Photos by Douglas Lees
Hunt racing in Virginia opened on a beautiful spring day with the Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point at Airlie on Saturday, March 16, 2019. Ten races were carded with the Open Hurdle and Maiden Hurdle races split into two well-filled divisions each.
John Wittenborn and his fourteen-year-old Clydesdale-Thoroughbred cross, Soccer, returned home to Long Island and the Smithtown Hunt with the Championship Trophy and ribbon from the Theodora Randolph 2018 Field Hunter Championship in Virginia. Three tries was the charm for Wittenborn and Soccer. Last year the pair made a good showing, placing third.
It was the first team from a northern hunt to have won the coveted prize in thirty-five years of competitions. And it was fitting; Mrs. Randolph was a northerner, though from Boston’s North Shore.
‘Saddleford Crossroads at half-past eleven,’
Only last month, it would seem, we were there,
Rising so early to get there by seven,
Rubbing our hands in the chill morning air.
Time must have flown by, for that was September.
Horses half fit, and the country quite blind,
Details of every run since, we remember,
Sorrows and joys of each day call to mind.
Ninety-nine years ago, William Almy, twenty-two, was Master of the Quansett Hounds in South Westport, Massachusetts. Almy and his hounds hunted the fox from Quansett Farm, in the possession of the Almy family since 1700. The farm was situated on the northern shore of Buzzards Bay where the bay meets Rhode Island Sound. At the time of his death in 1979, he’d been a member of the Masters of Foxhounds Association for nearly fifty-six years.
In his time, Almy was recognized as the leading amateur huntsman in North America. He hunted English, American, and Crossbred hounds through his career as Master and huntsman of Quansett and Groton Hunts in Massachusetts, and Culpeper and Warrenton Hunts in Virginia. Almy was constantly in demand as a judge at horse shows and hound shows.
Mo Baptiste’s handsome bay Thoroughbred, Fifty Grand, has played the role of bridesmaid for years. He was Reserve Champion to Virginia Field Hunter Champions in 2012 and again in 2015. This year he was, finally, the bride. And the Champion.
Reserve Champion honors go to Marilyn Ware, Deep Run Hunt. The annual Virginia Field Hunter Championship is noted for the quality of the competing horses. The Masters of every Virginia hunt receive an annual invitation to nominate up to two horse and rider combinations which have been hunting regularly with that hunt. Chosen by the Masters, twenty-one riders from eleven hunts competed. They were: