Tag: Horse racing

Steeplechase Around the World

As one of the oldest spectator sports in the world, horse racing, and specifically, the Steeplechase makes its presence known worldwide.


The tradition of racing runs very deep in Ireland. It is here that steeplechasing was born; it is here that many of the most illustrious horses in racing history have been bred over the course of several centuries. – Irish Racehorse Trainers Association 

The first recorded steeplechase occurred in Ireland in 1752 between horsemen Edmund Blake and Cornelius O’Callaghan. They raced the distance between the steeples of churches Buttevant and Doneraile in Cork County. Unfortunately, the winner of this race is still unknown.

The jump racing season spans the entire year, but the majority of the races fall between November and April. The largest races have accompanying festivals, each with their own traditions. The dress code is fairly informal in comparison to other places, except for Ladies Day when women of all ages don their most elegant and extravagant clothes. 


spectators at Royal Ascot

Horse racing is one of the largest spectator sports in Great Britain.

The world’s most well-known steeplechase is The Grand National. The event is held at the historic Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. Up to forty runners compete and the purse is £1 million.  Some avid steeplechase fans believe that the race has lost some of its character by implementing changes to the course in recent years (such as softening the fences). However, the race remains a popular and well-attended event. 

Following the dress code is not optional, especially at Royal Ascot, England’s most prestigious horse race. With The Queen and many other royals regularly in attendance, race attendees embrace tradition  and wear their best clothes for the occasion. 


Jump racing in France has never quite reached the same level of popularity as in neighboring England and Ireland. Though similar, French jump racing has a few noticeable differences. One of these differences is that the hurdles are not collapsible. Instead, many races have bullfinches, hedges up to 8 ft. tall, that horses have to jump through.

Another difference is that the racehorses are not exclusively Thoroughbreds. AQPS horses, a French breed developed by mixing Thoroughbreds with local breeds and saddle horses, are also used.

Auteuil in Paris is the most well-known racecourse. 

United States

Unlike in England and Ireland, where jump races are referred to as National Hunt Racing, Americans typically refer to jump races as steeplechasing. There are two major divisions: races over hurdles and races over timber fences.

American jump racing occurs in 11 states: South Carolina (obviously!), North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. The National Steeplechase Association, founded in 1995, remains the governing body of jump racing in North America. Most tracks in the U.S. are privately owned, with the horses, trainers, and jockeys being independent contractors.

Steeplechase race in Middleburg, Virginia

The largest American steeplechase is the Breeder’s Cup Grand National Steeplechase (previously known as the American Grand National). It draws crowds of 50,000 and has a purse of $500,000.  Race-day fashion in the U.S. is largely focused on the elaborate hats. 


Jump racing was brought to the Land Down Under by British settlers. The obstacle sizes are reduced here due to an increased emphasis on safety in recent years.

Eagle Farm Racecourse, part of Melbourne Cup festival events 2011 Brisbane, Australia

The Grand Annual steeplechase in Warrnambool has more fences than any other steeplechase and as a whole, Australia has more racecourses than any other nation.

The jump season occurs from March to September, but Saturdays are considered the main day for racing.  Several racing carnivals are held throughout the season, the largest of which is the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival.  


SC Horse Racing – Historical Timeline

South Carolina boasts a rich history in horse racing dating all the way back to the early 1700s. We've compiled a brief timeline to give you an idea of some of the key events.


Wealthy southern planters established the South Carolina Jockey club.

  • This created a demand for Thoroughbreds in the area and ultimately helped connect Charleston to breeders in England, globalizing the horse racing industry.
  • The first race in Charleston recorded by the Charleston Gazette in the same year


The New Market Course established.


Washington Race Course established.

  • The original track was located on Mary Murray Street, which encircles what is now Hampton Park.


Civil War

  • The start of the Civil War effectively put an end to horse racing.
    • However, some Confederate soldiers ignored regulations and held their own illicit horse races anyway.
  • In addition to the economic decline that followed the war, many Thoroughbreds lost their lives. The "Golden age of racing" became a distant memory.

late 1800s 

Thomas Hitchcock, known as the father of American steeplechasing, constructed a steeplechase training facility on his 3000-acre property in Aiken, SC and imported horses from England. He also helped several amateur riders along the way.


The South Carolina Jockey Club disbanded after efforts to revive the sport were unsuccessful.


4 stone pillars from the original Washington Race Course were installed as the gate to Belmont Park, which is where the Triple

Grandstands at Washington Race Track

Crown Belmont Stakes is held. 


Stono Ferry Plantation in Hollywood, SC held the first Charleston Cup Steeplechase (is now Steeplechase of Charleston).


The National Steeplechase Museum opened in Camden, SC. It is located on the grounds of the historic Springdale Race Course.


Steeplechase of Charleston partnered with the Post and Courier.

“Our aim is to make this a must-do event every year, and one that becomes the signature way to experience Charleston in the fall.” -publisher, P.J. Browning



Steeplechase returns!

“Steeplechase racing is the perfect outdoor, family and friend-centered event for this era,” said Chris Zoeller, Chief Marketing Officer for The Post and Courier, which owns the race. “With changes in our spectator policies, we’re putting more focus than ever on the horses, the riders, and the enjoyment of the Lowcountry in the autumn.” - Moultrie News


What is a Steeplechase?

Steeplechase of Charleston

Not to be confused with the Olympic running race, the Steeplechase of Charleston is a distance horse race in which competitors are required to jump obstacles.


The first steeplechase race is thought to have taken place in County Cork Ireland in 1752. Horsemen O'Callaghan and Edmund Blake raced the distance of one church to another, around 4.5 miles.

This race and others like this, is how the steeplechase name came to be. Nearby churches (steeples) would be used as reference points for the course. This was because the towering structures were the largest landmarks. Chase signified the racing aspect. 

Steeplechase horse racing is also sometimes referred to as 'jumps racing.'


Horse racing is a primarily male-dominated sport, but there have been a number of female jockeys in recent years. Steeplechase jockeys are generally a little heavier than flat race jockeys with the minimum weight limit being about 135 pounds.

Jockeys all wear racing silks, 

whose colorful designs are representative of the horse's owner rather than the jockey. The patterns have to be unique, since no two owners can have the same one. As a safety precaution, jockeys are also required to wear padded vests and approved helmets. Most are professional riders, but there are still some amateurs in the mix. A lot of them hail from Europe; England and Ireland, where they gain experience before coming to the United States.


All horses that participate in the steeplechase are Thoroughbreds. Their lineage must be proven with official Jockey Club registration papers. Many steeplechase horses are geldings (castrated) that are continuing their racing career.

The age range for steeplechase horses is 3-12 years old. They can compete for such a long period since they only participate in around 10 races per year.

Horses that run in steeplechases are sometimes referred to as 'chasers and can run up to 30 miles per hour. No wonder we measure speed in terms of horsepower!

The Race

The typical race length is between 4 and 6 miles. This is longer than flat races which are around .6 to 1 mile long. The distance between obstacles and the total number of obstacles varies from race to race.

Many of the obstacles are National Fences, which are man-made and portable. Developed by the National Steeplechase Association, these fences consist of a steel frame stuffed with plastic "brush." On the takeoff side, there is a foam-rubber roll covered with green canvas.

Steeplechase of Charleston 2018

The race's purse money goes to the owner of the champion horse, who shares some of it with the jockey and trainers. However, they are not the only beneficiaries of the steeplechase. Aside from the camaraderie and sense of community the exciting event provides, the Steeplechase of Charleston gives back through the Good Cheer Fund. 

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steeplechase Horses

steeplechase horses 2

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steeplechase Horses

All eyes are on them during race days, but how much do you really know about steeplechase horses? If you are a horse novice, read on to find out.

1. Steeplechase horses are sometimes referred to as ‘chasers

In order to compete, their Thoroughbred lineage must be proven with official Jockey Club papers. 

2. They are the best of the best

Thoroughbreds are widely considered to be the most athletic breed of horse, and ‘chasers are especially known for their speed and agility. 

3. Proportionally, race days are rare for steeplechase horses

Most run in no more than ten races per year. Since there are no races from December through mid-March, horses have plenty of downtime.  However, they do not spend the entirety of off-season lazing about.

They are exercised in the same way every day in preparation for their next race.  Like people, horses do well with a daily routine and feeding schedule.

4. The training plan for each horse must be structured to avoid causing injury or lameness

After breakfast, horses usually have around an hour before training begins. It begins with a warm-up exercise. Next is the schooling process. Schooling is a combination of advanced exercises such as completing jumping patterns, practicing quick turns, upward and downward transitions, and galloping. The horses will train in all kinds of weather to keep up with their practice schedule. Some horses are re-schooled in order to refine their technique or break unwanted behaviors.

Horses’ skeletal systems adjust in conjunction with how much they are exercised. Horses also respond well to ice and heat therapy for treating aches and pains. 

5. Most steeplechase horses start their career running in flat races

They usually do not start competing in the steeplechase until they are around four years old and continue until they’re ten or eleven. 

The term novice is used to describe a horse in the early stages of its steeplechase career. Novice races are held at many meets, to give horses experience over hurdles before they compete with more-seasoned jumpers.

6. Steeplechase horses generally do not train at the race track

Instead, many of them reside in country settings along the east coast, from Pennsylvania to South Carolina. This allows them to spend time outdoors. 

7. Their diet mainly consists of hay and grains

In addition, medications and joint supplements are sometimes included with feeding to treat arthritis or other health concerns. It is important that a horse’s heart rate returns to normal before eating.

8. Steeplechase horses need a lot of stamina

Since steeplechase races are longer than those on the flat, the ‘chasers need to have enough stamina to carry its speed over two miles or more. It is important for horses to eat a lot in order to store ATP, which is what they use to simulate muscle contraction. Having a sufficient amount of ATP allows the muscles to contract longer without fatiguing. 

9. Shoeing and trimming is required every 2-4 weeks

A farrier is normally kept on hand to provide regular maintenance to the horses. Horses hooves are similar to people’s fingernails and need to be trimmed on a regular basis.  Farriers use nippers, hoof jacks, stands, picks, knives and rasps to trim the horses’ hooves. Some horses may require additional treatment for damaged hooves. 

10. Horses do not need a lot of sleep

Horses only sleep for 2-3 hours per night. Contrary to popular belief, horses do have to lie down in order to get a good REM sleep. Yet, they snooze while standing up at various times throughout the day. 

steeplechase horses


Witness the ‘chasers in action at the Steeplechase of Charleston on November 17th! 

2 minute interview



2 minute interview with Ross Geraghty

Steeplechase of Charleston 2019 will conclude with a 2 and 3/8 mile race. Strong horses can build their speed up to 30 miles per hour, clocking in a mile at around the 2 minute mark! We brought the pace of the races to a quick interview with Irish jockey, Ross Geraghty. Ross has enjoyed a long career with many victories. Ahead of Father's Day, Ross talks about the person who inspired him to become a winning jockey, his dad.

Ross Geraghty jockey

Q: What is your earliest memory of horse racing with your father?

Ross: I guess as a child going racing with him and horses he trained.

Q: What do you admire most about your father?

Ross: He has always been a great mentor and very encouraging to me and my siblings. He was strict, yet fair when we were kids.

Q: What is one word that describes your father and why?

Ross: Kind.

Q: What do you and your father have in common apart from horse racing?

Ross: We are the same person in so many ways.

Q: What's the best advice your father has given you?

Ross: Invest in property from early in my career.

Q: Any special memories with your father you would like to share?

Ross: I rode a lot of winners on horses he trained, which was brilliant. The most special is probably after winning the Irish Grand National and he greeting me on route to the winner's circle. He and my mum must have been in Fair Hills for some of my big days there.

The team at Steeplechase of Charleston wishes everyone a very happy Father's Day!

Have a few additional minutes to hear more from Ross Geraghty? We think you will love this interview with The National Steeplechase Association.