Yes, Virginia, there is a race track in the Old Dominion - at least, two days a year there is.
Saturday, not quite two weeks before Virginians vote on whether to allow parimutuel wagering - and thus two tracks in the state - more than 10,000 people are expected to flock to Middleburg's Glenwood Park for a six-race card, the 24th renewal of the Virginia Fall Meeting.
Glenwood Park is a race track, a mile track at that, and spectacularly beautiful on the one spring day and one fall day each year that it's used. It does have some differences from neighboring Maryland and West Virginia tracks:
It has jumps, usually 15 big wooden fences for the powerful "timber" horses running in the Chronicle Cup or 11 or 12 "national steeplechase fences" for the speedier steeds in the feature daniel C. Sands Cup.
It's the kind of track where a horse named Kool Kake - arriving in a van driven by its teenage owner, Kevin Palmer - faces a horse named Foxenewa, who would have arrived with half a dozen or more stablemates trained by Jonathan Sheppard for the powerful Augustin Stables.
It's also the kind of place where legendary riders sometimes get a fine view of the back of a 19-year-old winner.
In 1969 Glenwood Park was the scene of a historic integration, when, on a sunny spring afternoon, a record crowd watched Mary Ryan, Holly Halleck, Ready Snodgrass and Kassie Chatfield-Taylor become the first women allowed to compete against men in a race sanctioned by the National Steeplechase and Hunt Association.
A transplanted New Yorker, Daniel C. Sands, started it all back in 1911 with the Middleburg Hunt Cup and Farmers Race. By 1920 it had become so popular that he built Glenwood Park, and the following year a horse with the improbable name of John Bunny won the first running of the santioned Middleburg Hunt Cup, the oldest timber steeplechase in Virginia. (The Virginia Gold Cup dates from 1922, the Deep Run Hunt Cup from 1928).
Timber racing is a special love of the racing set of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, so the Hunt Cup is the glamor event of the spring meeting and the Chronicle Cup fills the same spot in the fall.
The Chronicle Cup, first run in 1955, has had some famed winners, but only two have managed to win it twice: Grand Chal in 1956 and 1958 and Kinloch in 1975 and 1976.
The all-time favorite would have to be Tuscalee, the Maryland-bred who especially liked to take the rail around the sharp turn into that short but challenging stretch. Tuscalee went on to become the all-time winner over jumps, many of them scored at Glenwood, two of them in the Sands Cup.
But most of all, Glenwood Park is where horses, riders, trainers, owners and spectators mix easily around the paddock and climb up the hill into the stands to see the races. Which are great.