Author: Misty Simons

Get Fashion-Forward at the Steeplechase

Since the origins of horse racing in 12th century Britain, decadent couture has gone hand-in-hand with the rumbling of hooves. In an effort to attract attention and demonstrate their high-society credentials, women wore extravagant fashions, beginning on their heads. The more ostentatious the hat, the better. Men also dressed to the nines, though with a bit less grandiosity.

That tradition carries on nearly a Millennium later, as the scene of major races like the Kentucky Derby attests. There you might find men in plaid or checkered jackets and pants, a bowtie or equine-themed belt and a fedora or racing beret. Women in flowing dresses and even more flowing hats abound, the better to shade themselves and those around them from the Southern sun.

If you want to fit in among the horsey set during the Steeplechase of Charleston, you need to know the finer points of horse racing fashion. So here is a primer:

Men: You have many options

Men are encouraged to express their individuality, whether that means raucous or modest in fashion. Because horse races occur on tracks, men often start with boots or rubber-soled shoes best positioned to withstand mud. Others prefer the preppy look of loafers or boat shoes. The specialty men’s shop Jordan Lash on King Street has everything you might need, from an Onward Reserve Highland Chelsea Boot to a slip-on Charleston Hornback Alligator Grain Bit Driver.

Jackets are also critical to the male fashion statement at the steeplechase. Many men opt to reflect the themes of race day on their jackets, featuring horseshoes, roses or an eye-catching pattern. Orange is a popular autumn color.

Hats are de rigueur with the cognoscenti in Hollywood – Hollywood, SC, site of the steeplechase. For men, that means a flat cap, classic fedora or straw Panama hat. This is horse racing, so everyone needs a hat.

Jordan Lash can outfit men with all the fashion necessities for the race, including accessories like ties, belts, pocket squares and socks, all of which may flash nearly any color and depict nearly any scene imaginable. You want a ficus-themed sock? Jordan’s got two!

Women: Go big or go home!

While men may recede into the scenery, women attend the races to be noticed, with clothing and accessories that mix fashion and art. When it comes to distaff dress, keep three concepts in mind: color, patterns and sensible shoes.

Women who know how to dress for the races sport polka dots, rainbows, florals and stripes of every stripe, but they never skimp on comfort. Their dresses may be showy, but they are weather appropriate because shivering and sweating are never a good fashion statement.

Visit Hampden Clothing on King Street for all the latest race-appropriate clothing and accessories, including matching handbags. A Dim Popoche Clutch from Jerome Dreyfuss beautifully complements autumnal tones like a Forte Forte wool tartan coat.

Smart shoes and brilliant hats

Race fashions start with shoes and climax with hats. Flats, wedges and low-heeled tall boots are the footwear du jour because you will be walking and walking – on a variety of surfaces and in whatever weather Mother Nature throws the horses’ way. Gwynn’s of Mt. Pleasant carries a wide shoe selection to match that smashing outfit.

Ultimately, women in attendance are measured by their hats at the steeplechase. There is but one rule, whether they don a church hat, fascinator or Mirabel: draw attention. Ornamental, eye-catching and color-coordinated will make any hat wearer the queen of the ball but all styles are welcome, as long as you cheer for a horse.

Make a Charleston Weekend Out of Your Steeplechase Visit

Are there things to do in Charleston, the #1 tourist destination according to so many travel experts over the last decade that we’re losing count? (Travel + Leisure, readers of Conde Nast Traveler and more.)

Enough to fill a month, as it turns out, and November is a great time to visit or staycation because the edge is off the heat, while temperatures remain comfortable.

If your weekend revolves around the steeplechase on Sunday morning, that leaves plenty of time for the top three Charleston attractions: history, beauty and food.

Start at the centerpiece of historic downtown Charleston: Charleston Place. A magnificent luxury hotel ensconced in an indoor shopping complex, Charleston Place offers fine dining and superb window shopping even in inclement weather. The world-class Charleston Grill features Lowcountry specialties and a Four Diamond AAA rating. The laid-back Palmetto Café serves breakfast and lunch in a gorgeous garden-style setting. World-class views of the city come standard with your drinks on The Clocktower Terrace rooftop bar. And as long as you’re in an equine state of mind, relax in the Thoroughbred Club lounge in the lobby of the hotel, where you can enjoy tapas, cocktails and live tinkling of the keys.

Wherever you eat in this city of culinary exquisiteness, don’t leave town without sampling local delicacies – oysters, shrimp and grits, sweet tea, hush puppies, she-crab soup, collard greens and seafood of all kinds.

The Civil War only began in one place – right where you happen to be. As long as you’re here, take a cruise out to Fort Sumter and relive the firing of the first shots that set the nation ablaze. Fort Sumter sits at the mouth of the harbor, where Charlestonians like to say the Cooper and Ashley rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.

As the nation’s oldest city still on display in its original form, Charleston is a great place to be seen by horse and carriage. Carriage rides are inexpensive, highly educational and plentiful. Learn about the city’s unique architecture, early denizens and critical place in American history dating back even before the nation’s founding. It seems like every other house of worship here is the oldest of its kind.

No Charleston visit is complete without a visit to an antebellum plantation, where the savagery of slavery and the magnificence of the work slaves did is on display for your contemplation and appreciation. Much of what makes Charleston an iconic tourist attraction was constructed on the backs of enslaved Africans. The gardens of Middleton Plantation, the slave quarters of Boone Hall and the massive oaks lining the way to McLeod Plantation are all awe-inspiring and worth a visit.

November isn’t swimming or surfing season – unless you’re a dolphin! Take a harbor cruise around the waters here and watch the playful maritime mammals breach the surface and wave to you with their tails. Charleston dolphins love to perform for visitors.

Built at a human scale, downtown Charleston is walkable and lovely from ground level. Amble down to White Point Gardens at the Battery, the tip of the Charleston peninsula. Then walk up East Bay to iconic Rainbow Row and take a photo in front of the multi-colored pastel houses. Continue along the river to the pineapple fountain, welcoming sailors from days of yore, and on to the City Market, Charleston’s answer to Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Seattle’s Pike Place.

You’ve just scratched the surface, so one more thing you will have to do is come on back!

4 Lexus Models That Remind Us of a Steeplechase Horse

4 Lexus Models That Remind Us of a Steeplechase Horse

Steeplechase is an opportunity to watch magnificent animals explode from a standstill to top speed, zip down a track like lightning bolts and glide gracefully over obstacles for a mile or more. These same sleek animals serve as reliable beasts of burden in different circumstances, engendering our admiration and respect.

We love horses. And we love horsepower.

When we consider automobiles that remind us of horses, the brand that comes to mind is Lexus, whose timeless elegance and dependability are as equine as the Kentucky Derby. A ride in a Lexus, surrounded by cutting-edge technology and wrapped in a cocoon of safety features, conjures the luxury and splendor of riding a thoroughbred through a meadow on a spring day.

Which models from the Lexus bloodline most resemble this spectacular creature? We chose four whose agility, endurance and power are as glorious to behold as a Clydesdale.

1. Lexus LC 500

Lexus LC 500

“The extraordinary LC luxury coup was crafted with the same aerodynamic lines as a racehorse, beautiful and surprisingly agile,” says General Manager, Hendrick Lexus Charleston, Steve Strickland. The LC bursts from the starting gate to 60 miles-per-hour in 4.4 seconds and offers the dynamic handling of a steeplechase horse in tune with the subtle movements and commands of its jockey. Indeed, the advanced climate system of the LC adjusts to the body temperature of its driver like a trusty steed sensing the needs and desires of its knight.

Lexus IS 500


2. Lexus IS 500

The IS 500 F Sport Performance sedan debuted earlier this year and was engineered for exhilaration, the same feeling one has aboard a half-ton racehorse just before the gate opens. The Secretariat of the Lexus line, an IS 500 F Sport Performance oozes performance with its 5.0-liter V8 and 472 horses stashed beneath the hood. The sculpted lines of the IS 500 belie its aggressiveness on the open road and the thrill experienced by entering its cockpit and taking off.


3. Lexus GX 460

Lexus GX 460

Some horses are race horses, some are war horses; the seven-passenger GX SUV is a pack horse. With durable body-on-frame construction and five multi-terrain settings, the GX offers the strength, durability and adventure of a stagecoach team exploring the American West. The GX can tow 6,500 pounds effortlessly, thanks to a Vehicle Stability Control system that reduces sway and adds peace of mind. “While dominating any terrain, cruising in the GX offers Lexus-level luxury, including a 10.3-inch touchscreen and Apple Car Play® integration,” adds Steve Strickland.

4. Lexus LX 600

Lexus LX 600

The all-new, full-size luxury LX 600 stands up tall while navigating whatever Mother Nature lays before it. You ride high in the saddle in an LX, conquering new lands thanks to a 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged engine, body-on-frame structure and more rigid rear suspension. But don’t be deceived by its off-road capabilities: you’ll be ensconced in the Lexus luxury you expect inside the cabin, with 19.3-inches of screen access, standard Lexus Interface, and heated and ventilated seats.


Steeplechase of Charleston is an experience to behold, and so should your ride to the event. For more information, visit



Equestrian Lovers Can Explore Middleton Place

When visitors are introduced to Middleton Place, the jewel of plantation row 15 miles up the Ashley River from downtown Charleston, they rarely think of horses.

The Middleton experience features the grand plantation, the spectacular scalloped grounds, the elegant Ashley River sliding alongside, the prominent family that owned the plantation, the beautiful 18th-century buildings and magnificent live oaks, and the opportunity to reflect upon the regrettable slavery and oppression of the people who built it all and comprise the deepest scar on American history.

But the 110-acre National Historic Landmark is but a sliver of the 7,000-acre estate, which can be viewed and enjoyed riding atop the gorgeous equine beasts that ambulate along the paths adjacent to the grounds. Choosing a one-hour guided tour of the rice fields, dense forests and open terrain of Middleton Equestrian Center, makes one privy to a miniature birds-eye-view of the surrounding scenery and the Zen of being one with nature, both in flora and fauna form.

Trotting the bridle path thick with pines and hardwoods offers views of the main grounds and many outbuildings, the signature butterfly lakes and terraced lawn, and the placid rice pond beyond. Led by guides, the ride is both a sensory extravagance and an educational delight, where visitors learn the economic, cultural, political and physical history of the plantation and its inhabitants. Guides also offer tips on how to increase riding comfort, both for the horse and for the rider.

Along the way, riders may espy representatives of the current inhabitants of the land and water, as one visitor wrote on Tripadvisor. “…so much information shared about the history of Middleton, and … animals (alligators, herons, turtles, snakes, bald eagle) … seeing that wildlife was a great part of the ride.” Dolphins may also be spotted breaching the water’s surface on the river.

The Equestrian Center offers boarding, riding lessons and the trail rides mentioned here. Freelance writer Marie McAden was amazed at her experience. “Before long, we had reached the rice mill pond, a favorite hangout for coots, marsh hens, heron, ibis -and alligators. Lots and lots of alligators… someone pointed out a gator swimming in the water with just his eyes peering above the surface. Then there were the two sunning themselves on the muddy bank and the six-footer eyeing the innocent coot.”

The land upon which Middleton Place sits was granted by King Charles to Edward Middleton, an Englishman who emigrated here from Barbados. When his son, Henry Middleton, died in 1737, 20-year-old Henry Middleton inherited the property, along with another 1,600 acres on the Cooper River. Arthur had many of the structures built and later signed the Declaration of Independence, which of course, did not apply to the enslaved Africans he commanded. Much of the property was burned down during the Civil War or crumbled in the earthquake of 1886. It was restored by a Middleton descendant in the early 20th century and later placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With the growth in popularity of equestrian pursuits around the Lowcountry and other parts of South Carolina, the Middleton Equestrian Center has established itself as a must-visit for horse lovers.

Reviews for Middle Equestrian Center are uniformly superb, with a five-star rating from more than 100 Tripadvisor reviewers. Children as young as 10 may ride, accompanied by an adult.

McPherson Trophy at The Gibbes is a Piece of Charleston History

In 1734, a group of landed gentry founded the South Carolina Jockey Club, still going strong as the SC Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. The climate, geographic accessibility and copious open space made the Palmetto State a natural home to the industry.

Fifty-seven years later, with the Revolutionary War hero George Washington in his second year as President, 20 ‘sporting gentlemen’ of the club purchased a tract of land where Hampton Park now resides and developed it into America’s first horse racing track, the Washington Race Course, named in honor of the President. “The Father of Our Country” had visited the track the year before.

Following the 1802 running of the premier event at the racecourse, the Jockey Club Purse, General John McPherson, an officer in South Carolina’s Francis Marion Brigade in the Revolutionary War and a State Senator, commissioned the design of a trophy for the winner. One of the nation’s wealthiest men at the time, McPherson owned six plantations and nearly 500 slaves. He died, along with his daughter, four years later in a shipwreck.

The McPherson Cup was finished in London in 1803 and is described in auction information as a silver trophy featuring a “cat finial atop (a) leaf-decorated domed cover supported on (a) uniform body with (a) conforming design flanked by entwined serpent handles, adorned with applied plaquette depicting (a) racing scene, engraved with (the) McPherson crest and arms, raised on (a) pedestal base with ball feet.”

The trophy was engraved with the name of the 1802 race winner, Roxana and presented at the following year’s race in what was then called “Charlestown.” Hallmarks of the Wilson Fountain foundry can be found on the base of the pedestal.

That trophy is on display at the Gibbes Museum, on loan from John Rivers, a descendant of McPherson, who purchased the trophy to preserve Lowcountry history.

“I bought it at auction and it came through Wade Hampton and the Lowndes Family of Lowndes Grove fame,” Rivers said. “It belonged to my great grandmother, Caroline Hampton Lowndes Mullaley and other descendants of Arthur Middleton,” a signatory of the Declaration of Independence and son of Middleton Plantation’s namesake.

Rivers has been collecting artifacts of Charleston’s early days and now owns a collection with more than 250 historically significant items dating from the late 1600s. “I started my museum with the earliest known signed piece of furniture” a 1733 writing desk. “I said ‘wait a minute, that’s our history; what the heck is it doing in Winston Salem North Carolina? I felt we weren’t paying enough attention to our own history as we should have at the time,” he said.

Rivers also owns the only Charleston-made guns known to exist and a dressing table that crossed the Atlantic six times and survived three fires before returning to the Holy City, according to a 2015 article in

These centuries-old objects reflect a Charleston that teemed with the contrasting oppression of slavery and incomparable affluence of white landowners. “From 1740-1846 nine of the 10 wealthiest people in America lived in Charleston,” Rivers notes. “We lose sight of that and how important they were in helping shape the future of our country.”

The trophy is part of The Penkhus Collection of British Sporting Art, which includes homages to early steeplechase races, now on display at the Gibbes Museum.