Off to The Races at Hunt Valley course

Shawan Downs has $127K on line for today's debut

Horse Racing

September 29, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

An historic moment in Maryland steeplechase racing occurs today with the inaugural running of The Races at picturesque Shawan Downs in Hunt Valley.

"This is the first time in 100 years anyone can remember hurdle racing in Baltimore County," said Charles Fenwick Jr., one of the founding fathers of the charity-driven event.

"You could make a good case for it being an historic meet. For as much of a hotbed as Maryland is for the sport in ownership, training and riding, we don't have a tremendous amount of racing."

Seven races offering $127,500 in purse money have drawn some of the most skilled jumpers from throughout the Mid-Atlantic area and an English jockey, Carl Llewellen, who has won more than 600 races over jumps. Post time is 1 p.m.

Spectators - accustomed to being unable to see more than half of a Maryland steeplechase race - will get a panoramic view of the entire event from hillside perches. The course is roughly at Falls and Shawan roads.

"Some people have no idea there is more jumping after the spring. It goes into December in other states," said Tom Voss, one of the sport's top trainers. "The course is irrigated with a water system and has beautiful turf after it rained. Charlie Fenwick and Jack Fisher did most of the work. They've done a wonderful job."

It was a four-year project to preserve a 300-acre section of land from development. More than $4 million was raised to transform the farm into a racing and horse center.

The card is perfectly positioned to serve as preparation for the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase on Oct. 20 at Far Hills, N.J. As a result, five hurdle and two timber races are loaded with top competition.

A full field of 12 was drawn for the Legacy Cup, the $30,000 feature that includes defending Breeders' Cup champion All Gong as part of a three-horse entry trained by F. Bruce Miller.

The 2 3/8 -mile test also has one of Augustin Stables' leading jumpers, Lord Zada, a multiple winner on the flat, and Canta Ke Brave, the best from Virginia.

In the co-feature, the $25,000 Maryland Million Steeplechase Handicap, Llewellen will ride Fisher-trained Pinkie Swear, a Grade I winner.

Bill Gallo, racing secretary for the National Steeplechase Association, said the emphasis "should be more on racing. It's a beautiful course with great visibility, and there is a full-blown race card. This could turn into a very important event."

Proceeds will benefit the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Fact box

What: The Races at Shawan Downs

When: Today

Post time: 1 p.m. for first of seven races

Gates: Open at 10 a.m., close at 6 p.m.

Feature: $30,000 Legacy Cup

Directions: From Jones Falls Expressway, take Falls Road north about 6.2 miles to Shawan Road light; From Harrisburg Expressway, exit at Shawan Road and go west about 1.3 miles.

Tickets: Must be purchased in advance. $50 a vehicle regardless of number of passengers for general parking; $100 for patron parking, $150 for subscriber parking.

Beneficiary: Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

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