improvements to the course and grounds, a de-emphasis on the consumption of alcoholic beverages, and a commitment to becoming a good neighbor to the community.
This year’s meet will be bigger and better than ever, with six races worth $140,000 on the program, representing a substantial boost over last year’s $95,000 card.
The Foxfield card consists of six races, highlighted by a $35,000 handicap for horses rated at 120 or less. The other races are a $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle; $30,000 maiden hurdle for fillies and mares; $30,000 maiden hurdle for three-year-olds; $25,000 handicap for horses rated at 110 or less; and a training race on the flat at 1 ¼ miles.
Click here for complete entries: Entries
First race post time is 12:30 p.m. Gates open at 9:30 a.m., with activities starting at 10 a.m. For a full schedule of the day’s events, food, and vendors, click here: https://www.foxfieldraces.com/schedule/.
If you can’t make it to the races, be sure to watch the live stream, sponsored by Brown Advisory, at www.nationalsteeplechase.com.