by Toby Beavers
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 it 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.
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.
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 got the idea.
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. Others are The American Grand National that began in 1899 and the The National Hunt Cup in Radnor, Pa., which was started in 1909.
In Virginia, you can visit the Virginia Steeplechase association who hosts the big races in Virginia, including the Virginia Gold Cup, FoxField races at Charlottesville, Fairfax Hunt races, Middleburg Spring races, Montpelier Hunt Races, and the Morven park Steeplechase.
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Cassidy is a quarterly publication and community for people mesmerized by the western lifestyle. In our pages you'll find cowgirls, inspirational stories, recipes, wonderful destinations, and much more. Cassidy is all about living life the cowgirl way.