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Chester County Press

Royal Ruse wins Pa. Hunt Cup

11/08/2023 12:39PM ● By Marcella Peyre-Ferry

The 89th running of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on Sunday, Nov. 5 featured not only the excitement of horses racing over fences, but it also took place on a perfect fall afternoon in the Chester County countryside.

The featured race of the day was the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, which was run over four miles and 18 fences for a purse of $35,000. The winner was Royal Ruse, owned by Charles Fenwick, trained by Sanna Neilson and ridden by Gerard Galligan. 

Galligan was a last-minute replacement for Parker Hendriks, who had taken a fall racing last week. 

“I didn’t know I was riding ‘till last night,” Galligan said in a post-race interview. “I’m very lucky to ride such a good horse. It’s so much fun riding over those big fences on such good horses. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

Awesome Adrian placed second and third-place finisher Shootist was disqualified. Most of the race was led by Monbeg Stream, ridden by Freddie Procter, until he fell at the second to last fence. To the relief of the crowds, the horse got back on his feet and was walked back to the staging area.

The first timber race of the day was the Lewis C. Ledyard Maiden Timber race, which was won by Paddy’s Crown, ridden by Teddy Davies, owned by Adlestrop Hill, and trained by Emily Hannum. This was followed by the Arthur O Choate, Jr. Memorial, which was won by Rhythmia, ridden by Harrison Beswick, owned by Upland Partners and trainer by Todd McKenna.

The day of racing concluded with two divisions of the Athenian Idol Apprentice Rider Training Flat Race. The winner of the first division was Get Khozy,  ridden by Elizabeth Scully, for trainer Richard Hendriks and owner Del Rio Racing LLC. In the second division, the winner was Kenilworth King, ridden by Virginia Korrell for trainer Leslie Young and owner Kenilworth King Syndicate LLC.

The day’s races were run in memory of Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard, who passed away in August at the age of 82. He earned 3,426 career racing wins as a trainer, including 1,242 in steeplechasing. Sheppard, along with the late Paddy Neilson, originated the Athenian Idol flat race as an opportunity for apprentice riders.  

Throughout the day, event announcers interviewed friends of Sheppard, who shared their memories with the crowds. 

Trainer Leslie Young, who started working with Sheppard when she was 16 years old, recalled him as an amazing man to work for. 

“For as many horses as he had, he definitely tried to make sure they were fresh and happy,” Young said.

Trainer Sanna Neilson, who began working for Sheppard when she was 14, also shared a memory. “I loved working for Jonathan. He was a wonderful mentor and a fantastic guy.”

The day’s festivities also included a parade of horse-drawn carriages, and an appearance by the Cheshire Fox Hounds. Tailgating of all kinds could be found among the spectators, including the carriage drivers.

Jack Day and his wife were passengers in one of the carriages with driver Richard O’Donnell. He commented, “The grass is so nice and green it really is beautiful. The countryside is so beautiful regardless, it’s just fabulous. We live in Monkton, Maryland, and we have nice countryside, but it’s hard to beat this one here.”

Proceeds from the races benefit the Chester County Food Bank.