April 15, 2012

A Day at the Races

When we were children, my parents took us to the steeplechase races that are a fixture in Baltimore during the month of April. So when I was asked to join a group of friends at the My Lady’s Manor races, which benefit Ladew Gardens, I decided to chuck all of the day’s chores and errands and have a day in the country. And to be honest, there is almost no place prettier than Maryland in the spring. The land just north of Baltimore is filled with rolling hills, long vistas and beautiful valleys. And best of all, development is strictly limited, so there are no tacky housing developments to mar the landscape.

There are three races during the day, and because we’ve had no rain for ages, the ground was very hard, and a few of the horses were scratched by their owners or trainers. My friends at Ladew were kind enough to give me a press pass so that I could watch the races from the tower where the races are called and where you have an unimpeded view of much of the course, as well as several of the jumps and the finish line.

The jockeys headed towards their mounts, after first getting dressed in all sorts of protective kit, and mounted their rides and headed out to the starting line. If you’re envisioning a start like at the Kentucky Derby, think again. Basically, the horses line up, a flag is dropped and they all take off from a standing start.

Because this is a timber race, the fences are indeed timber. Many of the horses who were racing today, have spent the past few months fox hunting, and so are used to jumping fences separating fields at local farms. The riders then head along a course which takes them through the woods, up a long hill and then around the course past the spectators. Sometimes, things don’t go so well, and a rider is unseated.And then his horse continues running without him and decides to refuse a fence, right where you’re standing. A spectator grabs his reins, and the out-riders gallop over to lead him back to his trainer. All’s well, and I think again about all of the scary animals in the country. Whew!

Meanwhile, the race finishes and I have a bird’s eye view of the horses and their jockeys.After the race, the owners speak with the jockey and the trainer, talking about what went right and what didn’t.  I had a small bet on the jockey in the blue silks, or rather, his horse, owned by friends of my brother’s, but he didn’t win.

Almost as much fun, or maybe even more fun than watching the races, is watching the spectators. The Manor Races are more casual than next week’s Grand National, or the Hunt Cup on the last Saturday of April. Nevertheless, there are sartorial hits,

and misses.White suit, hat and flip-flops? I don’t think so!

The top half of this one is good, the bottom, not so much. I’d have rather seen trousers which weren’t so glaring white, especially this time of year. And then there were the animals! In addition to the littlest jockey in the first image, there were lots of dogs. From these hounds, to this, this… well, I am not sure what this is.I made another hedgehog cheeseball and it was a hit. meg & hedgehogThis time I used Major Grey’s chutney and some Worcestershire sauce for the seasoning.

After the races, we headed back to our friend’s farm to see her Morgan horses, all such friendly gals. Thanks to everyone for a great day!

19 comments:

  1. It's hard to judge how large the black and white dog is, but it looks a lot like a Landseer Newfoundland.

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  2. Anon@17:04... i had a feeling it might be a newfie with a summer cut. it was quite large. massive, even!

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  3. You had me at the first pic! I have a pair of Parson Russell Terriers....they love to race too!

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  4. Meg:

    We are usually directly across from the finish line on the fence...look for the W&L cups and the big tables....we can chat about the old days.....and ADG, as I have invited him up for 18 later this spring.....

    HLR II

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  5. Oops...at the Hunt Cup I mean....

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  6. Mink... i am hosting a fundraising for the architectural foundation that evening, so won't be coming to the Hunt Cup. Bummer.

    (oh, and i just figured out who you are! w&l... old days...jaws???)

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  7. It all looks fantastic, the countryside is so pretty! I hope no horses were hurt.In Australia at the moment there is alot of news about banning steeplechases.

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  8. Totally irrelevant, but I saw this and thought of you, and your mom:

    http://matsutakeblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/if-marie-antoinette-had-been-hedgehog.html

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  9. Meg what a great time had by all. When I lived in San Diego I would attend the races at Delmar. Yes, the spectators are a treat to see and the horses mesmerize me!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  10. Hi Meg, It sounds like a perfect day. Maryland is indeed the most beautiful place in the world in April. Thanks for sharing--I bet Jones would have had a great time.

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  11. Anything for LaDew + your images are divine. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  12. It does look like a Landseer Newfoundland. My favorite kind of Newfoundland with a very short haircut. Meg,
    You certainly know how to enjoy yourself. The places, people and events you write about are all delightful and interesting. I love your blog. Keep up the good work.

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  13. Did the press pass make you feel like Dick Francis? I always think of him and steeplechases. Ann

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  14. Nutbird! That's exactly how I felt... minus the dead bodies scattered about the race course. I adore DF and just finished a book of his I (amazingly) had not read.

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  15. Jaws? Nah....think BCPL......

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  16. Great photos. Jump racing is coming in for a lot of criticism after what happened at Aintree last weekend. Hope everyone stays safe in Maryland.

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  17. Great photos and post. I have been to this meet in the past....but not recently. I have been meaning to get there again...it is a quality old school race with aficionados and real steeplechase fans as opposed to the throngs of drunked-up post college posers one sees at Va. Gold Cup..
    Thanks for your comments on my posts! Cheers

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