April 29, 2013

And They’re Off!

One of the abiding traditions around here is attending the steeplechase races during April. They’ve been happening since the 1800’s when landowners competed against each other to see whose horse was fastest. There are three major and historic races: My Lady’s Manor, the Grand National and the finale, the Maryland Hunt Cup. This is one of the toughest horse races in the world, taking place over a 4.5 mile course, with more than 20 timber fences. In the UK, they’ve changed to brush fences, but ours are still timber.

My mother went to the Hunt Cup, and her parents probably did as well. My siblings and I grew up attending the race, and it’s part of the fabric of living in Maryland. In the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, more than 40,000 people would attend the Hunt Cup, but they’ve scaled back the numbers a lot, and now about 4,000 attend. They sell more subscriber and patron passes, and fewer general admission passes. Tradition dictates that people dress up for the races, and there was plenty of Lilly Pulitzer, patch madras, Hermes and other horsey attire in evidence.

The men usually wear coats and ties, and the ladies wear dresses. It’s always fun to see who’s new to the game, as heels are not recommended on the rough turf and it’s better not to try too hard in the dress department.

We watched with great entertainment as one gal wearing six-inch wedges tried to navigate her way across the grounds, and finally gave up and took her shoes off, rather than risk a broken ankle.

Our friend Sam Robinson had an easel set up in the paddock and was painting the scenery. Sam does a great trade in paintings of the Green Spring and Worthington Valleys, where the race takes place. He’s got an eye for the horses and hounds!

Another big tradition is bringing along a huge tailgate picnic. Ours was anchored by a trophy awarded to my host’s father in the 1930’s, but the trophy dates from 1913.Hunt CupAll of the flowers came from their gardens, and included cherry and apple blossoms, lilacs, tulips and much more. The food was terrific as well, and everyone in our group pitched in with something. Even the tablecloth fit in with the equestrian theme.Of course, there were drinks, including the local specialty, a Southside. You can just see one of my little jam tarts on the left side of the picture. I made them with delicious Stonewall Kitchen jams. All of the others had big spreads as well, including this fabulous one!And of course, there was a horse race to be won!

Lots of jumps.

Beautiful countryside.

All in all, just a perfect day! Great friends, great food, perfect weather and a long tradition. Thanks!!!


  1. If I were there, I'd have to drive off in that blue Woody. Sigh.

  2. You left out the pic of the winning horse ;D http://www.flickr.com/photos/33445830@N07/8687837568/in/set-72157633367528126

    1. I didn't get a decent picture of him! Thanks for sharing. Sorry I didn't see you there.

  3. it is best not to try too hard in the dress department..I guess someone followed your advice. Why don't homes have a 360 mirror I could use one, can we fashion one easily?

  4. Hey Meg, What a beautiful day for the races. Your post takes me back to my early years in Middleburg whe we always went to the Spring and Fall point-to-points. The Gold CUp was the biggie in Warrenton, but I preferred the Middleburg races at the Glenwood course. It was smaller and we kids had the run of the place. The parents and their friends always put out a major tailgate spread and bar and a good time was had by all. My folks used to go to the Maryland Hunt Cup every year, too. Dad;s family is from Baltimore. :) Good memories, thanks.

  5. I adored this...Just a glorious day for the races! what a tradition. Your pies look delicious. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com


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