A Thirty-Year Tradition

The most gracious hostess in the area, Jeanne Begg Clagett, marks her calendar every year for an event that defines Southern Maryland hospitality. On the first Sunday in April, she and her husband Hal open the gates of their historic farm to 5,000 guests for the region's most influential and prestigious event of the season.

This year on April 4, you are invited to attend the Marlborough Hunt Races at Roedown as it celebrates 30 years of steeplechase racing. The occasion is one in a string of races held throughout the state that make up the Governor's Cup series.

Recently designated a Maryland Memory by the state, this yearly tradition is staged by members of the Marlborough Hunt Club with help from its sponsors and more than 100 volunteers. With much planning, they transform this quiet horse farm into a buzz of excitement.

You'll see tailgate parties and blankets spread across the hillside as vans from America's finest stables roll in. Vendor Village opens to sell food and a variety of goodies. Kids line up along the fence line to watch the horses thunder by at 25 miles per hour.

There's a lot to see and do. Gates open at 10 a.m. The first race is at noon. Parking is $15, and general admission is still the best deal in town at $5 per person. Children under the age of 6 are free.

The farm, Roedown, was originally part of a 2,000-acre land grant made by Lord Baltimore in 1668. It was the honeymoon retreat of Jerome Bonaparte (brother to Napoleon) and his wife Betsy Patterson from Baltimore. It is now a horse-breeding farm with 218 acres.

The course was laid out by Arthur McCashin (of Belmont Park fame). He was able to adjust the field to a one-mile oval with good landings for the horses. Spectator Hill lies alongside and is a perfect spot for families to lay out their picnics and watch the race.

The first race was held by Marlborough Hunt Club members in 1975 to provide training opportunities for members and their horses. It went without a hitch except that one rider's horse left the course at full gallop and ended up in the woods of a nearby farm.

Ten exciting races are run from one-half mile to 3 miles in length. Your best vantage point is on the rail along the course or just about anywhere on Spectator Hill.

The tailgate competition has elevated the art of the picnic to gourmet levels. It selects the best, tastiest and most fun picnic. Walk around Hilltop Row before 3 p.m. to check out the entries.

The paddock is where horses saddle up for the upcoming race. This is the place to pick your favorite. The entries are listed in the free program. You can identify the horses as they run around the track by the racing colors, or silks, worn by the jockeys.

Horses line up behind an imaginary start line drawn by the starter holding a red flag. The start is determined by the length of the race. Most races start between the red barn and the white house. The finish line is a fixed place on the course in front of the judges stand. Horses running head to head with one winning by a nose is always exciting to see.

The purse is the total amount of money which can be won in a race. Watch the prestigious 8th race which attracts the top horses from the region. It has a $5,000 purse.

The hurdle, brush and timber races boast difficult jumps that the horses must maneuver at full speed. A flat race is a race which has no jumps and is even faster.

The junior race is for ages 15 to 18 riding a horse on the flat for about one mile. The junior pony race is for riders 15 and under who ride ponies on the flat for about one-half mile. What a great place for the kids to learn about racing.

Everyone who comes to the Marlborough Hunt Races at Roedown has fun. For directions and more information search the web at www.marlboroughhuntraces.com.

Ginna Rogers-Gould is chairman of marketing and public relations for Roedown. She holds her breath as she watches the horses leap over the high timber in the 8th race.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
Seafood Festival
County Fair

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