Steve Green’s back in the winners’ circle

HANG ON, STEVE: Steve Green jumps with Forever Gleaming at left to take the owner-rider timber race from rival Incaseyouraminer (Ben Swope up). Green, who splits time between horses and his professional trucking business, has ridden on the circuit since 1972, but called Saturday’s win at the Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point his first since 1975.  Douglas Lees
HANG ON, STEVE: Steve Green jumps with Forever Gleaming at left to take the owner-rider timber race from rival Incaseyouraminer (Ben Swope up). Green, who splits time between horses and his professional trucking business, has ridden on the circuit since 1972, but called Saturday’s win at the Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point his first since 1975.

A fixture in his sport, Steve Green has spent exactly four decades kicking around Virginia’s steeplechase game.

He rode his first race as a junior in the spring of 1972, and since has attended the races sometimes as owner-trainer, usually as van driver and groom, often as support crew for his jockey-daughter Sarah, and over the years occasionally suiting up as rider himself. He hadn’t thought much about the last time he’d ridden a winner, but after claiming victory in a thrilling stretch duel Saturday, Green counted back.

It took all his fingers. And toes. Times two.

Riding his own Forever Gleaming, Green prevailed by a determined three-quarters of a length to take the co-featured Old Dominion Hunt Cup, part of the Seven Corners owner-rider timber series and one of the most competitive races at the April 7 Old Dominion Hounds Point-to-Point.

The win at Ben Venue was Green’s first riding win in 37 years, he said. “It feels great,” said the 56-year-old central Virginia horse professional.

It just took the correct combination to find the winner’s circle again, Green said, the right horse on the right day in the right race. Simple, he allowed, but not easy.

Canadian-bred Forever Gleaming, a minor winner on the flat track before being briefly retired to the show ring, looks like a contender after his performance across the testing Ben Venue course.

The series conditions of the Seven Corners event suited the big gray first-season jumper “to a ‘T,’” Green said.

TAILGATE TRADITIONS: Hodge Miller (far right) and Matt Kita (with hat) scope out the fixings at the annual Miller family tailgate near the finish line at the races. “The food’s half the fun,” Kita said, holding a strong drink in the other hand.Alex Sharp VIII | Rappahannock News
TAILGATE TRADITIONS: Hodge Miller (far right) and Matt Kita (with hat) scope out the fixings at the annual Miller family tailgate near the finish line at the races. “The food’s half the fun,” Kita said, holding a strong drink in the other hand.

Three lined up in the three-mile race, with Crevalle (Bryan McDonald up) taking command early. After Crevalle was pulled up sharply with a circuit to go, Green took up the running with rival Ben Swope on his Incaseyouraminer matching strides. Together over the last, Forever Gleaming’s old sprint form showed in deep stretch as he gutted out the narrow victory.  

Green’s ridden sporadically over the years, just 43 race rides since his 1972 junior season. He had a pretty nice hurdle horse, Service’s Image, in the mid-1970s that placed all over the circuit and won Green his first race at Rappahannock in 1975.

But it’d been a long drought, he said, in retrospect. “I never think about that,” Green said. “We’re busy with the farm, busy with riding and training and working. You just keep on doing what you’re doing. The whole family is horse-oriented.”

Green trains out of his Wheatland Farm in Arvonia south of Charlottesville, operating an active horse transport and trucking business. He splits time training racehorses and foxhunters, riding with the nearby Bull Run, Stonewall, Oak Ridge and Deep Run hunts.

Forever Gleaming is a 6-year-old son of Cape Canaveral, by Mr. Prospector, out of the Vigors-line mare Gleaming Glory.

Forever Gleaming raced 21 times on the flat, trying dirt, trying turf, trying the all-weather synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs in western Pennsylvania, but finding little to his liking. The gelding raced maiden special as a 3-year-old but didn’t win until dropped into a $50,000 maiden claimer at Woodbine the next spring.

He descended the levels – winning just one other time, a cheap claimer at Presque in 2009. Forever Gleaming raced three times on the turf in summer 2010 at Colonial Downs but failed to hit the board and was “retired” to horse show trainer Kenny Wheeler in Cismont.

“I bet he was too tough for them,” Green said with a chuckle. “He’s a pretty hard ride. We added a yoke this week,” Green said of the possible equipment change that made the difference in Forever Gleaming’s winning performance, referring to the running martingale attachment used by race trainers looking for a  little extra control. “That seemed to help.”

In Forever Gleaming’s first jump start, the Thornton Hill in early March, Green’s daughter Sarah pulled the horse up after a few fences due to lack of steering, Green said. Steve Green rode the horse himself the following week, fourth over hurdles at Blue Ridge, then second over timber at Bull Run.

“His best thing’s the jumping,” Green said, noting that the horse’s next out might be the April 21 Alfred Hunt or the May 5 Steeplethon, both “cross-country” races over varied obstacles that would favor Forever Gleaming’s powerful jumping style.

Green comes from hunting-‘chasing lineage. The Green family grew up hunting with ODH; cousin Rob Green acted as clerk of scales on Saturday; double-second-cousin Tommy Beach, and the late Virginia Beach, are well-known names on the circuit.

Run under ideal spring conditions, the ODH point-to-point weekend set records all around, according to ODH joint-master Gus Forbush as general admission, subscriber parking, merchandise sales, race entries, hunter pace starters all were healthy Sunday. Only Saturday’s horse inventory was down, with multiple race-day scratches due to firm turf.

In other action at Old Dominion, Tom Hulfish’s What A Warrior led nearly every step of the three-mile open timber feature to win by nearly 30 lengths at the wire.

It gave Middleburg conditioner Eva Smithwick her third win on the card, having annexed the amateur hurdle with Indian Run Farm’s Fogcutter (Woods Winants up) and the ladies’ timber (in a walkover) with Indian Run’s Swimming River (Mary Motion.) Indian Run owner David Semmes was a long-time ODH master.

BIG SMILES: Clorevia Farm owners Susan and Charley Strittmatter celebrate in the winner’s circle after Roddickton’s maiden hurdle win. Charley Strittmatter was treasurer for the ODH hunt club.Tom Neel
BIG SMILES: Clorevia Farm owners Susan and Charley Strittmatter celebrate in the winner’s circle after Roddickton’s maiden hurdle win. Charley Strittmatter was treasurer for the ODH hunt club.

Former treasurer for the Orlean-based club, Charley Strittmatter welcomed maiden Double Eagle to the winner’s circle in just his second try over hurdles. Double Eagle raced in the silks of Strittmatter’s Clorevia Farm in Flint Hill.

Young rider Annie Yeager was injured when her horse Mischief fell when in contention at the last fence in the amateur hurdle race.

Action was stopped for about 45 minutes while Yeager was flown by helicopter to the hospital for evaluation. That is standard protocol, ODH master Forbush explained, any time someone under 21 loses consciousness.

The 19-year-old, riding her first season on the circuit, was knocked out briefly, reportedly breaking her collarbone, but trainer Don Yovanovich said she is expected to make a full recovery.

Mischief was unhurt.

Complete results can be found online at centralentryoffice.com.

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