Steeplechase Horse Racing

The History of Steeplechase Horse Racing

by Toby Beavers, Guest Writer

Steeplechase

The sport of Steeplechase racing dates back to 1752 in Ireland when two, half-crocked, friends settled the argument over who owned the best horse by racing to the nearest Church steeple after returning from Fox hunting. The winner actually rode right through the church where the vicar was holding a solemn funeral. Soon steeplechase racing spread to England, where in 1792, the first recorded race was held. This sport then crossed over from the Atlantic to the US, where it has became very popular.


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In the early 19th century nine prominent men from New York – August Belmont, H. DeCourcy Forbes, Samuel S. Howland, James O. Green, Frederick Gebhard, A.J. Cassatt, Foxhall P. Keene, John G. Follansbee and Frederick H. Prince founded the National Association for Steeplechase. When it was first founded, its mission was to make the sport popular in the US and help it grow across the Atlantic. For membership details and other small tidbits about the Association, you can visit their website at http://www.nsfdn.org/membership.html

Steeplechase races are held at 12 states across the country and the cumulative purses for these events are $5 million annually. The horse races are a place to see and be seen at. It’s seen across the country by millions of fans and admirers and is a major sponsored event where corporate sponsors vie with each other for sponsorship of the events. It attracts the best talent for horses, horse owners, and riders and also raises millions of dollars in charities. Thus it also attracts the most powerful and the influential men and women. If you have seen Pretty Woman, you pretty much have the idea.

In Virginia horse racing is viewed as an artform. Some of the oldest and the most prestigious steeplechase horse racing events are Montpelier Hunt Races, which was started on the estates of Former President James Madison since 1929. For more information you can visit their site http://www.montpelierraces.com/.

Others are The American Grand National that began in 1899 and the The National Hunt Cup in Radnor, Pa., which was started in 1909.

For more information on steeplechase racing across the country, you can visit http://www.steeplestakes.com/links.html, which lists all the races, their schedules and the prize monies.

For even more Virginia horse racing , you can visit the Virginia Steeplechase Association at http://www.vasteeplechase.com/.

The big races in Virginia are The Virginia Gold Cup, The FoxField Races at Charlottesville, Fairfax Hunt races at Great Falls, Middleburg Spring races at Middleburg, Montpelier Hunt Races at Montpelier Station, Morven Park Steeplechase Races at Leesburg and the Mountaineer Chest Track in Chester.

You can also visit these websites for further information on Virginia horse racing:

http://www.ctownraces.com/
http://www.colonialdowns.com/
http://www.fairfaxhuntraces.org/
http://www.montpelier.org/
http://www.foxfieldraces.com/
http://www.vagoldcup.com/
http://www.middleburgspringraces.com/

Toby Beavers is best known as one of Virginia’s most interesting Horse Farm realtor’s. He writes frequently about Virginia horse farms, racing, Virginia history and Charlottesville area gardening. Toby resides in Charlottesville with his family on their 1753 farm, The Shadows.

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