UNIONVILLE, Pa.—For the first time in 58 years, after a freak March snow and ice storm and continuing freezing temperatures made preparing the course impossible, Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Fox Hounds was forced to cancel its annual point-to-point, scheduled for March 26.
In a morning meeting at the Plantation Field race course on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17, Master of Foxhounds Anne Moran, Chairman of the Races Jock Hannum, Co-chairman of the Races Kirstie Grabosky, Cheshire Race Course Coordinator Franny Sharon and Plantation Field Coordinator Jacob Embree held a lengthy discussion concerning the condition of the course.
“We listened primarily to Franny because of his experience with the course and with tractors on the course,” said Hannum. “One of the things we considered was the ability of Jaime Hicks, a truly great farmer, one of the greatest in Chester County, with his tractor, as well as Jacob’s ability and his machinery, for them to rake the field to break up the snow.”
“Franny said that because of the continuing cold temperatures and the mammoth snow drifts in front of the fences that they wouldn’t be able to get the course ready,” said Hannum. “He said, `We cannot deliver you a race course that Cheshire deserves.’”
“We’ve got one of the great point-to-points,” said Hannum. “We get horses from Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. Billy Meister had committed to coming up from Maryland with a lot of horses. It would be unfair of us to wait until later to make a decision. We decided we’d bite the bullet now and give prominent trainers like Billy time to explore other options.”
BLUE RIDGE Point-to-Point, which had been scheduled for March 11, had already decided to reschedule its meet from March 11 to April 23.
“The temperature the night before the races was nine degrees,” said Blue Ridge MFH Brian E. Ferrell. “The going would have been slick and dangerous. We had a horse fall last year, and we didn’t want that to happen again.”
The Foxhall Farm Team Race, scheduled for March 19 in West Grove, Pa., was also cancelled.
Many trainers use the early spring point-to-points to prepare their horses for the sanctioned timber races like My Lady’s Manor, the Grand National in Maryland and the Maryland Hunt Cup.
The conditions for determining the champions of the Delaware Valley Point-to-Point Association state that horses must enter at least two of the four scheduled meets, the Team race, Cheshire, Brandywine Hills on April 2 and Fair Hill on April 15, to receive points for their placings, but losing two of the four meets may change that.
“I haven’t talked to the committee, but we’ll probably adjust that,” said the Association Chairman Jay Meister.
“Organizing a point-to-point is a little more complicated than it was back in my Mother’s day,” said Hannum. “I’m not sure she even had a program, maybe just a slip of paper with the entries. Now we have tents and food. It’s a bigger operation.”
“We have thousands of dollars committed to ads in the program, and we had to let them know and let the printer know there wouldn’t be a printing job,” said Hannum. “By letting the vendors and tent personnel know early we saved thousands of dollars.”
“It was 1958 the last time we had to cancel our point-to-point,” said Hannum. “Anne said, `We’ve been able to hunt all winter, which usually we can’t, and now, just before the races, we get all this snow.”
“Cheshire is trying to keep our spirits up, so we’re going to hold the pre-race cocktail party at Broadlawn due to the kind generosity of Brown Advisory, our major sponsor, Archer & Buchanan and Mr. and Mrs. Crosby Wood,” said Hannum. “Tickets are still available, call the hunt office.”