Saddling up for a steeplechase

Marlborough Hunt 10-race event rides in Sunday at Roedown Farm


At the Marlborough Hunt Races in Davidsonville Sunday afternoon, thoroughbred racehorse riders will carry on a country steeplechase tradition that dates back to Ireland in 1752, when two men decided on a whim that a four-mile race from one village church steeple to another would be good fun.

Those two thrill-seekers got something started. More than 100 thoroughbreds and their riders are expected for the 32nd annual races, organizers said, along with about 5,000 spectators enjoying the Anne Arundel County event under spring skies.

The 10 races take place at Roedown Farm and draw crowds mainly from Maryland and Virginia. Rodney Calver, the marketing director for the sponsoring Marlborough Hunt Club, said the jumping hurdles and flat races over the course of the day will provide a mix.

Races include a $5,000-purse open timber (fence) race, a flat-out galloping race with no fences, a children's "lead line" trot for ages 7 and under.

Three of the eight riders entered in the $5,000-purse race are women. The horses can be any age, and this top purse race will be largely won by a horse that meets its fences well, Calver added.

The largest number of racehorses entered in any single race event is 32, Calver said, giving spectators a chance to witness the thunder of horse hoofs in an open flat race over rural terrain. A dozen horses will run at one time.

An Englishman who hails from Oxfordshire, Calver especially enjoys the foxhound race. "The hound race is one of the more spectacular visuals as they follow a [drag] scent for a mile," he said. "The sight and sounds of a pack of hounds in full cry is a breathtaking experience."

No foxes are involved or killed at the end of the hunt, organizers said.

Hounds named Kentucky and Jockey are favored to finish in front, perhaps overtaking defending champion Jill, also in the running, organizers said.

Christy Clagett, the Hunt Races event co-chair, said her uncle and aunt, Hal C.B. and Jeannie Clagett, have donated their Davidsonville 125-acre farm for years to stage the event.

"It's a beautiful day out in the countryside whether you ride horses or not," Clagett said. "In Southern Maryland, it's the only event of its kind down here. We're never hurting for a good crowd."

A first-time light feature is a women's hat contest. The attire for attending the races is flexible.

A relay race between the Marlborough Hunt Club and other Maryland clubs will wrap up the afternoon activities.

The Marlborough Hunt Races will be held rain or shine Sunday at the Roedown Farm, 3856 Wayson Road, Davidsonville. Gates open at 10 a.m.; races run from noon to around 5 p.m. General admission parking (unreserved areas) is $20 per car, which covers admission for four, and may be bought at the gate or in advance. Rail prices range from $70 to $170 per car; Pavilion parking is $300; and Premium Hill Top parking ranges from $100 to $325. Children 6 and younger are admitted free. For information, 410-798-8275 or

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