A rousing controversy among the usually staid steeplechase clan has erupted to put an exciting edge to the fall circuit, weeks before the flag is dropped for the first race in the Foxfield meeting at Charlottesville, Va., Sept. 9.
Two major timber races are scheduled Saturday, Sept. 23, and there are not enough good timber horses in training to fill both races.
Although racing had been scheduled for Fairfax and Fair Hill on the same day, there seemed to be little conflict. Fair Hill had Sept. 9, 16 and 23 and would run timber races on the first two days. Fairfax would feature its Bowman Bowl on the 23rd.
But Fair Hill dropped its first day, giving it to Foxfield, and moved its Troublemaker Steeplechase Handicap to the 23rd.
"They (Fair Hill) originally promised not to schedule a timber race on the 23rd," said Randolph D. Rouse, Fairfax Steeplechase official. "However, their program now shows one scheduled."
"That's true," said an official at National Steeplechase and Hunt Association headquarters in Elmont, N.Y. "Fair Hill will offer the Troublemaker with a purse of $2,000 on the 23rd."
The Bowman Bowl has topped Fairfax's fall meeting since its inception in 1958. It was first run at the course near Reston, then had a short stay at Glenwood Park in Middleburg before moving to its new layout at Belmont Plantation near Leesburg.
"The Bowman has always been one of the top races on the timber circuit . . . won by such great ones as Leeds Don, King of Spades, Chapel Street . . . it's still a top race and we'll have the horses this year too," said another Fairfax race official.
A number of other significant changes have been approved by NSHA for its fall schedule, according to the executive secretary, Charles T. Colgan.
The new Foxfield Racing Association, which held its inaugural in mid-May, is pleased with its Sept. 9 meeting.
"Our first meeting drew wonderful response from area racing fans despite terrible weather that we want to give them another meeting this year," said Raymond Woolfe Jr., Foxfield meet director.
The Colonial Cup, premier steeplechase in the United States with its purse of $100,000, has been moved up 2 weeks to Saturday, Nov. 18.
"The Colonial Cup committee gave the Thanksgiving Saturday experiment two years in which to prove something one way or another," said Cup director Dale Thiel," . . . but we experienced no increase in attendance . . . and a decline in revenues from New York City OTB."
Because of the new Colonial Cup date, the Montpeller meeting at Montpelier Station, Va., has been advanced a week to Nov. 4 and the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup at Unionville has been moved to Nov. 11.
The move was requested because Montpelier's featured noel Laing Handicap has become the final testing race for the Colonial Cup.