Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Maryland Hunt Cup

It's the most grueling, difficult, extreme test of horse and rider in this country and hardly anyone knows about it anymore. It's our "Grand National" and only the best of the best and the most daring will even attempt it. Do you know what it is or where it is?  Most do not. 

 2013 Maryland Hunt Cup Winner (Wikipedia)

In 1894, the members of the Elkridge Fox Hunting Club in Maryland challenged the members of Green Spring Valley Hunt Club to a timber race, hence the first Maryland Hunt Cup. The race organizers wanted the race to be run over natural hunting country; ridden by amateurs; and have no commercial activity.  The race has been run every year since 1894 with the exception of the years during the Second World War.  The race is always run the last Saturday in April. There are no restrictions of where the horse and rider are from but the race is still limited to amateur riders. Women were admitted to ride in the late 1970's with the first winner coming in 1981, Joy Slater on Cancottage.  She repeated the win in 1982.

In 1922, Worthington Valley became the permanent home of the four mile, twenty-two timber fence racecourse.  And it still stands today as the proud monument to the sport that its original founders intended. Eight horses have won the race three times and no horse has won it four times.  It is considered one of the most difficult horse races in the world. Two undefeated winners went on to win the Grand National in England, Jay Trump (1963, 1964 and 1966) and Ben Nevis II (1977, 1978). Both horses are now in the Hall of Fame.

The timber fences on the course are astoundingly high and solid.  They do not come down.  Some fences are close to five feet tall.


Over the years the Thoroughbreds have won the race, as you'd expect.  Some have had royal pedigrees, Blockade, the winner in 1938, 1939 and 1940 was sired by the famous Man 'o War.  Mountain Dew, a three-time winner was out of a mare by War Admiral.  But others came from more humble beginnings.  The sire of the famous Jay Trump raced at the relatively unknown Charles Town track in near-by West Virginia. 

Photo from the 1960's (Pinterest)

I went to the race once in the late 1990's.  It was not well attended and it can be damp and cold but that day it was sunny and bright.  We tailgated and watched the race with good friends. This is not a race for drunken tailgaters. Those who attend come to watch the horses and the real test is just to finish.

There is an INCREDIBLE story this week in the Washington Post.  Please read it.  It's one of those stories that there's no logical explanation for and you realize that there are sometimes other factors at work beyond our control that cannot be rationally explained.
Read the story here.

If in Maryland in late April please go see this race.  It is an amazing day, watching these horses in the beautiful setting in the Maryland hunt country.  Close your eyes and think back more than 100 years.  Not much has changed at this venue.  Thank goodness.


  1. Very interesting. And beautiful pictures. If I lived closer, I would certainly go.

  2. It looks so beautiful -wish I was closer..would love to see!

  3. I rode with the Green Spring Hounds when i was a junior rider. I'll always remember being on a fox hunt and going across that course. The fences are so huge and intimidating! I used to attend the Hunt Cup all the time and every April i get nostalgic for it. I now live in Los Angeles and vow to fly home for it next time.


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