At first glance, it would appear that the 10th annual steeplechase card at Shawan Downs Saturday is in for a rough ride.
The race that has served as the program signature since the program was instituted at the picturesque Baltimore County course, the Legacy Chase, was eliminated this year because of a lack of entries for an open claiming timber event.
And, at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, a five-race steeplechase offering is being conducted for $ $250,000 in purse money, nearly four times what the Shawan program can provide.
But hold on. Charlie Fenwick, Jr., chairman of the Shawan race committee, couldn't be more pleased after 80 horses passed the entry box for the six remaining races.
"This is more horses than we've ever had at Shawan Downs," said Fenwick. "A lot of people want to run, so we have strong fields. The maiden hurdle originally had 28 entries (now pared to 15.)"
By contrast, a scheduled meeting in Charlottesville, Va., Sunday is having serious trouble filling its fields.
The reason: water.
"We've been very irrigating the property because we've had no rain to speak of," added Fenwick. "And we'll be irrigating right up to Saturday morning. The ground is very hard everywhere, so we've done everything we can to improve the running conditions."
The feature is the $25,000 Ski Roundtop Trophy, a timber stakes that has drawn 15 entries, including the 2010 Maryland Hunt Cup champion, Twill Do owned by Lucy Goelet and trained by William Meister. He will have to contend with the Jack Fisher trained entry of Delta Park and Prospectors Strike. Delta Park is owned by Arcadia Stable, which stands atop the standings for money won in timber races.
A crowd estimated at more than 10,000 is expected to attend the festive day, which includes a host of activities for both children and adults. a stick pony race for kids 6 and under, a farmers market and a live bluegrass band.