Category: Race Day Prep

Race Day: Your ‘Need to Know’

Race Day: Your ‘Need to Know’

With the racing season in full-sprint, it’s time to start looking forward to the fall’s most anticipated horse-racing event in the South. On Nov. 13, the Steeplechase of Charleston will once again have the honor of hosting the final competition on the National Steeplechase Association© circuit at the beautiful Stono Ferry Track in Hollywood, SC.

While offering a myriad of activities–from simply spectating and reuniting, to the Merchant Market, ample food & drink vendors, fashion-watching, and more–the Steeplechase of Charleston promises a unique opportunity to discover history, meet new people, and build new relationships, all while providing a fresh venue to show off your finest digs. With horse racing being the focus of the day, though, here is some history about the sport that you need to know so that you’re on the right track with the other spectators.

Competitors hurdle one of many obstacles in the pursuit of victory.

  • Based on hundreds of years of tradition, the term “Steeplechase” comes literally from horse racing from church steeple to steeple over rugged terrain, with a riding style similar to that of which is required for hunting. A modern, American Steeplechase, or “jump race,” however, is a unique horse-racing event in which skilled jockeys navigate a tracked course of turns while executing 52-inch hurdles at high speed. The races, which range in length (typically 2-3 miles), push riders and the thoroughbred horses to the limits. Relying on their athleticism, strength, and speed, the jockey and horse depend deeply upon one another for their agility, quick decision making skills and sure-footedness.
  • Charleston, SC, is credited for establishing the first Jockey Club in America (1758). After its completion in 1792, Charleston hosted the first Jockey Club Purse at the Washington Course, now known as the circle around Hampton Park. William Washington (founder of the course, and a cousin of George) helped forge a deep-rooted culture of racing. The Washington Course was also the setting for the annual Race Week; a celebration, and week-long culmination of the racing and social elite in the South. With thoroughbreds imported from England, and riches to be won, horse breeding, betting, and racing quickly grew.
  • Although once home to a booming era for the sport, the Civil War decimated horse racing in Charleston and most of the South. With some courses being turned into Prisoner-of-War camps (such as the Washington Course and its club buildings), others were disbanded entirely, while many other tracks, members, and spectators simply lacked the wealth or ability to continue to participate.
  • Thomas Hitchcock, also known as “the father of American steeplechasing,” is largely credited for revitalizing the sport in South Carolina, in stride with F. Ambrose Clark, both of whom had large stables and training centers situated in Aiken in the late-1800s. While keeping traditions such as quality horses, excellent riders, and a place to exhibit the latest fashions–a new era of competition began.

The Steeplechase of Charleston seeks to follow these traditions, and boasts a day-long, family-friendly event of racing, camaraderie, and more, with the gates opening at 8:00 am. After arriving, there will be ample time to soak in the scenery, grab a bite, and check out the creative local artisans at the market before the opening ceremonies, which are scheduled to start at 12:30 pm. Immediately following, there will be five separate races starting between 1-4 pm. Each race will consist of the riders and thoroughbreds facing five different obstacles and four turns per lap, guaranteeing a challenge to the competitors and an exciting series to spectate as we witness the finale of this year’s National Steeplechase Association circuit.

A dressage rider and horse displaying after a performance.

With the option to purchase a Tailgating or General Admission ticket, or to upgrade to a VIP section, the seating availability caters to anyone’s needs and offers multiple viewing angles of the event. Gates close at 5:00 pm, allowing any spectator a great day to relax and marvel at the fashion and sport around them, all while enjoying excellent food, drinks, and the beauty of the Lowcountry.

We hope to see you at the race!


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!

Cheers! 2021 Steeplechase Signature Cocktails


Race day is nearing and it is time to plan your best Steeplechase of Charleston tailgate spread and what it will  include. Creating the perfect batch drink will make serving a large number of guests much more efficient. It can also be the perfect touch to finishing off a marvelous tailgate.

This year Explore Charleston pointed our team to one of the best bartenders in town, Michael Moore of 39 Rue de Jean, to skillfully craft the perfect drink featuring both of our sponsored spirits, Maker’s Mark and Sweet Grass Vodka.

When Michael was creating these recipes he wanted to keep it simple, classic and traditional. He threw in a subtle southern twist on his version of an Ice Pick by adding his own honey (Yes, he is a beekeeper too!) and white peach puree to add additional sweetness.  For The Lexus Cup Whiskey Smash he put a spin on the Derby classic, The Mint Julep. Again, instead of using traditional sugar, Michael’s creation is sweetened with his own honey and includes fresh lemons.

Each of our batch recipes makes 8 drinks and can be easily doubled, or more if you have a larger crowd.

Glasses up! See you at the races!


The Ice Pick (8 drinks)

2 cups Sweet Grass Vodka

6 cups unsweetened tea (Lipton brand)

1/2 cup white peach purée

1/2 cup honey simple (recipe follows)

1/4 cup lemon juice

Pour Sweet Grass Vodka into pitcher along with white peach purée and stir. Add unsweet tea, lemon juice and honey syrup and re-stir. Pour over ice and enjoy!

The Lexus Cup Whiskey Mash (8 drinks)

2 cups Maker’s Mark Bourbon

2 lemons ( cut into 1/8’s )

25-30 mint leaves

1/2 cup honey syrup (recipe follows)

Juice lemons into pitcher. Set lemons aside. Add mint and muddle /smash until oils are released.  Add lemons, Makers Mark Bourbon, honey simple and lemon juice to pitcher and stir.  Taste and adjust flavors. Poor over ice and Enjoy!

Honey Syrup

1/2 cup honey (local Rooftop Bees and Honey brand)

1/2 cup honey warm water

Stir together until dissolved.

Follow Rooftop Bees and Honey on Instagram: @rooftopbeesandhoney

Have you gotten your 2021 Steeplechase of Charleston tickets yet?

We’re Back

After months of patience and eager daydreaming, the wait is finally over. Tickets for the 2021 Steeplechase of Charleston are officially live and it’s time to get excited about THE race to end the season. Even in last year’s subdued Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 SOC was a day to remember. Now, we’re back and better than ever.


Three different ticketing options provide for a full spectrum of race day experiences; tailgate, general admission, and VIP tickets are listed and at your leisure, with each being individually thrilling yet unique. Read below for details on each.

Get up close and personal with a tailgate spot. Tucked under a personal or SOC provided tent, you can feel the breeze of the horses alongside 10 of your closest friends and family. Get creative with your tailgate setup (cute tablecloths, flowers, creative recipes) and become the tent that everyone wants to hang out at. Be a part of the race day experience – adjacent to the tracks with the horses, serving food with the vendors and cheering loudly with the fans.

With general admission, you get a little bit of everything: an intimate race experience, the Vendor Village at your fingertips, and killer views of the Stono Ferry tracks. Wander amongst our cute boutiques and live music before settling into great race views. With free admission for 12 and under, GA is the perfect option for the whole family.

Want a little more refinery for your race day experience? The VIP Chalet ticket was made for you. A mouthwatering food service and open bar will complement your views of the finish line. Staying cool under the tent with meals at your fingertips… what could be better? Not to mention, the VIP restrooms and parking…

COVID-19 Adjustments

Last year, we had to bring the race day excitement under modified standards. Now, we’re back in full swing. Fill your tailgates and tents, rope in your friends and neighbors, and don’t worry about a mask disrupting your race day outfit

Early Bird tickets are available now until July 11th and provide 10% off of GA tickets. Use code EB2021 at check out to redeem your discount. We dialed it back last year – now it’s time to go big. 

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Spring Into Steeplechase!

Spring is back and so is Steeplechase of Charleston! King Street is flux with eager visitors, beaches are busy with blissful tanners, and restaurants are filling up famished diners. Soon enough, we’ll be back at the tracks, dusting mud off our elegant race outfits.

What is a Steeplechase?

You’ve got 207 days to learn everything you can about Steeplechase of Charleston– and we’re here to help. First, refresh: how are steeplechases different from a running race?

Most people are familiar with the classic, Olympic sprint races, but steeplechases take on exciting new heights. This is a distance horse race, involving obstacles for competitors to surmount. These laps of leaps last for 4 to 6 miles and challenge young thoroughbreds to jump over steel frame fences topped by a plastic brush.

You’ve got the rundown of the race. Secondly, you need our story. The Steeplechase of Charleston has all of the anticipation of the race in all of the rich South Carolina beauty. Located at the Stono Ferry Racetrack, viewers get to enjoy one of America’s most traditional sports while being surrounded by the greenery of Hollywood, SC.

2020 Steeplechase Highlights

After a year of unpredictability, 2020’s Steeplechase of Charleston brought a new kind of anticipation– who would stand apart at the day’s end? This sorely needed entertainment consisted of five races throughout the day, with racehorse Bet The Pot clinching the Post and Courier Cup for $20,000.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard and jockey Gerard Galligan cleaned up with winnings from 4 out of the 5 races. Their successes put Steeplechase of Charleston on the map for National Steeplechase Association titles.

Next Moves

It’s already time to spring into Steeplechase of Charleston. From the race, the people, the history, and the style, Steeplechase of Charleston is a unique experience that welcomes viewers from near and far. And you can be a part of it.

We’re a quick 207 days away from Steeplechase of Charleston, but who’s counting, right?