For many Delawareans, Winterthur’s Point-to-Point is the official start of the spring festival season. Jill Abbott is Race Director for the May 6thevent, and she also serves as vice president of the National Steeplechase Association Race Directors. This year marks Jill’s 20th Point-to-Point, and she’s shared some of her memories and Point-to-Point legends with us.
Town Square Delaware: This year being Point-to-Point’s 40thanniversary, we understand the purse is higher this year – how much higher?
Jill Abbott: We increased our signature race—The Winterthur Bowl, the Henry Francis du Pont Challenge Trophy named in honor of the founder of Winterthur—from $25,000 to $40,000 in honor of our 40thanniversary. It is a novice race, at a distance of three and one-quarter miles. We increased our total purses this year from $55,000 to $70,000 to winning owners.
TSD: What else is different about this year?
Abbott: We have different 15 stops on the Winterthur Hunt plus 12 canine “pup-ticipant” organizations. We’ve added Crazy for Corn Hole, a special raffle to win custom made anniversary sets made by the Winterthur Carpenters Shop. The Ruby Raffle offers a one-of-a-kind ruby necklace designed and created by Janvier Jewelers, to be raffled off after the 40thAnniversary Winterthur Bowl.
Trendy Tailgates – Skyler Bouchard is our Tailgate Ambassador for the 40th “Ruby.” (TSD profiled Bouchard last week.) She is originally from Wilmington and is a Tower Hill graduate, now living in New York City. She grew up loving and attending Point-to-Point and now she is one of the youngest female “foodie” personalities as the founder of Dining with Skyler and @diningwithskyler on Instagram. She will be looking for Trendy Tailgates and judging a winner who will receive the coveted silver tray, a Tito’s Vodka gift to enjoy at their tailgate, and a hot and cold Catering Stoneto keep foods at the right temperature all day long.
For purchase, we will have the “Forever Young,” a specialty Tito’s vodka cocktail at our concessions tent, and a Point-to-Point Anniversary necklace, designed by Point-to-Point and created by Anna Biggs, in the Marketplace.
TSD: We have heard the phrase “an invitation to picnic in Mr. du Pont’s garden.” What does that mean to Winterthur?
Abbott: I coined the phrase when we made a change in the credentialing of our tailgate area, so people understood our expectations of coming to a beautiful property such as this, and attending this special event.
TSD: What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever seen at Point-to-Point during your tenure?
Abbott: I have assisted two marriages and one engagement. That speaks volumes to me how much this event is a community lifestyle and how many people feel so connected to share their special memory at our event.
TSD: Was there a legendary tailgate or story before your time there that you’d like to tell?
Abbott: There were many legendary tailgates – during the days of the Tailgate Competition area, we had Georges Perrier, of Le Bec Fin, judge every year with his cohorts. The tailgates included everything from a Rockettes kick chorus for the New York/New York theme, to an official military issued tank for the Patton movie theme, to Spanish dancers representing a Favorite Country. One year, there was even a Point-to-Point @ Point-to-Point tailgate competitor and a woman dressed up and impersonated me, and she looked and sounded pretty realistic.
TSD: Are there any other stories in the history of the race itself that are remarkable?
Abbott: One historical change in the event occurred in 2006. The Delaware Legislature passed a Gaming Law, thanks to the lobbying efforts of Duncan Patterson, Race Chairman at the time. This change in the law allowed us to pay purse monies to winning owners and we became a sanctioned race under the governing body of the National Steeplechase Association, which officiates jump racing in North America.
NSA is comparable to Major League Baseball: it is the official sanctioning body of U.S. professional steeplechase racing and it licenses participants, approves race courses, trains officials, coordinates race entries, and enforces rules. Becoming a sanctioned race has enhanced our event by bringing in more horse entries, has improved the racing, and made us the second professional sporting event in Delaware, second to NASCAR (which is another type of “horsepower” event).