Sunday, May 15, 2016

WILLOWDALE: And it's off to the races again

There weren't many sundresses in evidence at the Willowdale Steeplechase on Sunday. This year "Steeplechase Style" seemed to consist of a whimsical spring hat paired with a heavy plaid blanket. I donned jeans and boots and a Scottish hat better suited to the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, and when the brisk wind died down and the sun came out it was actually very pleasant.
We saw lots of friends, caught up on township news and medical news (huge congrats to a certain Unionville fellow who is new ex-smoker!), inspected the new BMW sports car on display, said hi to a lot of dogs, and cooed over a couple of well-wrapped-up newborns. Thank you to all the people who fed me from their tailgate parties: the filet of beef, the chicken, the orzo salad, the home-grown asparagus, and the mini-crabcakes were delicious!
At one point in the afternoon I was walking over to visit some friends on "Member's Hill" and a woman asked me if I was betting on the races.
"No," I said, a little baffled. "Why?"
She said she'd noticed I was studying the program intently. I explained to her that the program lists where everybody's parking space is, so you can stop by and say hello. She was astonished, as if a whole new world of socializing had opened up to her.
Also amazed were some kids standing in line for the Port-a-Potties with their father. They asked the quite reasonable question of how they should flush.
"You don't," said the father matter-of-factly, offering a technical explanation of how portable toilets operate.
The "stick pony" races for kids were a big hit. We spotted one adorable boy giving his stick horse a drink from the little creek that crosses the grounds. Other kids were tossing footballs and bean bags around, practicing lacrosse or just running around with seemingly boundless energy.
Although eating, drinking and socializing are the key components of the day for many spectators, the horse races are always exciting to watch. There were a couple of notable mishaps this year, though. Near the end of the first race a loose horse jumped the fence separating the course from the spectators and ran wildly into the crowd. Fortunately, and almost unbelievably, no one was hurt and no vehicles were damaged.
And the fifth race ended with a nasty crash involving two horses. One jockey was pinned for a moment under his horse until a few people managed to roll the horse over. Kudos to photographer Jim Graham, who was shooting at the final jump, for running over and assisting. The horse ambulance people immediately put up a privacy screen, which made us think the worst, but after a few minutes the racecourse announcer shared the welcome news that both horses were up.

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