When Turney McKnight first became involved with the My Lady's Manor steeplechase race in 1978, it offered a purse of $1,000. Today, when the 97th edition of the race is staged at Monkton, the offering will be 30 times that much.
"We've tried to make it more of a complete afternoon, and it has grown up pretty rapidly," said McKnight, the race chairman. "We've added vendors, entertainment, and it's a nice day in a very beautiful setting. People react to it the way they do to Saratoga."
Trainer Jack Fisher, one of the local titans in timber racing, believes a lot of the credit goes to McKnight.
"He's done just a fantastic job growing that race," Fisher said.
About 10,000 people will gather again to watch a three-race card headed by the $30,000 feature, up $5,000 from last year.
"With the purses we're able to pay this year, it leads to people wanting to send their best horses," McKnight said. "The maiden race [John Rush Streett Memorial] has a $15,000 purse and is the most valuable on the whole spring schedule. I'm very happy that people want to come here to run. It's sort of a compliment."
Ten are scheduled to vie in the feature, including two from the stable of Fisher, the national training champion two years ago. One of his horses, Sham Aciss, took the Manor in 2006.
"I'm going to try to repeat," Fisher said. "I figure I've got a pretty good team."
Bubble Economy, who will run in the colors of Arcadia Stable, was a winner at Shawan Downs last fall and more recently took the Green Spring point-to-point race. Mr. Bombastic, owned by Harold A. Via Jr., won at Far Hills, N.J., last fall and prevailed on the Elkridge-Harford point-to-point card earlier this spring.
Fisher also has entries on programs at Atlanta (two) and Strawberry Hills, Va., (three) today.
"I think increasing the purses has helped here," he said. "But they're up all over, and more people want to get involved. But I'd never sell the point of making money in this; it's too difficult."
Last year's Grand National Steeplechase winner, Askim, is among the feature entries, but he is expected to be scratched and pointed toward an attempt to repeat at Butler, then to the Hunt Cup.
My Lady's Manor
What -- Steeplechase races
When -- Today, first post at 1:30 p.m.
Where -- Corner of Pocock Road and Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton
Directions -- From Baltimore, take Exit 27B (Dulaney Valley Road) north off the Beltway. Bear left onto Jarrettsville Pike after four miles, go through Jacksonville for about five miles to intersection of Pocock Road and Jarrettsville Pike.
Tickets -- $50 per vehicle at the gate
Beneficiary -- Ladew Gardens