Featuring the photos of Douglas Lees
Point-to-Point Racing in Virginia finally got its start on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at Airlie Racecourse with the Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point. (The Blue Ridge Races, scheduled for the previous Saturday, were postponed because of weather until Sunday, April 23.)
Of the ten races carded, nine went into the books, entries being on the light side. The trainer/rider team of Neil Morris and Kieran Norris—last season’s leading trainer and rider respectively in Virginia—were certainly consistent. No appearances in the winners circle, but placing second three times: Open Hurdle, Maiden Hurdle, and Virginia Bred/Sired Flat Race.
Foxhounds weren’t the only newsmakers at the Virginia Foxhound Show. A few people were worth noting as well!
Three individuals were introduced for induction into the Huntsmen’s Room of the Museum of Hounds and Hunting in ceremonies on Saturday evening. Before dinner under the tent, Jake Carle, ex-MFH, spoke eloquently, reverently, and at the right times humorously about the three men who have hunted hounds with distinction for many years: C. Martin Wood, III, MFH, Live Oak Hounds (FL), G. Marvin Beeman, MFH, Arapaho Hunt (CO), and the late Jim Atkins who hunted hounds for the Piedmont Fox Hounds, Old Dominion Hounds, and the Warrenton Hunt, all in Virginia.
Nostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Tradition: the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.
Few events embody more fully the combination of nostalgia and tradition as does a day of point-to-point racing sponsored by the local foxhunting club. These races are a living link back to the days when fast horses flew over open country while the local folks cheered them on.
The running of the first hunt point-to-point is believed to have been hosted by the Warrenton Hunt (VA) on March 24, 1934. This was a time when Lowell Thomas narrated Movietone newsreels, which often featured updates on horse racing to the delight of a national audience. On that March day in ’34, an unassuming yearling colt, who would soon capture the imagination of the entire country, was frolicking in his pasture in Lexington, Kentucky. His name was Seabiscuit.
Sally Spilman Tufts passed away peacefully on January 1st, 2016 at age ninety-one. A passionate horsewoman and lifelong foxhunter, she was Joint-MFH of the Warrenton Hunt (VA) for twenty-two years.
How many times have I recalled the first time we met? It was the moment when I, a Northerner, learned the definition of a Southern Lady—a woman who could say the hard thing and make it taste like honey.
About thirty-five years ago, before I had even moved to Virginia, a friend from Massachusetts and I went for a day’s hunting with Warrenton. For whatever reason, my friend’s horse decided to stop at virtually every fence. We were proving to be the cappers from hell. I was embarrassed, but the word, embarrassment, had never been a part of my friend’s lexicon. He just kept trying. At one fence, after several fruitless attempts, a hospitable Warrenton rider offered to get on the horse and jump him over so we could catch up to the field. Even he was unsuccessful, so he and another gracious rider took us through a gate—the nadir of the day’s experiences. Thankfully, the endless day finally ended, and, back at the trailers, Master Sally Tufts came up to us.
Virginia Foxhound Show, Morven Park, May 24, 2015: Okay, says Hillsboro huntsman John Gray, if you don’t like Graphic, I’ll show you Siskin!
On May 9, 2015 at the Carolinas Hound Show, Hillsboro Graphic ’14 was judge Tony Leahy’s pick for Grand Champion of Show. Two weeks later, at the Virginia Foxhound Show, Leahy, judging in the Crossbred ring, chose un-entered Midland Striker over Graphic for the Crossbred Championship.
It proved but a minor setback for Hillsboro. In the final class of the day in the English ring, Judge Charles Frampton chose Hillsboro Siskin ‘14 as the Champion English Foxhound. So when the very last class of the day rolled around—Grand Champion of Show—English Champion Siskin faced off against Crossbred Champion Midland Striker, who had just beaten Siskin’s kennel mate, Carolinas Grand Champion Graphic, for the breed championship.
The other formidable opponents in the ring were un-entered American Champion, Orange County Kermit and Penn-Marydel Champion, De La Brooke Tullamoore ’11. But Hillsboro was not to be denied. Judge J.W.Y. “Duck” Martin crowned Hillsboro Siskin ’14 Grand Champion of Show. Crossbred Champion Midland Striker was Reserve, and Hillsboro leaves town with two Grand Champion foxhounds in the last two hound shows!.