The Maryland steeplechase season gets under way Saturday, April 5, with the 82nd edition of the Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point, followed a week later by the My Lady's Manor Steeplechase, both conducted over the Monkton countryside of Harford County.
The Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point races at historic Atlanta Hall Farm are considered the tune-up for Maryland's Triple Crown of steeplechasing: the My Lady's Manor, the Grand National and the Maryland Hunt Cup.
The races are also a fashionable early spring outing for people from all over Harford and Baltimore counties and the surrounding region.
Sponsored annually by members of the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club, the point-to-point race meeting has its origins in the 1932 inaugural running of what began as the Harford Hunt Races.
First hosted by Harvey S. Ladew on the grounds of his Pleasant Valley Farm (now known as Ladew Gardens) the first hunt meeting consisted of three races over jumps and one flat race.
The Breezewood Cup and the Little Gunpowder Cup were run over brush jumps while the Sergeant Murphy Cup was run over timber. The Lindenhope Cup was run on the flat. The timber race was named after Stephen "Laddie" Sanford's American-owned winner of the English Grand National. Sanford and his wife, the actress Mary Duncan Sanford, were members of the old Harford Hunt. The other races bore the names of prominent estates in the area.
The races continued for about seven years at Ladew's estate before World War II interrupted the sport locally. Upon its postwar renewal, the race meeting found a new venue at the home of Elkridge-Harford Master of Foxhounds, Edward S. Voss, and his wife, Elsa. The Voss farm, Atlanta Hall, on Pocock Road, straddles the Harford and Baltimore County lines and is within hailing distance of the old Ladew racecourse.
In 1975, the Edward S. Voss Memorial Open timber was inaugurated and named in memory of Atlanta Hall's late owner. The first running was won by jockey Thomas H. Voss, Edward's grandson, on his own horse, Aruhappy. The trophy was presented to him by his grandmother, Elsa Voss.
Tom Voss would go on to become the race chairman, a position he held though 2013. In January, Mr. Voss, who was a trainer of champion steeplechase and flat racehorses, died suddenly from a heart attack. The 2014 Elkridge-Harford race meeting will be co-chaired by his children, Elizabeth Voss Murray and Samuel Voss.
A day at the Elkridge-Harford races is family oriented and tailgating is encouraged. All pets must be kept on leashes at all times.
Tickets to the race are available in advance by calling 410-404-7071, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending a check payable to the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club to Julie Smith, 13 Dellwood Court, Hunt Valley, MD, 21030.
Tickets may also be purchased at the gate on the day of the race. General parking is $50 per car, subscriber parking is $100 per car. Finish line parking is $200 per car and includes two tickets to a race reception. Gates open at noon. Post time is 1:30 p.m.
My Lady's Manor Races
On Saturday, April 12, the My Lady's Manor races, one of Maryland's oldest and most competitive days of timber racing, will be run for the benefit of Ladew Topiary Gardens.
This exciting day of equestrian sport, another local rite of spring, has been run over the Harford County countryside since 1909.
The afternoon includes four steeplechase races: the My Lady's Manor Steeplechase Race with a $30,000 purse (and the first of Maryland's Steeplechase Triple Crown), the John Rush Streett Memorial (two divisions with a $15,000 purse in each) and the John D. Shapiro Memorial ($10,000 purse). The day is presented by PNC Bank.
In addition to the races, guests will enjoy live bluegrass music by Local Knowledge, food vendors and several horse-themed merchandise tents. The paddock, where horses and riders warm up before competing, is accessible to public viewing. Gates open at 10 a.m., with post time for the first race at 1:30 p.m. This is a rain or shine event.
The My Lady's Manor Steeplechase Races are held on Jarrettsville Pike (Route 146) at Pocock Road in Monkton. Admission is via parking passes; no additional admission ticket is required to the races.
General parking passes purchased in advance are $40 ($50 at the gate); family parking is $60 ($70 at the gate). All parking passes — including preferred parking on the race course ($150 and up) and admission to the champagne reception for the 2014 My Lady's Manor Race winner, can be purchased through http://www.marylandsteeplechasing.com.
Parking passes are also available through Ladew Topiary Gardens and at Dogwood Tack, Hess Country Spirits and Wine Merchant. Guests may bring picnics and coolers. No unleashed dogs, please.
Ladew Topiary Gardens has been called "the most outstanding topiary garden in America" by the Garden Club of America and has been featured as one of "10 incredible topiary gardens around the world" by Architectural Digest. Both house and gardens are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.