The inaugural running of the Miss Nancy Nicholas Memorial Side Saddle Race at Willowdale Steeplechase, held on May 14 in Pennsylvania, was the third in the spring season of side saddle races under the umbrella of the Side Saddle Chase Foundation. Miss Nic, as she was known, was an avid and brave side saddle rider who was a familiar face in many a hunt field, and no terrain or obstacle would hold her back when hounds were running! We were thrilled to run this race in her honor, and we believe she would have approved of all eight riders and their horses who lined up to start.
All smiles after completing the stiff course. Image courtesy of Middleburg Photo.
The amazing two mile course included ten 3' timber fences, most of which had been built specifically for this event, thanks to the generosity of Dixon Stroud, founder of the Willowdale Steeplechase and board member of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Foxhounds (PA). All the ladies who raced at Willowdale also hunt regularly, and came from as far as St. Louis, MO as well as Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The top three finishers also qualified for the famous Dianas of the Chase, a prestigious side saddle race held annually in Leicestershire, England, at the beginning of December.
Mrs. Hannum, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and race namesake Miss Nancy Nicholas. Photo by Ed Thomas, from "Scarlet on Scarlet" by Prue Osborn.
McCradys, owned and trained by Lauren Schock and ridden by Julie Nafe, was the winner. Fort Henry, under owner/trainer Stephanie Dowling, finished second, and Sarah Martin guided her El Pegaso to third. Full results included: 4th - In Todd We Trust, 5th - Galon Hapus, 6th - Madame Bellvedere, 7th - Little Lady, 8th - Patrick.
A hotly-contested Best Turned Out award was won by Little Lady and Amy Magee, who also won Best Conditioned non-Thoroughbred. Best Conditioned Thoroughbred went to Sarah Martin's El Pegaso.
Don Cagle helps saddle third place finisher and Best Conditioned Thoroughbred, the aptly-named El Pegaso, Sarah Martin up. Photo courtesy of Sarah Martin.
Many thanks to all at Willowdale for allowing us to run over their beautiful and challenging course, and a huge thank you to all prize donors and volunteers who assisted in making this such a huge success and crowd pleaser. Side saddle racing is definitely a growing phenomenon! Both Cheshire and Loudoun Point to Point meets included races aside on their cards, and next weekend another contest is scheduled at the Potomac Hunt Races (MD).
Contributor Kristie Brabosky is chair of the racing committee at the Side Saddle Chase Foundation. She is also co-chair, with Jock Hannum, of the Cheshire Point to Point, and takes the third flight in the hunt field at Cheshire.