(first appeared in The Equiery July 2011)
By Regina Welsh
It’s hard to believe that it has been ten years since Mason Lampton, George Strawbridge and George Sloan asked me to assist in starting an organization that would help amateurs learn to steeplechase race. Being the Executive Director of an organization was a reach from the Biochemistry Master’s degree I was working on at the time, but not so far of a reach from my commitment to the sport of steeplechasing as a trainer and fan. One thing led to another and this crazy “idea” of Lampton’s quickly turned into a full-fledged 501c3 nonprofit organization, which Lampton dubbed the North American Point-to-Point Association (NAPPA). The mission: to promote and perpetuate the sport of steeplechase racing, and foster its relationship with foxhunting.
Joe Davies was one step ahead of NAPPA in his revitalization of the Maryland Junior Hunt Cup, which ran for its 11th consecutive year in 2011. Davies created the Field Master’s Chase where the “field” follows a “Field Master” at a solid hunting pace over a timber course suitable for the skill level of the entrants.
Lampton heard about Davies’ idea and incorporated it into NAPPA. The Field Master’s Chase became the foundation from which many riders, young and old, have learned to race ride.
It was after the first few years of NAPPA, that we realized the future of the sport was going to depend on the young riders. NAPPA took over the reins of the Maryland Junior Hunt Cup in 2002 and added divisions such as the Lead Line Trot and Young Rider Timber races. What started out as an event with 20 riders in a field in Monkton grew to a full day of racing at Shawan Downs with 80 entries. Clearly, the kids where coming back year after year.
Several of the “NAPPA kids,” as I call them, have gone on to have quite successful careers in the horse industry. Here is a highlight of just a few of NAPPA’s graduates over the years.
Remy Winants – First NAPPA race: March 23, 2002, Willowdale Junior Horse Field Master’s Chase aboard Reggie. Current Status: Assists mother Lilith with her training operation in Pennsylvania.
A last name like Winants needs little introduction in the foxhunting and steeplechasing worlds. A life of horsing around was hard to escape with the lineage of parents Lilith Boucher and Woods Winants, trainer and amateur jockey respectively, and grandfather Peter Winants, former publisher of The Chronicle of the Horse and well-noted steeplechase photographer. Remy rode in the inaugural running of the Maryland Junior Hunt Cup and NAPPA Championship. She went on to graduate from the junior ranks and rode her first sanctioned winner for top steeplechase trainer Jonathan Shepard in 2004.
Remy has 94 sanctioned and point-to-point starts to her name, including six sanctioned winners. She has worked and ridden for many of the top trainers in the game.
Fritz Boniface – First NAPPA race: March 23, 2002, HCIB Point-to-Point Junior Horse Field Master’s Chase aboard Ambassadorial. Current Status: Licensed amateur steeplechase jockey working for Jack Fisher.
Being from the well-known Boniface racehorse family, Fritz half jokingly once said, “I have no choice, I am an indentured servant,” in response to whether he’d be in the horse business or not. Fritz’s family dabbled in steeplechase racing throughout the years, but flat racing was always their focus. Fritz took the road less traveled and pursued a steeplechase path in 2002 on Ambassadorial in the Junior Field Master’s Chases. He met his current employer, champion steeplechase trainer Jack Fisher, during the 2005 NAPPA Young Rider Steeplechase Camp. To date he has ridden in 43 sanctioned and point-to-point races and won the Grand National, the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup, The Queens Cup, the Timber Stake at Shawan Downs, and also has had an impressive ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup.
Sam Cockburn – First NAPPA race: May 24, 2003, NAPPA Championship Small Pony Field Master’s Chase aboard Socks. Current Status: Licensed amateur steeplechase jockey working for Bay Cockburn.
NAPPA met Sam when he and Socks, a fuzzy little Shetland, gave the Small Pony Field Master’s Chase at the NAPPA Championship a whirl. We’re not sure where Socks is these days, but we know that Sam has definitely come a long way. Like Remy and Fritz, Sam’s parents, Chrissy Keys and Bay Cockburn, were heavily involved in horses, so a career in the industry was far from a stretch. As an attendee of the 2008 NAPPA Young Rider Summer Steeplechase Camp, Sam met trainers from outside his circle. He now has 64 sanctioned and point-to-point starts under his belt as a licensed amateur jockey. He tuned up his father’s horse Maximize with a victory in this year’s the “Beat Up Cup” (a NAPPA alumni flat race held at this year’s championships).
Rosie Napravnik – First NAPPA race: March 23, 2002, HCIB Point-to-Point Junior Horse Field Master’s Chase aboard French Revolution. Current Status: Licensed professional flat jockey. Possibly NAPPA’s biggest success story, Rosie rode pony races and jumped into the NAPPA circuit in 2002, finishing second in the NAPPA Championship Junior Field Master’s Chase that year. She went on to ride in open races at point-to-points and then moved to the flat track. She was the Amateur Apprentice Eclipse Award nominee in 2009 and this year, she was the leading jockey at the Fairgrounds meet, highlighted by a win on Pants on Fire. A few weeks later, Pants on Fire helped Rosie become the fifth female in history to ride in the Kentucky Derby. She took a day off from her busy flat track life for the opportunity to ride against her sister, trainer Jazz Napravnik, aboard her mother’s horse, Classic Storm, in the “Beat Up Cup.”
Together with the Maryland Steeplechase Association, NAPPA helped develop a scholarship program for Maryland’s young jockeys. The most prestigious of the awards is the Jonathan Kiser Memorial Scholarship. The recipient is awarded tuition to the NAPPA Young Rider Steeplechase Camp and a week as a working student with top chase trainer Jack Fisher. This year’s recipient, Maggie Herzog, received the award due to her dedication to the sport of steeplechase racing, her exemplary sportsmanship, and her race record.
MSA also offers several Junior Foxchasing Scholarships in an effort to reinforce the tie between steeplechasing and foxchasing. Juliette Chalmers’ dedication to steeplechasing and her love of foxhunting did not go unnoticed this year and she was the recipient of the top Junior Foxchaser Award. MSA and NAPPA believe that programs such as these will keep steeplechasing alive. It has been a fun ten years and I, for one, am looking forward to the next ten!