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The Winterthur Point-to-Point runs for the 40th time this year and celebrates with an upgraded card of timber races and much more on the grounds of the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware May 6. An anniversary makes you look back, and this one is no different so we present 40 reasons to love the Winterthur Point-to-Point (in no apparent order):

  1. Weather. Whether spring comes early or not really doesn’t matter much by the first weekend of May so you can at least somewhat reliably count on some balmy conditions. Of course, it might rain too (sorry) so be prepared.

  2. Frolic Weymouth. Nobody did Winterthur the way he did, perched atop a historic four-in-hand carriage and ushering in the races and the season in style. Officially George Alexis Weymouth, he was an artist, conservationist, collector and more. Among other feats, he founded the Brandywine Conservancy, a land-preservation effort that has contributed to the “permanent preservation of 62,000 acres of farmland, forests, water resources, historic sites and scenic vistas” in the area according to its website. Weymouth died in 2016 and is missed at the races each spring, and beyond. Remember him when you see the carriage parade, now named in his memory, this year.

  3. Taboo. The pony-racing star won a race at Winterthur for six consecutive years – 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988 with Leslie Falini (now Young) in the saddle, 1989 with Alison Hershbell and 1990 with Danielle Brewster. Taboo was an undersized Thoroughbred who ran at Penn National before converting to pony racing and a “great” ride, according to Young. Let’s see a horse try to repeat that feat.

  4. Alison Hershbell. Speaking of pony racing, and a regular at Winterthur, the races for children (on small and large ponies) are now run in memory of Hershbell. She was a regular at Winterthur aboard Joey, Taboo and Ruffle The Road before becoming a jockey for real. She won 275 Thoroughbred races from 1994-2003, mainly at Delaware Park. She also regularly rode Arabian winners at Delaware and was the leading Arabian jockey in the country in 2003. Hershbell, whose parents Dave and Charlene are frequently race officials, died in 2007 at age 30 and is remembered each year at Winterthur.

  5. Devil’s Honor. Better known as a tough competitor on the dirt, with wins in the 1996 Pennsylvania Derby and $810,000 in lifetime earnings among other feats, he finished second over timber at Winterthur in 2001.

  6. Rochester. On the topic of racing celebrities, this millionaire and multiple graded stakes winner on the flat (he won Keeneland Sycamore three times in six tries) scored over timber at Winterthur as a 12-year-old in 2008. Jody Petty rode the son of Green Dancer for Augustin Stable and Sanna Neilson.

  7. Tailgates. Nobody does parking-lot entertainment better than Winterthur. There’s a contest for the best tailgate, but don’t bring a bucket of chicken and some potato salad. This is real tailgating. Food Network host Skyler Bouchard is the judge, following a long line of celebrities from the White House, the New York Times, Le Cirque restaurant and others.

  8. Turns. Winterthur takes some navigating for horses and jockeys. The course is a figure eight so horses and jockeys must turn right and left to complete a 3-mile race. Better practice at home.

  9. Nick The Plumber. He was a Delaware Valley circuit favorite for years, competing in the heavyweight division for owner/trainer/rider John McKenna and later in the Maryland Hunt Cup and other stout timber tests. At Winterthur, where the crowd was always on his side, Nick The Plumber won in 1988 and 1991 and was second in 1989 and 1990. Unlike Devil’s Honor, “Nick” was not a star as a flat horse – losing nine times at Calder in 1983 before becoming a foxhunter, steeplechaser and point-to-point legend.

  10. Dogs. Winterthur is dog-friendly, so bring the pooch. For a laugh, you (actually, just your dog) can even give the agility course a try.

  11. Classic cars. In addition to its carriage parade, Winterthur hosts a classic car display from the Keystone Region Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club. Go ahead and dream, just don’t touch.

  12. Gambling. Sort of. Winterthur puts on a unique “race raffle,” where players pay $5 for the chance to win some cool prizes – including a ruby necklace worth $2,500. To win, you must first correctly select the race winner and then have your ticket chosen from the pool of potential winners. If you like a longshot, this is the spot for you.

  13. Bag pipes. The horses hate them, but the Delaware State Police Pipe Band will play. There used to be an unofficial/official race by the mounted police unit too. We’re not sure that happens anymore, but it was fun to watch.

  14. Attire. Winterthur encourages dressing up so break out the bow ties, fancy hats, sundresses and so on. Style counts.

  15. 2006. The first year of National Steeplechase Association sanction featured five races, two on the flat and three over timber. Male Supremacy, a horse owned and trained by Nannette Robertson and ridden by her daughter Alex McKee, won the opener. Salmo scored a front-running win in the Winterthur Bowl, hanging on in a three-horse photo for jockey Chip Miller, trainer Jack Fisher and owner Irv Naylor. They teamed up to win the Virginia Gold Cup together the next year.

  16. Grinding Speed. Everybody starts somewhere and the future star won his first race over timber at Winterthur back in 2012 for owner Mike Wharton and trainer Alicia Murphy. Bred in Maryland, the gray went on to win the Virginia Gold Cup twice, the International Gold Cup three times and claim an NSA timber championship in 2015.

  17. Young Dubliner. The future Maryland Hunt Cup record-setter won the Winterthur Bowl open timber race in 1999 for Delawareans Bill and Renee Lickle.

  18. Misunderstandings. Look up Winterthur Point-to-Point at newspapers.com and there’s no telling what you might find in news reports, but let’s just say accurately depicting the racing wasn’t always a priority in the early news coverage. In 1998, a timeline of highlights included a few doozies such as one jockey (Charlie Fenwick) winning two races on the same horse (High Deeds) in 1981. Didn’t, and really couldn’t, happen. Tales of, “But I never saw a horse,” are rampant but you’re perfectly in your rights to tell people to snap out of it and actually watch the races.

  19. Brooke Shields. The actress was there in 1984, or so everyone says.

  20. Ted Kennedy. The Massachusetts senator attended the 1989 running with artist Jamie Wyeth.

  21. Vanity Fair. The magazine did a photo spread on the races in its August 1985 issue.

  22. Joe Biden. The Delaware senator was a regular, long before he became vice president but you might spot him this year.

  23. Pepper. In 1995, he won the first Canine Capers dog jumping competition at Winterthur. He was, of course, a mutt.

  24. Budweiser. There may (or may not) be some cans of the stuff around the parking lots, but Winterthur also proudly hosted the beer maker’s world-famous Clydesdales in 1998.

  25. Paddy Young. The five-time NSA champion jockey visited the Winterthur winner’s circle regularly, including once in 2006, twice in 2007 and 2009, and once each in 2010 and 2011.

  26. Kieran Norris. Champion NSA jockey of 2016, he won his first race (ever) at Winterthur in 2012. Norris booted home Hold Your Fire in the Winterthur Bowl open timber race for The Fields Stable and trainer Tom Voss.

  27. Travel. Winterthur used to give the day’s leading trainer a trip to Switzerland. Top that, any other race meet anywhere.

  28. Trophies. The trophies given to winners are reproductions of actual pieces in the collection of the Winterthur Museum, home to 90,000 objects of art, antiques, silver and more.

  29. Traffic. Sorry, but it gets crowded. There’s really only one way in – off Route 52 – which runs south from Pennsylvania and north from Wilmington. Get there early, and plan on sticking around to enjoy the festivities.

  30. Mobile app. How many steeplechase meets have an app? We’re not sure, but Winterthur has one. It’s called PTP Winterthur and it’s got everything you need including directions, a way to order tickets, sponsors, social media links and so on.

  31. Monster truck. It wasn’t quite Bigfoot, but anybody who is anybody remembers the year the guy drove his truck out of the tailgate lot and all but on to the race course while trying to find the exit. Thankfully, those shenanigans have died down and we hear he was banned for life or at least reprimanded harshly.

  32. Ice cream. The green trailer shows up at several area meets now, but Woodside Creamery’s mobile ice cream shop is a can’t-miss. Get the black raspberry chip or motor oil flavor (no, it’s not really motor oil).

  33. Timber. There’s no hurdle racing at Winterthur so all the jumps are wooden. The jump races are 3 1/4 miles long, with a 2-mile flat race finishing up the card. While it’s not Maryland Hunt Cup material, the course does offer a proving ground for up-and-comers and this year the feature ratchets up the stakes – literally – with a $40,000 purse.

  34. Cornhusker. In 2015, the timber veteran won at Winterthur and six days later turned up in Nashville where he won again at the Iroquois. In 2017, he nearly turned the same double – finishing second to Top Man Michael in Delaware and then winning in Tennessee.

  35. Top Man Michael. Don’t let Cornhusker fool you, he’s not the only fan of the place. This Irish import has won the last two editions of the Winterthur Bowl for owner Irv Naylor, trainer Cyril Murphy and jockey Gus Dahl.

  36. Nominations. This year’s Winterthur Bowl attracted a dozen nominations April 23 (though final entries are April 30) and it’s a solid group. Cornhusker is on the list and so is Top Man Michael. They’ll get challenged by Daddy In The Dark, Kings Apollo, Mystic Strike and Witor among others.

  37. Vicmead. The Vicmead Plate race honors Delaware’s foxhunting roots. The Vicmead Hunt Club was started in 1920 by Mrs. Victor du Pont, Ellen Hollyday Meeds, Felix du Pont and Isabella du Pont Sharp. Vicmead no longer hunts, but the club remains and offers golf, tennis, squash, paddle tennis, swimming, dining and more. Back in the day, there might have been a Vicmead Point-to-Point, which would have been a precursor to what we see today.

  38. Isabella du Pont Sharp. The day’s first race honors Sharp and her husband Hugh Rodney Sharp for their preservation of Gibraltar, an area property now on the National Register of Historic Places, and other properties in the state. The Sharps’ son Bayard became a major Thoroughbred owner and breeder, and an original director of Delaware Park.

  39. “Greets” Layton. She was the impetus for the seemingly out-there idea for a museum of American decorative arts to host a horse race. Layton (more officially Greta Brown Layton) suggested the figure-eight course layout to enable more viewing, and is remembered every year with a presentation to the day’s leading trainer.

  40. Memories. Forty years is a long time. Plenty of people were at the first Winterthur in 1979, and they’ll be back again for number 40 this year. Here’s to another great day. Enjoy.

 

In honor of its 40th running this year, the Winterthur Point-to-Point steeplechase meet presents a weekly Steeplechase Throwback Thursday feature. We’ll look back on historic moments, horses and people in the jumping game – at least a few connected to the race meet on the grounds of the famed Winterthur Museum and Gardens just north of Wilmington, Del. This year’s races are Sunday, May 6. For more installments, click on the Throwback Thursday text tag.