From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge

And They’re Off!

Photo credit: Middleburg Photo, Karen Monroe
Photo credit: Middleburg Photo, Karen Monroe

The never ending winter of 2014, with its claws still firmly clenched in the Virginia countryside, has been hard on man and beast alike. Late winter and early spring storms and frigid temperatures have played havoc with the spring steeplechase season, and weather postponements have the month of April bursting at the seams with point to point races every weekend. For the dedicated lovers of fine horseflesh racing over fences and fine tailgating with friends, the world revolves around the Virginia hunt country for the next six weeks.

Point to point races are the minor leagues of steeplechasing, or racing over fences, a sport popular in our state since colonial times.  It has its roots in the hunt field–hundreds of years ago, a pair of Irish foxhunters raced cross country using a church steeple as a landmark, to settle the question of who had the faster foxhunter.

The local hunt clubs are still the backbone of the sport here in Virginia, where each sponsors a race meet every weekend in the spring. For most foxhunting clubs, their point to point is a major fundraiser to offset maintaining a kennel of hounds, paying for staff, vehicles, and insurance. Every hunt member, including non-riding social members, volunteers for the myriad tasks involved, from entries, hospitality tents, parking, programs and admissions, and course maintenance—no small task, since most of the “courses” are actually cow pastures.

Photo credit: Middleburg Photo, Karen Monroe
Photo credit: Middleburg Photo, Karen Monroe

These point to point race meets, called the “pots and pans” circuit, are considered “unsanctioned” and offer no prize money—horses race for trophies and bragging rights only. But the point to points provide an important training ground for horses and riders that will go on to race in the bigger steeplechasing events sanctioned by the sport’s governing body, the National Steeplechase Association. NSA sanctioned steeplechases include the Middleburg Spring Races and the familiar Virginia Gold Cup. And for the fans, it’s a chance to see the action up close and meet the participants. Races are run rain or shine, but for really inclement weather, call the information number listed below; if a meet is cancelled or postponed, the hunt will have a recorded message.

These early meets are not the fashion shows and the “see and be seen” outings that the big spring races are, but allow fans a much closer look at the horses and people. Fashion is dictated by the weather and head and footwear tend to be practical rather than fanciful. Admission prices and reserved parking spaces are a fraction of the cost of the later meets.

Photo credit: Middleburg Photo, Karen Monroe
Photo credit: Middleburg Photo, Karen Monroe

Our pick this year for the must-attend point to point is Middleburg Hunt’s race meet, held at the delightful and venerable Glenwood Park just outside of Middleburg on April 27th. This beautiful course has wonderful viewing and a grandstand located amidst tall old trees. Both general admission and reserved tailgate party spots are available for advance purchase. A bit dressier than some of the point to points, this one is fun for families as well as young professionals and serious horsemen. This meet has a hat contest, so dust off the most outlandish hat you can find and you could win prizes.  Post time for the first race is 1:00 pm.


Written by: Julie Reardon



Saturday, April 5
12:00 noon

Old Dominion Hounds Point to Point
Ben Venue Farm, Ben Venue, Virginia
(540) 364-4573
(540) 636-1507

Saturday, April 5
1:00 pm

Dogwood Classic Races
Colonial Downs, New Kent County, Virginia
(804) 966-7223

Sunday, April 13
12:30 pm

Loudoun Hunt Point to Point
Oatlands Plantation, Leesburg, Virginia
(540) 338-4031

Saturday, April 19
1:30 pm

Middleburg Spring Races
Glenwood Park, Middleburg, Virginia
(540) 687-6545
(504) 687-6595

Sunday, April 20
1:00 pm

Thornton Hill Fort Valley Hounds Point to Point
Thornton Hill Farm, Sperryville, VA
(540) 987-8338

Saturday, April 26
1:00 pm

Foxfield Spring Races
Charlottesville, Virginia
(434) 293-9501

Sunday, April 27
1:00 pm

Middleburg Hunt Point to Point
Glenwood Park, Middleburg, Virginia
(540) 687-6069
(540) 454-2991

Saturday, May 3
1:00 pm

Virginia Gold Cup Races
Great Meadow, The Plains, Virginia
(540) 347-2612




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