Family and Friends Honor Louis “Paddy” Neilson III

(photo by Douglas Lees)

New Timber Course Will Carry His Name

This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of the Fair Hill Foundation newsletter

Family and friends of Paddy Neilson donated nearly $700,000 to place his name permanently on the new Timber Course at Fair Hill, Fair Hill Foundation Vice chair and Campaign Chair Jack S. Griswold said this week.

“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and affection for Paddy,”Griswold said. “His reputation as one of the truly greatest steeplechase riders and trainers of all time motivated many to participate in this effort, and we are deeply grateful for their support. He was a wonderful friend to all of us.

“We look forward to officially dedicating the Paddy Neilson Timber Course during the spring Fair Hill races in May 2021.”

Called by the Horse of Delaware Valley “arguably the finest timber race rider ever to sit on a horse,” Neilson passed away on September 5, 2019 at the age of 77. “His tremendous riding ability inspired a generation of riders to take up the sport, but Paddy was so much more than just a great rider,” the Horse of Delaware Valley said. “He’s been an owner. He’s been a trainer. He’s been a rider. He’s been a race director, course chair, meet booster.

“His influence on the sport extended to organizing point-to-points and a recognized hunt meet and inspiring, right up to his death, another generation of youngsters watching his ability and grace over fences as MFH and whipper-in or Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Hounds.

(photo by Douglas Lees)
“Beyond that, Paddy was always there with a kind and/or encouraging word for any situation.” Jay Meister said, “Paddy Neilson didn’t always win, but he was always a winner. He was the Michael Jordan of our timber racing game. Paddy made our sport bigger and better while inspiring countless kids. We all wanted to grow up to be like him.”

“Paddy was a lovely man,” said Michael Dickinson. “I was a steeplechase jockey in England. I rode for 11 years and had 1,600 rides with 378 winners. “I thought I was all right until I hunted with Cheshire,” said Dickinson. “I watched Paddy cantering across a field. He looked for a stride, and then he and his horse just flew (the fence). If he’d been in a race, he would have gained two lengths. I said to myself, “Michael, you can’t even ride.”

Born in Glen Cove, N.Y. in 1942, Paddy was the son of the late Louis Neilson, Jr. and Katherine Pell Neilson. His grandfather Louis Neilson helped establish Long Island’s Rockaway Hunt Club in the 1870s with William Voss, another link to the modern jump racing game as great-grandfather of Hall of Fame trainer Tom Voss.

A graduate of Gilman School, Princeton University and the Wharton Business School, Paddy was a corporate bond broker for Alex. Brown & Sons in Philadelphia for years while foxhunting, galloping race horses and riding races on the side, the Horse of Delaware Valley reported after his death.

(photo by Douglas Lees)

Paddy was renowned for winning races in four decades, including riding the daunting Maryland Hunt Cup race 21 times and winning it three times in three decades. A passionate foxhunter, he served as full-time honorary Whipper-in for the last 13 years, jumping his last fence in the line of duty just a couple weeks before his death.

Paddy chaired the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup Races for 17 years, and later the Plumstead Races for 11. He was a founding member of the American Steeplechase Injured Jockeys’ Fund and served on the original committee that began the Winterthur Point-to-Point. During the Vietnam era, he was a member of the First City Troop in Philadelphia, a division of the National Guard.

He is survived by his widow, Toinette, and daughters Kathy, Sanna, Liza, Daphne and Emily and grandchildren Skylar, Parker, Nina, Natalie, Max, Pell, Perry, Izzie, Burr, Neill and Beasie.

Donors in memory of Paddy include:

Anne & Sean Clancy

Charles C. Fenwick, Jr.

The Griswold Family

George and Annie Harris

Roy & Gretchen Jackson

Robert Johnston and S. Francesca Orsini

Mrs. Judith Donaldson Jefferis

Sharon M. Journey

Mr. and Mrs. H. Hunter Lott, III

Amanda & George Mahoney

Turney McKnight

Sumner T. McKnight Foundation

Katherine S. Neilson

Duncan Patterson

Eric & Ann Schott

B. Dixon Stroud

– With appreciation to the Horse of Delaware Valley