The Maryland steeplechasing season begins in earnest today with the 98th running of the My Lady's Manor timber race in Monkton, an event that draws the largest single-day crowd of any sporting endeavor in Harford County.
"On a good day, we estimate 10,000 people will attend," said race committee chairman Turney McKnight. "Of course, it's best for the horses if it's cool and cloudy but not for the gate."
Seven are scheduled to jump in the feature, which carries an upgraded purse of $30,000 for the second straight year. The secondary feature, the $15,000 John Rush Streett Memorial, offers the biggest purse in the spring for a maiden contest.
Irish Prince, who has not lost in four starts over timber, was among the pre-entries for the My Lady's Manor but was scratched Wednesday, leaving no clear-cut favorite.
The role might belong to defending champion Fappa Fire, who may be prepping for the Maryland Hunt Cup, or to runner-up Bubble Economy, who led most of the way before being overtaken down the stretch.
"I think he should have won it last year," said Bubble Economy's trainer, Jack Fisher, the No. 1 conditioner in the 2007 National Steeplechase Association standings. Fisher will not be in attendance, instead going to the $100,000 Georgia Cup in Atlanta, where his entry Good Night Shirt begins defense of his 2007 Eclipse Award.
Others in the My Lady's Manor field who merit consideration are the consistent Erin Go Bragh, J. Alfred Prufrock and Make Your Own.
The three-mile course should be in ideal condition. "With the rain and liquid nitrogen, it's looking fantastic," McKnight said.
If you go
What -- My Lady's Manor steeplechase races
When -- Today, first post, 1:30 p.m.
Where -- Corner of Jarrettsville Pike and Pocock Road, Monkton
Directions from Baltimore -- Take Beltway Exit 27B (Dulaney Valley Road) north for four miles. Bear left onto Jarrettsville Pike (Maryland 146). Take that through Jacksonville and go five miles. Parking is on the right.
Parking -- General ($50) and family ($70) can be purchased on race day.
Beneficiary -- Ladew Topiary Gardens