A $100,000 Steeplechase Challenge is on the race card for the 25th Anniversary Running of The Willowdale Steeplechase! This “Challenge” will help to celebrate Willowdale’s 25th Anniversary and The Pennsylvania Hunt Cup’s 83rd running. The “Challenge” will take excitement for spectators to an even higher level while offering a major opportunity for amateur riders.
The 25th Anniversary Running of The Willowdale Steeplechase will take place on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, 2017. This Chester County tradition is a spectacular rite of spring and a traditional Mother’s Day event for people from all over the Philadelphia area and beyond. The Pennsylvania Hunt Cup wraps up the 2017 Pennsylvania steeplechase season on Sunday, November 5, 2017.
The horse who wins both the Willowdale Steeplechase, Amateur Timber Stakes AND wins the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Open Timber Stakes will receive a $100,000 bonus! This timber challenge creates a great opportunity to increase awareness about steeplechasing while helping to promote amateur racing. This is a one-time challenge, not a perpetual race!
Both The Willowdale Steeplechase and The Pennsylvania Hunt Cup offer a fun-filled day of exciting races. In every race, jockeys gallop their horses over rolling green terrain at speeds of up to thirty miles an hour. They jump over hedges and solid four -foot high timber fences – and at Willowdale, the famous Willowdale Water Jump, (which has just been re-built after 24 years).
What is The $100,000 “Challenge”?
The Willowdale Steeplechase signature race is an Amateur Timber Stakes run over a course of more than three and one half miles over 17 fences, one of them the famous Water Jump with its significant drop. This is an extremely challenging race for both horse and rider – but only amateur riders may compete in this race.
The winning horse may go on to compete in the “Challenge” by running in The Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in November.
The Pennsylvania Hunt Cup is a Timber stakes race is run over four miles and 22 fences. From its inception, it has been intended as a substantial test of both horse and rider, and is one of just three 4-mile steeplechase races sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association. First run in 1921 over a course in Whitemarsh , PA, the race moved to the present location in Unionville PA in 1964, where it has been held annually. The points earned at the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup often determine the year end timber Champion. Since 1964 over $1,038,600 has been donated by the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Committee to a variety of charitable organizations. The Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, like The Willowdale Steeplechase, is a 501 (c)(3) institution. Last year the PHC Committee contributed $50,000 to the Chester County Food Bank.
The “open” race conditions of the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup make no distinction between amateur and professional riders. This means that amateurs compete against professionals in this race! Whoever rides the winner of The Willowdale Steeplechase will be competing against both amateurs and professionals for the “Challenge”.
What is Willowdale?
Top level horse racing over jumps, high fashion, elegant tailgating, most importantly, a community coming together to support these worthy causes: clean water, veterinary excellence and services for children with special needs. Since our first race in 1993, we have contributed over $700,000 to our beneficiaries. They are the Stroud Water Research Center whose mission is to protect our fresh water systems world- wide; the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center which trains students and provides cutting edge treatment for horses and other large animals that play a key role in our agriculture based state; and Quest Therapeutic Services which provides equine therapy to disabled children and gives them the chance to enjoy this beautiful countryside from atop a horse.
Set on 160 acres in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Hunt country, Willowdale attracts the country’s top steeplechase horses. Steeplechase racing got its start in Ireland, and the Willowdale Steeplechase race course was designed by an Irishman to replicate some of the toughest courses in Europe This year, they’ll compete in six races for over $100,000 in prize money, the largest in Willowdale history. Those horses running in our signature race, The Willowdale Steeplechase have a chance to compete in the “Challenge”.
And this year for the first time ever, there will be a Side Saddle race over fences.
In addition to all this excitement, throughout the day there are also pony races produced by US Pony Racing, Jack Russell Terrier races, activities for children, an antique car display, local food vendors and upscale boutique shopping.
The natural amphitheater of Willowdale’s spectator viewing area is unique to this part of the country and allows guests to watch the races exactly as they would in the British Isles. This means that people who attend the races can enjoy tremendous excitement from all of the spectating areas. Each reserved parking space offers panoramic views of the course – whether from high on the hill or right on the rail – and best of all, general admission ticket holders can visit friends and watch the races from a variety of vantage points!
“Willowdale truly is a community family event, “says Chairman Dixon Stroud. “People from all over the area gather to celebrate Mother’s Day, enjoy a beautiful day in the country, and watch the finest horse racing, – all the while helping to preserve our natural resources and to support three worthy beneficiaries. Our 25th Anniversary Running promises to be a major celebration. Visit www.willowdale.org to learn more.