NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Saturday marks the 78th annual Iroquois Steeplechase, with more than 25,000 fans expected to attend, watch horses race, and socialize with others while dressed their best.
The race is the only American Grade I NSA sanctioned steeplechase race of the spring and brings horses from around the world to compete.
“It’s kind of legendary, it’s a place where people come and run their best horses,” Ted Thompson, clerk of the course, said.
The race dates back to 1941, and since the first race, they’ve had plenty of time to make the course the best it can be.
“We’ve basically been perfecting it for 80 years,” Thompson said. “The engineering on it is unbelievable. It drains great, we’ve spend a lot of time upgrading it through the years, we put over 500,000 tons of sand on it through the years.”
Thompson said the course is actually suited for wet conditions leading up to the race, and with rain in the forecast but also mild temperatures, this year’s race is expected to be ideal for the horses.
“We want it to be soft, it’s safer for the horses, it’s better for the racing, so the rain is very welcome, we’re happy to have it,” Thompson said.
And while many will focus on either the horses or the social aspect of the day, much of the money raised will go to The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, as well as the Friends of Warner Parks and other non-profits.
“Children’s Hospital is just an amazing facility. Every time I go down there I am just amazed at the work they do,” Dwight Hall, race committee chairman for the Iroquois Steeplechase, said.
For race day planning, the gates open at 8 a.m. with the first race beginning at 1 p.m. and the featured race, the Calvin Hougland Iroquois taking place at 5:30 p.m.
New in 2019, there will be an area called “Steeplechase Corral” where kids aged 8-15 can play video games, rock climb, and more. There will also be a “Steeplechase Central” inside the track with live music, food trucks, a roaming photo booth, and games.