When Teddy Davies was a young boy, he was a regular at equestrian races, where he’d watch his mom ride. As the ponies galloped by during one race, Blythe Miller Davies asked her son if that was what he wanted to do. “I was nervous, but I did really want to do it,” recalls Davies. “I said yes. Then we got ponies.”
Now at the top of his game, the talented 19-year-old jockey still battles nerves before big races. But with each start, the adrenaline takes hold and wins out. “That’s why I started, and it’s what I like,” Davies says. “Sometimes that’s nice. It shows I’m still vested and concerned about how I’ll perform.”
Davies won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 2022, setting a course record of eight minutes, 15 seconds on Vintage Vinnie. As part of the National Steeplechase Association’s season, he’s ridden locally at the Cheshire Hunt Races, Winterthur Point-to-Point, Willowdale Steeplechase and the Radnor Hunt Races. Come Nov. 5, the hope is that he’ll be in Unionville competing in the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup as the season draws to a close.
Unionville is home to his “pop-pop,” F. Bruce Miller, the rider and trainer who produced 3,700 starters, more than 560 winners and over $10 million in earnings. Teddy once had a triple win at Willowdale with his grandfather in attendance. “It would be ideal if that could happen again, and I’d love to see him come to another race,” Davies says, knowing his grandfather’s health is fading.
In April, Davies broke his collarbone at the Grand National in Butler, Maryland, where he and his horse, Our Friend, fell together in the first race. The break was so severe that he was unable to defend his Maryland Hunt Cup title later that month. The injury has kept him out of competition for at least six weeks, and it may sideline him for the season—though he could return to racing by the fall.
The Maryland Hunt Cup began in 1894 as a challenge between two Maryland hunt clubs over which had the better horses. It’s since become American’s most renowned jump race. Though an all-amateur field by design, it remains the ultimate accomplishment in American steeplechasing.
In 2011, Davies’ mother came out of retirement to win the Maryland Hunt Cup. His father, trainer Joe Davies, won it three times as a rider, so the immediate family has five Hunt Cup titles as jockeys. From Dunmore Farm in Monkton, Maryland, the Davies had trained the last six consecutive Hunt Cup champions until this year’s turn of events.
“When I was just becoming old enough, I knew they had this winning streak, but I also knew if I rode for them, hopefully I wouldn’t be the one to lose it for them. Definitely, there was a bit of pressure. But I like pressure.”
Teddy Davies descends from a proud pedigree. At the height of his training career in the 1990s, Miller, Blythe’s father, swept five steeplechase season championships with Lonesome Glory before becoming the master of Mr. Stewart’s Cheshire Foxhounds. Age and illness now force him to stream his grandson’s rides on the computer. “I understand their laser focus on that race,” Miller once said of the Hunt Cup. “There are people who’d rather win the Hunt Cup than the Kentucky Derby.”
Davies’ grandmother on his father’s side was a longtime hunt master. One of his great-grandfathers was also lifelong huntsman, and another owned Laurel Racecourse, creating the Washington D.C. Invitational, the world’s first international stakes race. “It’s a real family operation,” says Davies’ father, who won more than 100 of his 500 races as a rider in a career that included 13 Maryland Hunt Cup starts.
Davies’ younger sister, Scarlet, once rode in races, too. Now she focuses on showing jump horses and running track and cross country. “Riding horses is one thing you might say we have some pride and joy in,” Davies says of his family’s passion. “Personally, winning those same races my parents won, and that feeling—and setting the Hunt Cup course record. Winning the one thing they care so much about definitely means a lot.”
A sophomore at the University of Delaware this fall, Davies spent part of his last winter break in England, riding and foxhunting.
“Racing over there is so much bigger,” says Davies, who’s majoring in business with an entrepreneurship focus. “We don’t have the jump racing like they do. We only have one American jump-racing professional—Parker Hendriks—and the rest are European or amateurs.”
Davies notes that the sport here is a lot smaller. “But that makes it nicer in some ways,” he says. “In England, it’s so hard to get rides and the training because everyone wants be a jockey. At home, amateurs like myself and newer jockeys get opportunities they wouldn’t have over there.”
The UD campus is a mere 10 minutes by car from Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland, where Davies trains up to three mornings a week during the school year. He arranges classes around his training and race schedules. “It’s a balancing act,” Davies admits.
His parents would like him to remain an amateur. One advantage to that is a weight allowance—though, as a former high school wrestler, Davies is accustomed to managing his weight. New jockeys typically get a five-pound break until they exceed 35 wins. “We say he’d be a fool to turn pro while he’s still in college,” his mom says. “As an amateur, he’s a commodity. I don’t want to jinx it, but he’s very much a natural.”
“We say he’d be a fool to turn pro while he’s still in college,” Davies’ mom says. “As an amateur, he’s a commodity. I don’t want to jinx it, but he’s very much a natural.”
At the start of the current season, Davies had won eight sanctioned NSA races, winning 70 junior races, maybe more than anyone ever before him. “Growing up watching my parents in the Hunt Cup, I knew maybe I’d have a chance,” he says. “Then, when I was just becoming old enough, I knew they had this winning streak, but I also knew if I rode for them, hopefully I wouldn’t be the one to lose it for them. Definitely, there was a bit of pressure, but I like pressure.”
Mom agrees. “We knew he was good enough and ready for the responsibility,” Blythe says. “He could feel the pressure, but like us, Teddy’s good under pressure. He doesn’t panic, yet he was on a horse that’s an overachiever times 10. He brought Vinnie down a notch, and Vinnie kicked Teddy up a notch.”
Davies and his family have figured out Vintage Vinnie, a sturdy, speedy black thoroughbred who turned 14 this spring. “His biggest problem was that he’s so crazy, so he wanted to do what he wanted to do all the time,” says Davies. “He has a mind of his own. If he wants to run off and jump a fence, you just have to let him do that, even if you’re just walking him back home. He requires more of a passive feel—understanding what he wants to do and letting him do it. My job is to help him do what he wants to do, not to question him.”
In 2021, Vintage Vinnie won the Hunt Cup and set a course record with Irish jockey Dan Nevin. It’s unusual for a horse to rise to that level twice, let alone surpass it again and again. “Most of it is Vintage Vinnie,” Davies says. “He runs faster than any horse out there.”
For this year’s Hunt Cup, the Davies family again turned to Nevin. Only two horses finished on this year’s rain-softened turf. Vintage Vinnie was among those “pulled up” by its jockey. The Hunt Cup went to Withoutmoreado, trained by Chester County’s Katherine S. Neilson and ridden by Conor Tierney.
Moving forward, Davies expects to be back on Vintage Vinnie soon. “A front runner, he doesn’t settle—but he settled with Teddy,” says Liz McKnight, the Hunt Cup’s cochair, who won the race as a jockey in 1986. “He seems happier and more content. There was no struggle of pace, which is why he jumps so well for Teddy.”
One thing’s for sure: Davies still gets the initial nod to ride Vintage Vinnie. “I have first call on him now,” he says.