Steeplechase Giants Planning New Fair Hill Races Timber Course

Photos by Douglas Lees

This article was originally published in the Fair Hill Foundation’s July 2020 Newsletter

Three legends of steeplechasing – Charlie Fenwick, Turney McKnight, Dixon Stroud – will design the new timber course at Fair Hill, Fair Hill Foundation Vice Chair and Campaign Chair, Jack S. Griswold, announced this week.

“Each of these individuals has designed their own successful timber courses; we are very fortunate to have them involved in this project,” Griswold added.

Charlie Fenwick is a five-time Maryland Hunt Cup and 1980 Aintree England Grand National winner aboard Ben Nevis II. Turney McKnight won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1982 and the Virginia Gold Cup in 1980 on Tong, owned by his mother, June McKnight. Dixon Stroud rode Bewley’s Hill to win the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1984.

As an amateur steeplechase jockey, Fenwick is just the second American rider to win the English Grand National when Ben Nevis II pulled a 40-1 upset in 1980. Fenwick trained a top stable on the circuit in the 1980s and 1990s, winning an Eclipse Award with Inlander in 1987. Beyond riding and training, Fenwick has been an officer with the National Steeplechase Association and Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation and is chair of the Shawan Downs Races in Maryland.

An owner, trainer and amateur jockey on the steeplechase circuit from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, McKnight also rode the mare Perfect Cast to timber wins and to back-to-back seconds to the great Ben Nevis II in the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1977 and 1978. Tong also won the Maryland Hunt Cup with McKnight’s wife, Liz, aboard in 1986. McKnight is a retired attorney with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Michigan law school. He chaired the My Lady’s Manor Races in Monkton, Md. for 40 years and serves on the boards of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Chesapeake Conservancy and as president of the Sumner T. McKnight Foundation.

An amateur steeplechase rider, polo player, owner and race meet founder, Stroud has worn more than his share of hats in the horse industry. Riding Bewley’s Hill, owned and trained by Lisa Stroud, Stroud started in the 1987 English Grand National at Aintree; the pair were brought down by another horse at Becher’s Brook. Building on his father’s idea and with his advice, Dixon started the Landhope Farms convenience store business in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. The elder Stroud and his wife Joan created the Stroud Water Research Center in 1966. Dixon Stroud serves on the board today, and the center is an international leader in watershed research and preservation. In 1993, Stroud founded the Willowdale Steeplechase in Kennett Square, Pa. and is the meet’s chairman.

The committee begins work this summer. The inaugural race on the new course is planned for spring 2021.