The Willowdale Steeplechase is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise funds for three important causes: Clean water, veterinary excellence, and services for children with special needs. The races are run to benefit the Stroud Water Research Center, the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s New Bolton Center and Quest Therapeutic Services.
Willowdale Steeplechase was founded in 1993 by Race Chairman W.B. Dixon Stroud Jr. Since then, the event has raised over $1 million for its beneficiaries.
Willowdale features top-level horses racing over jumps, elegant tailgating, high fashion, and—most importantly—a community coming together to support these three charities. The day includes a sidesaddle race over fences, an antique car display, pony races produced by U.S. Pony Racing, Jack Russell Terrier races, activities for children, local food vendors, and upscale boutique shopping.
Stick pony races for kids at Willowdale. Photo courtesy of Willowdale.
The dedicated race course is irrigated and runs right-handed. The natural amphitheater of Willowdale’s spectator viewing area is unique to this part of the country and allows guests to watch the races as they would in the United Kingdom. Attendees enjoy tremendous excitement from all of the spectating areas.
Each reserved tailgating space offers panoramic views of the course, whether from high on the hill or right on the rail. Best of all, general admission ticket-holders can visit friends and watch the races from a variety of vantage points.
The feature race—The Willowdale Steeplechase Amateur Timber Stakes, sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Rodman W. Moorhead III—is the fourth race of the day. Last year’s winner was Doc Cebu, a repeat winner from 2017. Doc Cebu is owned by Bruton Street U.S., is ridden by Hadden Frost, and is trained by Jack Fisher.
This year’s race-day purses total $105,000.
In addition to the steeplechase, Willowdale hosts fundraising events and activities throughout the year, including a course walk and Willowdale in White, the latter an elegant outdoor dinner party in a surprise location. Both occur in the days leading up to the races.
One of Willowdale’s primary beneficiaries, Stroud Water Research Center has been advancing the knowledge and stewardship of freshwater systems through global research, environmental education and restoration since 1967.
Because of flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation provided Stroud with a grant to find a way to reduce flooding across the 1,800-acre White Clay Creek watershed by 40 percent. A newly constructed wetland designed to reduce flooding downstream from the creek is showing promise. “We had our first flooding event since the project was finished, and the data looks good,” says Melinda Daniels, Ph.D. “It clearly helped hold some of the water from that flood. Of course, we will need to collect more data to conclusively quantify the wetland’s impact.”
The new wetland was constructed downstream of Spencer Road in Avondale, Pa. The area floods regularly, contributing to hazardous road conditions and bridge and other infrastructure damage.
Daniels is the principal investigator for the project. “This is typical of the entire Brandywine-Christina watershed,” she says. “The local school district will cancel school during big floods because the buses have to cross these bridges—they just wouldn’t be safe to cross. It’s more than an inconvenience. There’s a public safety and economic impact from flooding. It’s a real problem.”
Daniels says the project seeks to reduce flooding and improve the health of aquatic ecosystems by “restoring the hydrology of the watershed without changing the land cover all that much.”
Stroud Water Preserve.
The area designated for the wetland was narrow, so the team excavated some of the buildup of sediments within the floodplain, along with part of the hill slope, to widen the floodplain and lower its surface to make room for as much storage as possible.
During a storm, when White Clay Creek rises, the wetland fills first before the stream spills over its banks and floods the actual floodplain surface. Then, after peak flood conditions have passed, the wetland slowly releases the water, which it has naturally purified by absorbing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
By reducing nutrients and contributing organic matter, wetlands enhance freshwater ecosystems. “Rivers and streams that are connected to wetlands are highly productive—in other words, healthy—ecosystems with lots of fish and biodiversity,” says Daniels.
As part of the Hurricane Sandy project, the Stroud Center also expanded the riparian buffer and put in level-lip spreaders to control stormwater runoff. Monitoring of wetlands effectiveness will continue for two more years, with funding provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Growing Greener program. —Diane Huskinson
Another Willowdale beneficiary, the New Bolton Center is the large animal hospital of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet). It provides an internationally renowned standard of clinical care to more than 40,000 patients each year.
Robotics-controlled CT imaging at the New Bolton Center. Photo courtesy of Penn Vet.
From advanced orthopedics to innovative imaging solutions—including its robotics-controlled computed tomography (CT) system—New Bolton Center’s world-renowned, board-certified clinicians provide comprehensive care, from diagnosis to outcome.
The dynamic robotics-controlled system has evolved to become the centerpiece of New Bolton Center’s world-caliber suite of imaging services. Capable of capturing extraordinarily detailed images of equine patients, the system has also catalyzed the development of a growing array of applications that hold great promise for human health.
Robotics-controlled CT imaging is a powerful alternative to the traditional technology. Unlike a conventional CT system that’s limited to the size constraints of the machine itself, robotics-driven technology is unencumbered by an enclosed gantry. Cameras are located on arms that move around a standing horse, offering unprecedented access to all areas of its anatomy and barely disturbing the horse in the process. The need for anesthesia (necessary and, at times, risky) in traditional CT scanning is eliminated. Instead, the robotics-controlled system captures images in a way never before possible—while the horse is awake and load-bearing.
At New Bolton Center, the robotic imaging system is used in both clinical and research applications, advancing diagnosis and treatment, providing critical guidance and imaging during surgery, and opening up new areas of study. Orthopedic, neurological and cardiac cases have made extensive use of it, but its applications to other specialties and species are almost unlimited.
Willowdale’s third beneficiary is Quest Therapeutic Services. Quest provides exceptional pediatric therapy to enhance the lives of children with disabilities in the Delaware Valley.
101 E. Street Road, Kennett Square, willowdalesteeplechase.org.