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Maryland's steeplechase season kicks off Saturday, April 7, with Elkridge-Harford races

The Aegis

Saturday, April 7, heralds the official tune-up for Maryland’s upcoming “triple crown” of timber racing as the jumping horses return to historic Atlanta Hall Farm in Monkton for the annual Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point Races.

Atlanta Hall, at 2933 Pocock Road, has hosted the annual event each spring since 1940.

Tickets (by the car) are available at the gate or may be purchased online at www.elkridgeharfordraces.com.

General admission is $50, subscriber $100 and finish line spaces are $200. Gates open at noon. Post time for the first race is 1:30 p.m., and tailgate picnics are encouraged. Pets must be kept leashed at all times.

The Elkridge Harford races will be followed by the My Lady’s Manor races, also in the Monkton area near Ladew Gardens, on April 14; the Grand National Steeplechase in Butler on April 21; and the Maryland Hunt Cup in Glyndon, considered Maryland’s “triple crown” of steeplechasing, on April 28.

Saturday’s race meeting has its roots in a contest held under the auspices of the old Harford Hunt and run as the Harford Hunt Point-to-Point.

The earliest known mention of the local race (run over a course that began in Baltimore County and ended in Harford County) is found in the Dec. 4, 1925, edition of The Aegis under the column heading “Point-To-Point Race Saturday.” The results were posted with noted horseman Redmond C. Stewart listed as the winning rider.

While that post-race report cites the 1925 race as the first of its kind to be held by the hunt, engraving on a recently discovered trophy cites contests in 1923 and 1924, marking 2018 as at least the 95th year of organized steeplechasing in Harford County.

Over the years the name of the hunt club changed as did the name and location of the point-to-point race meeting.

The meeting was moved to Harvey Ladew’s Pleasant Valley Farm (now Ladew Gardens) in 1932 and run over a course Ladew had designed and built specifically for the contests. Known then as the Harford Hunt Races and Livestock Fair, it was a two-day event held in the November and included a cattle show.

The races at Ladew’s course were held under the rules of the Maryland Racing Commission and sanctioned by the Hunts Committee of the (then) National Steeplechase and Hunt Association. The Harford Hunt merged with the Elkridge Hunt to become the Elkridge-Harford Hunt in 1934 and in 1939, Ladew gave up hosting the races when he resigned as master of foxhounds.

The Elkridge-Harford Hunt races, as they then became known, were first held at nearby Atlanta Hall Farm 1940, and entries originally were limited to members of surrounding Baltimore area hunt clubs. Today’s races are open to any qualified rider and have seen some of the most prominent horses and riders compete, including 1961, 1968 and 1972 U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team member Kathy Kusner, the first female jockey permitted to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup.

After World War II, racing resumed regularly on a course that had been designed to cover a good portion of the Atlanta Hall estate of Elkridge-Harford Master of Foxhounds Edward S. Voss and his wife, Elsa, and the modern-day Elkridge-Harford Point-to- Point was born.

The Voss family has hosted the day of racing at Atlanta Hall since then. Saturday’s races will be chaired by fourth generation Elkridge-Harford horsewoman Elizabeth Voss Murray, her husband, Garrett Murray, and her brother, Samuel Voss.

Maryanna Skowronski is director of the Historical Society of Harford County and an equine enthusiast.

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