EAST MARLBOROUGH - The point-to-point racing season is off to a fast start in Chester County with a good field of runners for Easter Sunday's Cheshire Hunt Races in Unionville.

Race Committee Chairman John B. Hannum Jr. was pleased with the turnout for the event. 'It's a great pleasure for me. We still have a nice crowd and nearly 100 horses counting ponies,' he said.

This was the 68th running of Mr. Stewart's Cheshire Fox Hounds Point-to-Point races, in the Hunt's landmark 100th year.

Hannum recounted how his mother, Mrs. John B. Hannum Sr., who died three years ago, started the races in 1946.

'The fact that we are carrying on in her tradition it always nice... When you think about it, you look around at the open space and the environment, it all goes together.'

The coincidence of the race date falling on Easter Sunday may have kept some spectators away, but others combined the holiday with the event.

Allie King from Oxford brought a human height Easter Bunny painting along as part of her tailgate decoration to help mark the occasion.

'The Easter Bunny had to come with us. We come even when its a holiday- that's more reason to come out then and celebrate. We're just catching up with everyone, having a little bit of a social time and seeing some races go off,' King said.

A frequenter of the race, King was prepared for the weather with an tasty tailgate lunch that would not blow off the table. 'We've only been able to put out the heavy items, the light items did not make the cut for fear of them flying away.'

Showers caught up to the crowd with four races still to run. While some of the spectators retreated, the horses and riders were not deterred. The featured Open Timber Race for the Cheshire Bowl was won by Grinding Speed, owned by Mark Beecher and trained by Alicia Murphy

'He's such a good jumper. He did his very first start last year here over timber ever and he had to go in the open race. He was fifth or sixth, but he did it,' Murphy recalls.

Last year, the now 7-year-old gelding went on to win the Gold Cup and is looking good again for this season.

'He jumped so brilliant, he traveled his way into the race,' said jockey Michael Wharton who raced with the pack until going to the front in the later stages of the race. 'He's a fun horse... he's improved again I feel this year.'

The Cheshire Races are the first of three days of point-to-point races in the Delaware Valley Point-To-Point Association series.

The action continues at the Brandywine Hills Point to Point on Sunday, on April 7 at the Myrick Conservation Center, and with the concluding races of the trio at Fair Hill, Md. on April 21.

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