The History of Willowdale
The Willowdale Steeplechase features a first-class steeplechase course in a community known to produce first-class jockeys, trainers and owners.
Behind this great event is W.B. Dixon Stroud, Jr. who has ridden all his life and won the prestigious Maryland Hunt Cup in 1984. After having competed at the top levels in steeplechase as well as polo, Dixon decided it was time to have a world-class steeplechase course right in the heart of Cheshire Hunt County. So combining his love of steeplechasing and his commitment to this community, he, with the help of many others, founded The Willowdale Steeplechase.
It takes a great deal of time, effort and money to create world-class steeplechase course. The project began in earnest in 1991, when Mr. Stroud began construction on the course with the aid of Hugh Morshead, a native Irishman now residing in Canada. Carved out of a former 160 acre dairy farm, the Willowdale site is a natural amphitheater, allowing for 80% to 95% viewing from any location. It is styled after a combination of European and American race courses. The broad turf course features a spectacular water jump, hedges and post and rail jumps.
The course features an uphill approach to the fences, which encourages less speed and more jumping. This causes less wear and tear on the horses, according to Morshead. "Footing, not fences, injure the horse," said Morshead. "A lot of thought had to go into the drainage of this field." he added. "Dixon has taken great care to develop this surface with a horse’s safety in mind." The length of the course is a little over 1.2 miles.
The water jump is the only one of its kind in North America. Because it has a 12-foot span with an 18 inch drop in elevation, jockeys have to ride "California Surfing" style — which refers to the method of sitting on the horse, not plowing through the water.
From the inaugural race on Saturday, May 22, 1993 until today, attendance, interest and support have become stronger and stronger. The Willowdale Steeplechase will continue to grow because of its commitment to combining the great tradition of steeplechasing with the ever-changing needs of the community. Since it’s founding in 1993, The Willowdale Steeplechase has donated over $300,000 to local charities.
- The National Steeplechase Foundation
- Listing of Past Winners
General Admission Tickets are still available for $25 at the ticket outlets listed below, and will be available on race day at the gate for $30.
- Brandywine Ace Pet & Farm
- Dover Saddlery
- Hoods BBQ
- Landhope Farms - Rte 82 and Rte 273 Stores
- Neuchatel Chocolates
- Northbrook Marketplace
- Outback Trading Co.
- Oxford Feed and Grains
- Ruby Slippers
- Stoltzfus Feed and Lumber
- That's Hats and Accessories
- Unionville Saddle Shop
- Vignette by LE Walker
- Wild Tyme
Please call the
Willowdale Steeplechase office
at 610-444-1582 for information
about available parking spaces.
Save These Dates!
March 9th Willowdale Steeplechase Preview and Mardi Gras Party at the Yellow House. Jimmy Duffy is providing the catering so the food will be fabulous. There will be great auction items, music, wine and New Orleans Hurricanes. Tickets are $75 per person. Patrons who renew their steeplechase parking prior to March 4 receive on complimentary ticket.
April 20th for the first annual “Shop Around Town Saturday”. Willowdale Steeplechase is partnering with local retailers in Kennett Square, West Chester, Glen Mills and Greenville, DE to encourage our patrons to shop for their Mother’s Day gifts and race day outfits on “Shop Around Town Saturday”. Participating retailers will help promote the races and will give away one complimentary ticket to the races to each person who spends $100 or more at their store.
May 12th for the 21st running of The Willowdale Steeplechase. The Mother’s Day tradition continues with seven exciting horse races, Jack Russell Terrier and Pony Races, antique cars, boutique shopping, tailgate competition and much more. Reserved tailgate parking spaces are available for purchase after February 1.