Tag: united states

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.

Ireland

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. 

England

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. 

France

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. 

Australia

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.