Kelly Conaway did not need to win either of Sunday's pony races at the Potomac Hunt Point-to-Point meet in order to win the year-end Governor's Cup trophy, but she could not convince her pony Garfield of that.
Garfield zoomed to the lead after making a good start in his race and dominated the competition throughout the half-mile contest.
His eight-length lead at the wire gave Kelly another 10 points to add to her impressive total earned at pony races at the Howard County-Iron Bridge, Marlborough, Elkridge-Harford and Potomac Point-to-Point meets.
Going into the Potomac race, Kelly had 45 points; her nearest competition had 21. Kelly earned her points on two ponies -- Garfield and Natalie -- but even just counting Garfield's 30 points from his three wins this season, Kelly had enough to win the silver trophy and the generous gift certificate that goes with it.
"Last year everyone said that this would be Kelly's year," said Kelly's mother, Barb. "The pony races are really picking up. They go almost year-round now at the spring and fall point-to-point meets, and there are even two pony races during the summer."
At the Potomac races, Kelly's other pony, Natalie, finished second by a length in the 3/8 -mile race for small ponies. Previously in the season, Natalie had posted a second-place finish at Howard County-Iron Bridge and won her division at Elkridge-Harford. She did not race at Marlborough.
Kelly is following in the footsteps of her big brother, Charlie III. Charlie, who rode Garfield in the medium-pony division last year, has moved up to the large-pony division and is doing very well with his new mount, Got All Night, an elegant steel-gray filly.
This duo posted a third place in their first start together last weekend and moved up to the winner's circle at Potomac with a 1 1/2 -length victory in a tough field.
The other Conaway entry at Potomac, Rollin' Slew -- ridden by Michael Leaf of Hampstead -- finished off the board in his second attempt over hurdles after winning last week. This gelding likes to run on cement, but the going at Potomac was cuppy and deep.
"He just wasn't himself," said Charlie Conaway Jr. "He didn't look comfortable, and then Mike got run out at one of the final fences, so he just jogged him home. If they had run this race up Route 27 he would have loved it, but he has never liked soft ground."
Kelly says that her favorite thing about racing is having two great ponies to ride.
Her least favorite thing?
"Getting a good start and getting over my nervousness," says the poised youngster. "Last year I was scared to ever take my hands off the reins; I was afraid I would fall.
"This year I know more what I am doing, and I'm not afraid to pick up the whip.
"Right after they drop the flag, I know I have to get racing, and the nerves go away. You don't hear anything out there; it just sounds totally quiet. You just concentrate on getting to the finish."
Kelly says that Natalie is a pony who needs a lot of persuasion but is very focused on her job.
"She's a little more quiet than Garfield at the start," Kelly explains. "With Garfield I have to pat him and talk to him more and keep him away from the other ponies who are a bundle of nerves."
Garfield's best thing is his pure, raw speed.
"He gallops even just from the barn to the watering trough," Kelly says with a laugh. "He just flies everywhere. And he always tries to do his best. He won't do it dumb."
There is a big silver trophy at the Conaways' that says Kelly has been doing her best, too.
UPCOMING SCHEDULE May 23: Trail Riders of Today trail ride at Morgan Run Park, May 25: Mason-Dixon Reining Association show at Memory Lane Farm near Westminster, 876-1488.
June 2: Carroll County Equestrian Council monthly meeting, East Middle School in Westminster, 7:30 p.m., 833-4593