Polo continues through this month on Phipps Field, just beyond Middleburg, off U.S. 50. The Sunday matches begin at 3. Call 703/777-1403 or 777-9243.

While the cool, crisp fall air brings the sound of crashing of football helmets across the country, in small Virginia towns such as Middleburg, Leesburg and The Plains, and in northeastern Maryland's Fair Hill, the sound of pounding hooves dominates the weekends. The National Steeplechase and Hunt Association-sanctioned season begins next weekend at Fair Hill, where betters will find America's only full card of legalized parimutuel steeplechase wagering. Middleburg hosts the annual Virginia Fall Races, two days of horse racing over timber, brush and on the flat, on the first weekend of October. It's a bash that packs the town and its restaurants, so make your dinner and/or overnight reservations early. Don't forget to wear sturdy shoes and bring a sweater, take along binoculars and pack a picnic. General admission tickets can be purchased for about $5 to $8 at the gate on race day. Here's a look at the fall meetings within a three-hour drive:

SEPTEMBER 12 & OCTOBER 31 --

1, seven races, Fair Hill, Fair Hill, Md. 301/398-6565.

SEPTEMBER 19 --

2, six races, Fairfax Hunt at Belmont Plantation. 703/729-2013.

SEPTEMBER 27 --

1:30, six races, Foxfield, Charlottesville. 804/293-9501, 293-8169.

OCTOBER 3 & 4 --

1:30, six races daily, Virginia Fall Races, Middleburg. 703/687-5662.

OCTOBER 10 --

1, seven races, Morven Park, Leesburg. 703/777-2414.

OCTOBER 17 --

1:30, five races, Great Meadow, The Plains. 703/253-5001.

NOVEMBER 7 --

1:30, five races, Montpelier Station, Virginia. 703/672-2728.