Off to the races
Steeplechase 2012 festivities keep crowds in good spirits
Gray skies and the occasional sprinkle did nothing to dampen the spirits of thousands of fans of the Iroquois Steeplechase. Women traded their wedges for Hunter rainboots or opted for a stylish maxi in lieu of a sundress. Others threw a slicker and umbrella in their totes. Then, it was off to the races!
For some of us, horse racing as we know it takes place in Percy Warner Park on the second Saturday of May. Since 1941, the Iroquois Steeplechase has been a rite of spring for Nashvillians and horsemen alike. It is safe to say that it has become the perfect combination of a social event and a sporting event. “Remarkably, the Iroquois Steeplechase remains unchanged, for the most part, from its roots,” said Dwight Hall, Iroquois Race Committee Chairman.
Several days of events led up to Saturday’s festivities. Dwight led the traditional post position drawing for owners, trainers and riders on the Thursday before. Parties such as the Jockey Club, Hunt Ball and Peoplechase drew large crowds.
All across the grounds, people enjoyed scrumptious food and plentiful drink. In the boxes, those who did not opt for the confines of the Paddock Club or Iroquois Society, brought food ranging from gourmet treats to Publix fried chicken. In the infield, tents dotted the landscape in a crazy, colorful pattern with flags flying to help guests identify their spots. All sorts of mischief was going on under those 10×10 tents.
Oh, let’s not forget the horse races! The Iroquois Steeplechase is the premier spring race in American steeplechasing. It is the richest day of racing on the spring circuit of the National Steeplechase Association, with a total of $400,000 in purses and bonuses.
One sad note to the day, the great horse Arcadius, 2012 champion in the Calvin Houghland Iroquois, had his life claimed after the race by an aneurysm unrelated to the race. The eight-year-old thoroughbred had an outstanding performance in the race, which was proof of his top physical condition. The entire Steeplechase community mourns his loss.
As always, this year’s running once again benefitted the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Since the partnership began in 1981, more than $9 million has been raised for Children’s Hospital.
There’s so much to say about the Steeplechase. We hope these photographs help to capture the spirit, excitement and sport of the day.—Holly Hoffman, Photographs by Michael W. Bunch and Eric England