Touches of past, present and future at the Hunt Cup races

DeChara, left, and Class Brahms, ridden by Darren Nagle and Mark Beecher respectively, run a tight rush to the finish line. Class Brahms won the Arthur O. Choate Memorial Race.
DeChara, left, and Class Brahms, ridden by Darren Nagle and Mark Beecher respectively, run a tight rush to the finish line. Class Brahms won the Arthur O. Choate Memorial Race. Chris Barber — Digital First Media

WEST MARLBOROUGH >> Past, present, and future blended together in the rolling hills of Chester County at the 83rd annual Pennsylvania Hunt Cup on Sunday.

The Hunt Cup timber races are local tradition with deep roots in Chester County’s equestrian community. An outgrowth from the sport of fox hunting, the races run this year were not far removed from the way they would have appeared to horsemen in the early part of the last century.

In recognition of that connection, between races there was a parade of foxhounds from the Cheshire Hunt. Many of the horses that have retired from racing become fox hunting mounts, and hunt members serve as outriders during the races, providing quick aid to fallen riders or catching loose horses if there should be an accident during the running of a race.

This year, drones flew high overhead tracking the race even when it went out of view of the spectators, and tailgate picnics were served from the backs of trucks and SUVs, but there was also a row of spectators looking on from atop horse-drawn carriages. There were even ladies in side-saddle habits among the crowd after they completed their own side-saddle race.

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The side-saddle race was changed to follow a Field Master’s Chase format, which kept it more competitive. Riders had to stay behind the field master through the course, jumping fences but not racing for the lead until released at the top of the stretch to sprint to the finish line.

The side-saddle race was won by Julie Nafe on McCrady’s, owned and trained by Lauren Schock.

Taking the racing tradition into the future will be up to the junior riders of today who filled races for horses and ponies that started the afternoon’s activities.

The featured race of the day was the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, which was won for the second year in a row by Ebanour, owned by Irvin S. Naylor, trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Darren Nagel.

This was a landmark 100th win for Nagel,

Racing requires open space, and an assortment of open space preservation organizations, including the Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County, and S.A.V.E. (Safety, Agriculture, Village and Environment)were on hand at the Hunt Cup with information about their work and activities. The primary beneficiary of the PA Hunt Cup is the Chester County Food Bank.