UNIONVILLE, Pa.--The Hendriks family of Ricky and sons McLane and Parker won five of the six races they entered at the 72nd running of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds Point-to-Point races on March 25, a cold and windy day atop the hills of Plantation Field with periods of snow and sleet flurries throughout the day.
But it was 2016 Maryland Hunt Cup winner Senior Senator, owned by Irvin L. Crawford II, trained by Joseph G. Davies and ridden by Eric Poretz, who won the featured Cheshire Bowl Open Timber race in a thrilling finish, beating Welcome Here Farm's Where's the Beef, trained by Stephanie Dowling and ridden by Mark Beecher, by a neck.
Whether Cheshire would even be able to hold the races was questionable two days before the meet due to the fourth nor'easter in three weeks dropping almost 10 inches of snow on the course just four days before the races.
But with Jaimie Hicks plowing off the snow on the north side of the course, Mother Nature melting the snow on the south side, and members of the field coming out with rakes and shovels to clear the take-off and landing sides of the fences, Cheshire made it happen, determined not to miss its biggest fund raiser for a second year in a row due to snow.
SENIOR SENATOR has been a problem before a race in the past, with Davies describing him as "the craziest horse that ever looked through a bridle" two years ago.
He was often saddled outside of the paddock because he acted up so badly. but at Cheshire, he was relatively well behaved in the paddock.
To give the featured race the best footing of the day, the Cheshire Bowl was run as the first race, starting at 1 p.m.
Poretz said that he and Davies were "up in the air" about how to ride the race.
"We weren't sure he was fit enough," said Poretz. "He was jumping good. McLane (on Welcome Here's Serene Harbor) took the early lead. But then Mark came through on the inside, so he got the advantage over the last four fences. The inside has a big advantage there. I had to ride a hard finish to win."
"This was his first race since last year's Hunt Cup (in which he fell at the third fence)," said Poretz. "He was a little wired in the paddock. Usually, when I get on him he calms down. Me and him have a relationship. I've ridden him so long, and I know him so well."
"He was better in the paddock today," said Poretz. "He might be better next time, or he may be worse."
Kings Apollo (GB), owned by Stewart Strawbridge, trained by Sanna Neilson and ridden by Gerard Gilligan, was third with Serene Harbor fourth.
Be Great, owned and trained by Todd McKenna and ridden by Diana Gilliam, pulled up.
RICKY HENDRIKS saddled Morning Star Farm's Carrickboy (Ire) for McLane in the Heavyweight, which was run as the second race of the day, and he won over Class Indian, owned and ridden by Justin Batoff and trained by William Dowling, with Gas Can Eddie, owned by Mrs. William D. Class, Jr., trained by William Meister and ridden by Bryan Cullinane, third.
"I hunt Carrickboy all the time," said Ricky. "He's 14. He's a nice old horse. I bought him in England when he was 10. I don't know why I bought such an old horse. I guess I figured he be more experienced. I bought him for McLane to practice riding races on."
The Novice race was split, with four horses in each section, and McLane rode Ivan and Stephanie Dowling's Grey Lake Stables LLC's Whatdidyouusee, trained by Dowling, to win over Rollforward, owned by Charles Noelle and Blythe Davies, trained by Joe Davies and ridden by Chris Gracie.
Timmy T, trained by Meister and ridden by Poretz, fell, and Meister's Pac Yer Tack, ridden by Cullinane, pulled up.
"Whatdidyousee jumped great," said McLane. "Ivan's very excited about him. And he's still a maiden for sanctioned races."
Irvin Naylor's Shinobi (Ger), trained by Katherine Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan, won the second division of the Novice over Frank A. Bonsal Jr.'s Stand Down (Ire), trained by Davies and ridden by Poretz, with Lucy Goelet's Rocket Star Red, trained by Meister and ridden by Gracie, third and Meister's Dr. K'eogh, ridden by Cullinane, fourth.
"Shinobi is my favorite hunter," said Neilson. "He's a little gem. He's a fancy horse. He's by Lord Shanakill."
THE LADY RIDER race was won by the only finisher, Big Feat, owned and trained by Alicia S. Murphy and ridden by Sara Katz.
SovereIgn Fun, ridden by Diana Gillam, fell and Pured It, ridden by Bethany Baumgardner, lost his rider.
"I've been riding races for a couple of years, but I only ride occasionally," said Katz. "I've been hunting this horse. He's the best horse. I'm going in the amateur race at the Manor. I was second in it last year, so that's a big aim for me."
Daisy A. Fenwick rode Three G Stables LLC's Out of the Fire, trained by William Dowling, to win the Young Adult Flat Race, a part of the National Steeplechase Developing Rider Flat Series.
Abigail Murphy rode her Flaming Arrow (Ire), trained by Jody Michel to second, and Skylar McKenna rode Naylor's Aquies, trained by her mother Kathy, to third in the seven horse field.
"My parents, Ginny and Peter Fenwick, got him," said Fenwick. "I've had him about two years. I rode him last year at Elkridge-Harford, and I've ridden him in a couple of races this spring. It was a fun race."
The Flat race was run with the Young Adult race and was McLane's third win of the day, riding his father Ricky's Morning Star Farm's Cheers to Us, who is trained by Ricky.
Julie Nafe rode Lauren Schock's McCrady's to win the Ladies Side Saddle race over Rebecca Barker on Schock's Galon Hapus and Dillyn Ketterman Millnick on Ketterman's Jewelers' Always Elegant in a field of five that was led by a Field Master until after the last fence, when they were turned loose.
"It was tough to keep him back of the Field Master," said Nafe. "He's a very fit horse and he likes to be a front runner."
"I hunt and show side saddle," said Nafe. "I've been riding this mare for two years, and we've won the side saddle race at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup and at Willowdale."
THE JUNIOR Field Master's Chase, Horse section, was by far the fanciest race of the day for the horses involved, with a Maryland Hunt Cup winner, a Pennsylvania Hunt Cup winner and a winner of at least five G3 hurdle races.
Talk about parents mounting their children well!
Parker Hendriks rode Strawbridge's Gut For Garters, trained by his mother Sanna Neilson, to win over Theo Sushko on her Rocky's Affair, trained by Betty McCue.
Skylar McKenna was third on Naylor's Almarmooq, trained by her mother Kathy, and Tommy Fenwick, on Naylor's Decoy Daddy (Ire), trained by Amy Fenwick, was fourth.
Guts For Garters won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 2014 and was second in 2016, Almarmooq won the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in 2015, and Decoy Daddy won the G3 National Hurdle Stakes at Radnor Races twice and the G3 Temple Gwathmey three times, in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
In the Field Master's Chase, riders must stay behind the Field Master throughout the race until after the last fence, when they are turned loose to race for home.
"Guts For Garters can be spooky, so I was told to keep my hand on the yoke," said Parker, who is 13. "I was told to sit behind and come with a run at the end. He jumped the best. It was fun."
Guts For Garters, in the only mistake of his career, fell at the last fence at the Brandywine Hills Point-to=Point last year.
"He sliced his leg wide open," said Sanna. "We sent him to Dr. Riddle, and he nursed him back to health."
Parker also won the Large Pony race on Mookie Monster, making it five wins for Ricky's two sons.
Nina McKenna won the Medium Pony Field Mster's Chase on Fionna, with Teddy Davies second on Count Chocula and Patrick Gallagher third on Thyme Flies, while Cassidy Wilcox won the Large Pony section on Lauren Schock's Baboo over Tommy Fenwick on Modernly Millie and Colin Smith on Balls to the Walls.
"We got Baboo at the New Holland sale," said Wilcox. "I've had him for over a year, and we've trained him just for this. He ran last year and got seconds and thirds. This was his first win. It was really fun."
Courtney Bellwoar won the Small Pony race on Chewy, and Samantha English won the Medium Pony race on Dolly.