EAST MARLBOROUGH—The 27th running of The Willowdale Steeplechase presented by the 24th Fund will take place on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 12, 2019. This Chester County tradition is a spectacular rite of spring and a traditional Mother’s Day event for people throughout the Brandywine Valley and beyond.
This year, horses will compete in six races for over $100,000 in prize money.
The first big change for Willowdale 2019: thanks to a National Steeplechase Association partnership with TPH Productions to live stream all 28 steeplechase race meets, people all over the world will now be able to watch the Willowdale races.
Willowdale will have professionally produced programing of the race meet by TPH Productions. The live stream will include a network quality TV show similar to what we see in other sports and will feature highlights of the horses as well as interviews with jockeys, trainers and sponsors. The live stream of the Willowdale races will be broadcast over broadband and expected to be viewed by approximately 75,000 people around the world - introducing new fans to the sport of jump racing and enhancing the experience of existing fans.
The second change: This year there will be an amateur race over hurdles which are National Fences ( man-made fences standing 52 inches high and consisting of a take-off roll and a steel frame stuffed with plastic “brush”). Hurdles create a different challenge for the horse and rider than the post and rail obstacles. “The Liam Magee SOTA Apprentice Rider race was formerly run on the flat, “says race chairman W. B. Dixon Stroud, Jr. “This change will allow amateurs hurdle race experience. There are more races for amateurs over post and rail fences in the United States, so the hurdle race at Willowdale presents a new opportunity.”
As always, The Willowdale Steeplechase will feature top level horse racing over jumps, elegant tailgating, high fashion and most importantly, a community coming together to support these worthy causes: clean water, veterinary excellence and services for children with special needs. The races benefit the Stroud Water Research Center, Quest Therapeutic Services and The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center.
Willowdale features a world class steeplechase course in a community known for the sport’s top jockeys, trainers and owners. Created by race chairman Stroud in 1993 out of a former 160 acre dairy farm, the broad turf course is situated in a natural amphitheater which allows for 80-90 percent viewing from all of the spectating areas. The pristine race course is styled after a combination of European and American race courses and features the spectacular water jump, hedges, and post and rail jumps.
The horses’ safety was a prime factor in the development of the race course. It features an uphill approach to the fences, which encourages less speed and more jumping. This means less wear and tear on the horses. Stroud executed the drainage of the turf with great care and thoroughness, keeping the course pristine and even in all kinds of weather.
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! General admission ticket holders can visit friends and watch the races from a variety of vantage points.
Each reserved tailgate parking space offers panoramic views of the course - whether from high on the hill or right on the rail. Tailgaters can vie for the grand prize in a competition sponsored by the Whip Tavern. The theme: Game of Thrones.
Throughout the day there are also pony races produced by US Pony Racing, Jack Russell Terrier races and an Antique Car display. The hugely popular Miss Nancy Nicholas Memorial Side Saddle Field Master’s Chase over fences returns again and there are local food vendors, activities for children, and upscale boutique shopping.
From the inaugural race on Saturday, May 22, 1993 until today, attendance, interest and support have become stronger. And since that day, the Willowdale Steeplechase has donated over $1,000,000 to local charities.
Visit www.willowdale.org to purchase tickets and learn more.