Rappahannock News

Get to the point (-to- point)

Annual Old Dominion races return to Ben Venue on Saturday

- — Betsy Burke Parker

Three national champion jockeys are entered in Saturday's Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point, with race officials saying entries on the overflowin­g card are the strongest in years. Almost 100 horses are entered in 10 carded races – with splits likely in at least three of the day's events.

The steeplecha­se horse population rebounded strongly this season, said race chair and hunt joint-master Debbie Welch, plus, with the Orange County Hounds races canceled for 2022, the Old Dominion meet stands as one of the last point-to-point opportunit­ies for horses and horsemen headed to the rich sanctioned circuit that begins locally in two weeks.

The April 9 program at historic Ben Venue Farm in Rappahanno­ck County is also one of very few point-to-points offering cash prizes – the races pay out a “runner’s reward” to each Virginia-owned, -trained or -ridden starter. The bonus is paid from a fund filled from off-track betting revenue from the Colonial Downs OTB network around Richmond and in Southside.

The leading trainer and rider of the day each get a $1,000 bonus.

Graham Watters, Ross Geraghty and Gerard Galligan have each won the National Steeplecha­se Associatio­n rider title. Hall of Fame trainer Jack Fisher also heads to ODH, with current leading trainer Leslie Young set to saddle a pair.

Racing begins at 12 p.m., over hurdles, over timber and on the turf. The popular side-saddle ‘chase is carded as the day’s sixth race. The ODH date – one month before the rich Virginia Gold Cup, and course – Ben Venue’s natural bowl is among the top three steeplecha­se courses in the nation – make the event popular with horsemen as an early season prep as well as spectators for unparallel­ed views from parking and seating on the shoulder of Meetinghou­se Mountain.

ODH hosts a hunter pace Sunday, April 10, at the club’s hunter trial course in Orlean. Admission is free to spectate at the hunter pace.

Complete entries can be viewed at centralent­ryoffice.com. Call (540) 270-3585 for ticket informatio­n. ODH details are online: theolddomi­nionhounds.com.

 ?? FILE PHOTO ?? Nearly 100 horses will compete in Saturday’s races at Ben Venue.
FILE PHOTO Nearly 100 horses will compete in Saturday’s races at Ben Venue.

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