There is good news!
It did not start raining at the 52ND annual Potomac Hunt Races last Sunday at Gogo and Austin Kiplinger’s “Bittersweet Field” until the seventh of the eight race program.
Prior to that, tailgates abounded, some as simple as a chicken wing from the back of a pick-up and others complete with candelabra and fresh flowers.
One thing for certain, there was as much people-watching as race-watching, and plenty of time for both.
“We estimate about 7,000 people here today,” Vicki Crawford remarked.
Following a pony race and a relay race, serious competition got underway with the two-mile maiden hurdle, the Alice Keech Perpetual Plate. Ten entries went postward.
The race was appropriately dedicated to the late Lyn Carroll, who was a fox hunting friend of the late Alice Keech for more than six decades. A tribute by Austin Kiplinger at Sunday’s races recognized Lyn Carroll as having a life-long interest in horses and hounds, and owning the longest, continuous Potomac business, The Surrey.
Adding to the popularity of this race, Potomac member Mignon Smith’s horse, Class Sprite, won a decisive victory over Bruce Smart’s Lord Emulous.
The Preakness Open Hurdle, one of the two major features on the program, was a thriller when Smart’s four year old Oobitwa, caught Tom Hullfish’s Bad Dog Press at the wire, winning the seven-horse race by a nose.
There was also a race of a different nature. When the first rain drop fell, owners of the vintage Packard automobiles, who drove their classic vehicles to the event to be judged for the Packard People’s Choice Award, took off like hounds in full cry.
“We don’t want them to get wet,” club member Hal Hermann, of Fairfax, said while posing for a photograph with the winner’s bowl, flanked by Kaja and Bubba Farnsworth of Clarksburg.
Dressage trainer Alex Cherba and his wife, Vera, came prepared. They had no trouble watching the races under a large beach umbrella waiting for the brief showers to end.
Apparently there will be showers of a different nature in the near future. Potomac Hunt’s jtMFHs, Vicki and Skip Crawford’s daughter, Camille, is engaged to Fritz Finley. “Does he ride?” she was asked. “He’s getting back into it,” Camille offered. The Oct. 23 wedding date happens to fall on Potomac’s jtMFH Peter Hitchen’s birthday. “He thinks the party is going to be for him,” Fritz added.
There are also wedding bells planned for Tyler Watkins and David Taylor. Tyler, the daughter of Dana and Todd Kiplinger, has planned a Sept. 6 wedding at Montevideo, the historic home of Todd’s parents.
“They haven’t given us many names for our list,” the future father-of-the bride said while enjoying Gogo and Kip’s elaborate tail gate as were Carey and Jack Miller, Sue and Dick Moran, and many more who cruised in and out.
Former Goshen Hunt MFH, Hansen Watkins’ tailgate numbered among the creative, using an umbrella with a foxhunting scene as part of the decor. Perhaps it was put to a more practical use later in the afternoon.
“We invited about 300,” Bob Webster estimated. He and his wife, Billie, have hosted Potomac Hunt Race tailgates for more than 40 years, going back to when the races were held at Belvedere farm on Travilah Road. Billie, renowned for her gourmet cooking — her recipes have been snitched by at least one well known cookbook author — is always prepared for the onslaught. “Lots of people visit, come and go,” Bob explained.
One person who didn’t have a moment to spare, was trainer Lilith Boucher. She was the trainer for Running Light, who won the featured open timber race with Boucher’s brother, Richard, in the saddle. If Mac Grant’s math calculations are on target, Running Light was running some kind of fast. He covered the three and a quarter mile, over timber, race in 6 minutes, 25 seconds. “That’s 30 mph,” he marveled.
Boucher’s other coups included additional wins for Mignon Smith’s Mede Cahaba Stable. Her Class Cool won the Charles Payne open flat and Smith’s Class Vigor won the Preakness open flat.
“We had three horses running and won three races. What a day this has been,” Smith pronounced.