Mystic Strike wins again at Pennsylvania Hunt Cup11/07/2022 01:33PM ● By Steven Hoffman
One of the traditional highlights of the fall season in Chester County is the running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Steeeplechases.
Held on Sunday, Nov. 6, the 88th running of the Hunt Cup races took place under cloudy skies with warmer weather than race fans generally prepare for. Tailgating is always a favorite feature of race day, with tables of food and drink, and welcoming friends.
Race-goers take tailgating seriously, and have since the early days of the event. In a nod to tradition, one of the features of the event is a parade of horse-drawn carriages. After driving down the race course, the horses are parked on the sidelines where their passengers enjoy tailgating in style while they watch the races.
Organized by John Frazier Hunt of Chester Springs, the group of about a dozen vehicles including five four-in-hand coaches assembled at New Bolton Center for their drive to the races.
“This really is fun,” said carriage driver Richard O’Donnell of East Fallowfield. “It’s a nice venue. Nobody is pushing anybody and everybody is having a good time. There’s no show ring so to speak. You go and enjoy the day. We’re here to enjoy the races, we’ll enjoy a picnic.”
Another feature between the races was a presentation of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Fox Hounds. Steeplechasing and fox hunting go hand in hand and the hunting community supports the races in many ways.
River Hills Fox Hounds provides outriders for the event who escort the race horses to the starting line and are stationed along the course to provide assistance if needed.
“It’s sort of a thankless job, you do the best you can do,” said Joint Master of Fox Hounds James Paxson, who has been doing the job for more than 30 years.
The day’s events included three races over timber fences and a flat race without jumps as well as pony races and a field master’s chase for junior riders.
The featured race of the day was the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, run over a 4-mile course for a purse of $35,000. It turned out to be a remarkable win for Mystic Strike, ridden by Gerard Galligan and trained by Todd McKenna, who came from running second to take over the lead in the final stages of the race.
This is the third year in a row that 13-year-old Mystic Strike, owned by Upland Partners, has won the Hunt Cup.
Owners of the winning horses are not the only ones who profit from the day of racing. Chester County Food Bank is the beneficiary of proceeds from the event. Over the years, the race committee has raised well over $1.15 million for charitable organizations in the community. Last year, the committee was able to donate $65,000 to the Chester County Food Bank.