Saturday’s Shawan Downs Point to Point may not have been an NSA sanctioned meet this year (no fans meant no purse money), but despite the challenges wrought by Covid-19, the event was chock full of racing thrills and opportunities for up-and-coming riders to gain invaluable experience in real competition. The nine-race card at the Hunt Valley, Md., course featured a tossed salad of hurdle, timber, and flat races for amateur, apprentice and seasoned veteran riders. The races also attracted plenty of four-legged talent, including timber champion Doc Cebu, along with old friends Mystic Strike, Canyon Road, Class Indian, Pured It, Stand Down, and many more.
In a meet showcasing the stars of tomorrow, none shined brighter than teen riding sensation Skylar McKenna, whose Neilson family has been in racing since 1875. Skylar won three events, starting with Charlie Fenwick’s Royal Ruse (open timber), Welcome Here Farm’s Second Amendment (amateur apprentice timber), and Gill Johnston’s Brianbakescookies (open amateur apprentice training flat). With a riding pedigree like hers, the sky’s the limit for Skylar.
Another young rider with a great pedigree, Teddy Davies, took the Maiden Amateur Apprentice Training Flat with William F.C. Marlow Jr.’s Hail Michigan by two lengths over Alexandra White’s Optical Illusion. Teddy is the son of champion steeplechase rider Blythe Miller and Joe Davies, a winning rider and trainer of Maryland Hunt Cup champions.
Two other riders looking to make their mark, Archie Macauley and Colin Smith, also boasted wins on the card. Archie took the opener – an amateur apprentice hurdle – aboard Armata Stable’s Zanzi Win for trainer Ricky Hendriks, while Smith romped by 12 in the finale on the flat, restricted to young adult riders, on Bruton Street-US’ Agravain, for trainer Todd Wyatt.
In other action, it was an emphatic return to the races for Graham Watters, who has competed on the NSA circuit since 2017. The jock, who was injured in the spring and missed the Saratoga and Colonial Downs summer seasons, captured the second and third races, taking the maiden hurdle aboard Holwood Stable’s Road to Oz and open hurdle on Rather Be Racing’s Our Legend.
And picking up where he left off at Saratoga, jockey Gerard Galligan, the season’s leading rider, piloted Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow to victory in the maiden timber race for trainer Leslie Young. Ironically, Galligan earned his first victory win at Saratoga in August aboard French Light, who overtook Tomgarrow that day for win. Photographer Tod Marks has the recap.