Category Archive 'Horse Racing'

22 Mar 2018

Sidesaddle Race — Warrenton Races, 2018

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Photo: Richard Clay.

HT: Jesse Swan.

09 Jun 2015

American Pharoah Versus Secretariat

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The Wall Street Journal did a split screen video comparing the performance of the 1973 Triple Crown winner to this year’s.

13 Nov 2013

Rabbit Wins Dutch Trotting Race

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19 Mar 2013

Riding the Steeplechase Course at Punchestown

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What would it be like to ride, just like the late Dick Francis, on one of the famous Steeplechase race courses? Jodie Skelton’s helmet camera gives the viewer something close to the rider’s point of view. This race course looked to me like a tough version of an American Eventing course. The comments refer to “a bit of a slap off the ground,” meaning the footage even includes a fall. Ouch!

Via Siobhan English.

25 Nov 2011

Cabinet Minister & Wife Competed in World’s Most Grueling Horse Race

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Owen and Rose Paterson riding in the Mongol Derby

Alright, we have to admit it: the Brits really do have some politicians superior to ours.

Conservative cabinet minister Owen Paterson was keen enough to compete, accompanied by his wife, in this year’s Mongol Derby, a thousand kilometer (621.37 miles) charity race over the Mongol steppes modeled on Genghis Khan’s postal system. Riders have to change semi-wild ponies three times a day in an attempt to cover roughly 40 miles per diem.

The Telegraph reports that the Patersons did successfully complete the race, and survived with quite a story to tell.

Owen and Rose Paterson are competing for words to describe their summer holiday. “It was absolutely awful,” says Rose. “The food was beyond terrible,” chips in Owen.

This year, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his wife did not play safe. On a whim – their children called it “midlife crisis” – they took part in a 1,000-kilometre race for charity, across the desolate steppes of Mongolia on semi-wild horses. “Anything to avoid security guards,” Owen semi-joked when I spoke to him in July for a Weekend article published just before they set off.

“Anything” turned out to be grimmer than their worst imaginings. Injury was likely and death a possibility, warned The Adventurists, organisers of the race. But, as the Patersons left for Ulan Bator to start the Mongol Derby in August, they had only the haziest notion of what lay ahead. “If we had had any idea we would have turned around and gone straight home,” says Rose. …

[T]hey arrived in the Mongolian capital in early August with too much equipment and no experience of using a satnav – which was all that stood between them and 10 sub-zero nights in the open air as they hurtled across the wilds, recreating the postal network that had held together Genghis Khan’s vast 13th-century empire.

The start close to Ulan Bator was deceptively luxurious, featuring showers and a relatively benign landscape. “We were all smiles as we set off,” remembers Rose. “The views were fantastic. On that first day we thought we might be among the winners.”

But the race, they discovered, was a deadly mixture of terrifying and dull. Some days they rode for 14 hours through freezing fog, unable to see anything. Guided by a handheld satnav, which Owen set to “direct route”, they found themselves travelling extra miles, on top of the allotted 40 a day, through swamps and over mountains in order to arrive at the pony-swapping stations three times a day.

“The worst leg of each day was the last one,” says Rose. “If we missed the ger (Mongolian for yurt) we would have spent the night outside, with no food or drink, taking turns to hold onto the ponies.”

So prone were the ponies to wander, that they could not even get off to pee between pony swap stops. If the animals had bolted, the couple would have lost everything, including their passports.

Bleached bones dotted the steppes, and the landscape was pitted with marmot holes in which the ponies could break their legs. “We were constantly attacked by packs of dogs. At one point the ponies bolted and we galloped flat out for miles, knowing that if we fell off the dogs would eat us,” says Rose.

The most surreal moment occurred during the August riots back home, when Owen received a message that Parliament had been recalled. “Standing on the steppes, shouting into the vet’s phone under the stars, I had to tell the whips I would not be able to make it because I was 15 hours from Ulan Bator.”

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20 Mar 2011

Karen and Thunderstorms in Art

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Linda Volrath, Bundled at the Races, oil on panel, 2008

On Friday, a new issue of Norman Fine’s Foxhunting Life appeared on-line, featuring a lead article by Linda Volrath, a well-known local artist, on “Equestrian Sports and Oil Paintings.” My wife Karen was somewhat startled to recognize herself as the figure in the foreground of the painting.

Ms. Volrath’s painting was inspired by a photograph taken at the 59th Running of Blue Ridge Hunt Point-To-Point Races at Woodley in Berryville, Virginia on March 8th 2008.

Karen and I had just become members of the Blue Ridge Hunt that season, and we were already drafted into serving as officials at the races. I was registering entries and issuing numbers. Karen was in charge of the trophies.

The weather was dark and chilly that day, and thunderstorms were predicted.

Sure enough, midway through the races, the heavens opened and violent winds buffeted the field. So powerful were the blasts of wind that a Porta Potty was actually blown over with a prominent local physician inside. He was photographed grinning gamely on his emergence, his trousers stained with blue disinfectant (Photograph 116 in Karen’s photo essay).

The storm even included an interval of golf ball-sized hail.

The Volrath painting shows Karen holding on to her hat in the high winds with aid of an ancient, moth-damaged Yale club scarf. Eventually, the storm passed, and the races were successfully concluded.

Karen was naturally amused to find that her image had been recorded in oils by someone whom (at the time) she had never met. She inquired about purchasing the painting, but the artist regretfully informed Karen that the painting had been sold very soon after its completion at a gallery in Annapolis.

It’s really quite a nice painting, too.

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There is clearly some kind of artistic connection between Karen and thunderstorms.

A number of years ago, Maine artist Tom Hennessey executed in water-colors a painting of a dramatic incident featuring Karen landing a salmon on the Restigouche River in a thunderstorm.

We were fishing Red Pine Lodge’s pools from a 26′ Sharpe canoe, and it began to rain lightly just as I was starting my turn casting. I handed the 12′ Payne to Karen to hold for me, while I slipped on my jacket, and she insolently flipped out a short cast next to the canoe.

The red gods could not resist the opportunity for a joke, so instantly up came a salmon and seized the fly. (We’d been fishing for three days without the slightest action.)

The rain rapidly intensified, and soon it was coming down in torrents. The salmon ran powerfully downstream, out of the pool, and we were forced to raise the anchor and follow him.

Karen fought the salmon for ten or 15 minutes as we traversed hundreds of yards of river. Finally, he seemed to be beginning to tire, and the guide beached the canoe by a slow drift which seemed like a convenient location to try to land the fish.

As the storm intensified, one bolt of lightning after another began to strike the trees on top of the mountains above us, and I strongly urged Karen to get out of the river, at least, and stand on the beach (though I was far from confident of the effectiveness of such a precaution).

(I recall thinking that I was very happy about my reactionary preference for wooden fly rods, knowing what an excellent conductor graphite is.)

The guide was bent over and cringing, in his rain gear, and manifested no desire to get near enough to the river to net the fish but, finally, threats and encouragement prevailed. Karen reeled in the mighty salmon. The guide netted it, and the salmon was duly unhooked and released. (The Restigouche counts as New Brunswick water and has a no-kill policy on salmon.)

We returned to camp, soaked to the skin, but triumphant and alive.

Appropriately enough, the fly that Karen caught the salmon on was a Thunder and Lightning. The actual fly that took the salmon is mounted in the mat around the painting.

26 Aug 2010

My Wife Knows Everything Versus The Wife Doesn’t Know

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Comedy ensues when Thoroughbred naming convention collides with coincidence in the 7th Race at Monmouth Park on Sunday, August 22, 2010.

2:19 video

Hat tip to Doug Mataconis.

26 Apr 2010

2010 Maryland Hunt Cup

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Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh

Weather turned this year’s steeplechase season upside down. The Maryland Hunt Cup was last weekend, and our own Blue Ridge Hunt races, normally second after Casanova’s, were postponed (because of all the snow) and are still coming up.

This year’s Maryland Hunt Cup was exceptionally eventful, full of dramatic refusals, and featured an unexpected ending, proving how much more unpredictable timber races can be.


Baltimore Messenger

9:59 video

20 Sep 2009

2009 Blue Ridge Fall Races

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Photo: Karen L. Myers
Roddy MacKenzie leads at the moment on Triton Light in the Banbury Cross and Foxboro Farms Maiden Hurdle, but Jacob Roberts (3rd from the right) on Maximize went on to win

Karen and I were working yesterday at the Blue Ridge Fall Races a charity event held annually the last three years for the benefit of our local hospice organization.

Click on the above picture for a link to Karen’s preliminary photo essay

09 Mar 2009

60th Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point Races

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photo: Karen L. Myers
Anna McKnight falls early in the 4th Race

Last year’s races encountered both a hailstorm and gusts of high wind powerful enough to knock over a porta-potty containing at the time a prominent local physician. Nature, by way of compensation, this year delivered a day that seemed like summer.

As the Winchester Star reports, close to 3000 spectators attended the Blue Ridge Hunt’s traditional Spring Races at Woodley Farm near Berryville.

The meet featured 9 races, flat and over timber, and attracted competitors from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

The scariest moment came early in the 4th Race for the Clarke Courier Cup when Tap Tap, a nine-year-old bay gelding, mistimed his takeoff and stumbled over a hurdle, causing jockey Anna McKnight of Monkton, Maryland to come off.

The fall resulted in a broken wrist and a compressed vertebrae and McKnight needed to be taken to Winchester Medical Center, but happily is expected to make a full recovery, and will soon be resuming riding.

Earlier in the day, Sam Cockburn, who won in his first ride last weekend at Casanova, riding the 8 year-old chestnut gelding Old Fellow in the 2nd Race One Mile Seven Furlong Amateur/Novice Hurdle also suffered a fall, and he too suffered a broken wrist. Cockburn is expected to be sidelined from racing for four weeks.

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Correction 3/11: I had originally identified the rider who suffered the broken wrist as Anna McKnight, but my wife Karen assured me that I was wrong and that she had heard officials identifying the victim otherwise, so I re-wrote my posting.

Anna McKnight’s mother, Mrs. H. Turney McKnight, MFH of Maryland’s Elkridge-Harford Hunt, however, read the posting, and wrote a comment informing me that it was indeed her daughter who experienced the more serious injury last Saturday.
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Further correction, 3/11:

A commenter informs me that Sam Cockburn, the jockey who fell in the Second Race, contrary to the Winchester Star report, also fractured a wrist.

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My apologies for all the mistakes and confusion and best wishes to both riders for a speedy recovery.

07 Mar 2009

60th Annual Blue Ridge Hunt Point-to-Point

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Linda Volrath, At the Start, private collection

Not much blogging is happening today. Karen and I will be working at the 60th running of the Blue Ridge Hunt Spring Races. Karen is passing out the trophies, and I’m checking veterinary papers and issuing entry numbers.

The painting above depicts one of the races at Woodley.

09 Mar 2008

The Winner

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Melanie Williams, winner of the Sheila Baldwin Burke Memorial, looked happy yesterday.She rode to victory on Flying Horse Farm’s Analyze, whose trainer was Jazz Napravnik.

Racing was temporarily interrupted in mid-afternoon by a thunderstorm featuring lightning and hail. Spectators, horses, and riders scurried for shelter. Fortunately, the storm passed fairly quickly, and it was possible to complete the final races.


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