Skip to main content

Chester County Press

Action-packed races at Willowdale Steeplechase

05/15/2023 10:35PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Willowdale Steeplechases is a perennial sign of spring as families come to enjoy the excitement of race day, revel with friends, and spend a family day together in the countryside. Even clouds and periods of rain could not totally dampen spirits at the Kennett Square area racecourse on Saturday.
On the spectators’ side  of the fence, there were also competitions with judging and awards for best dressed, best hat, and best tailgate of the day.
Rose Potts of Kennett Township and her husband Tom have had the same tailgater space at  Willowdale for 25 years, but this is only the second time that they have had an entry in the tailgate competition. Parked in their yearly space near the small stream and the water jumps, the Potts’ entry picked up on the theme of the event with frogs, turtles, geese and fish for décor along with wetlands plants and a menu featuring steelhead trout with dill and salmon.
The mission of the Willowdale Steeplechases is to raise funds for clean water and veterinary excellence through donations to the Stroud Water Research Center and The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center. 
For the hat contest, one of the most eye-catching entries was Eileen Kling of Wyoming, Delaware, who had her straw hat decorated with tiny model horse, a stretch of fence and even a barn. This was Kling’s first time at Willowdale, and she would have hoped for better weather, but she was still enjoying the day of racing. 
After racing fans got to warm up watching terrier races and young riders in pony races, the serious racing over fences began. The competition was close and exciting with six races filled with come-from-behind winners and with horses racing side by side over jumps.
The featured race was the Buttonwood/Sycamore Farms Willowdale Timber Stake for a purse of $35,000. The winner was Renegade River, owned by Kiplin Hall, trained by William Dowling, and ridden by George Daly.  This was the second tine Renegade River has won this particular race after taking the victory in 2021. 
It was a particularly good day for jockey Conor Tierny, who won three races – The Rose Tree Cup on Ashwell Stable LLC’s Durragh; the Liiam Magee Apprentice Rider Hurdle race on Booby Trap, owned by Thomas Rice and Ashwell Stable LLC; and The Marshall W. Jenney Memorial Foxhunter’s Chase on Awesome Adrian, owned by Nancy Reed and trained by Katherine Neilson.
Both Booby Trap and Durragh are trained by Leslie Young. With two wins, this was the second year in a row that Young earned the Gail and Dixon Thayer Perpetual Trophy for the winning trainer.
Other winners were Thormond Park, owned by Del Rio Racing LLC, trained by Ricky Hendriks and ridden by Virginia Korrell in The Folly, Maiden Claiming Hurdle Race and To Be Or Not To Be, owned by Irvin Crawford II, trained by Joseph Davies and ridden by Eric Poretz in the Landhope Cup Maiden Timber Race.