Coming off a record-breaking year, the National Steeplechase Association will offer a spring racing season with $2.6-million in purses, an increase of nearly 6% over 2015 actual payments to horse owners.
Highlighting the spring season will be the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1), whose purse was increased $50,000 from 2015. The three-mile feature of Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase is the spring’s only Grade 1 race and annually attracts the sport’s top competitors.
The Calvin Houghland Iroquois on May 14 will be the American leg of the Brown Advisory Cheltenham-Iroquois Challenge, which offers a $500,000 bonus to any horse that can win the Nashville race and the Ladbrokes World Hurdle within 12 months. The Ladbrokes World Hurdle is a feature of the Cheltenham Festival and will be run on March 17.
Two highlights of the spring timber-racing season will reach new heights when both the Maryland Hunt Cup and the Virginia Gold Cup will offer record $100,000 purses. The Virginia Gold Cup meet on May 7 also will feature the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2), and a $50,000 turf stakes race, the Secretariat, on a race-day program with $445,000 in purses.
The historic Hunt Cup will be increased by $25,000 for its 120th running on April 30. The testing four-mile race caps the Maryland timber triple crown, which begins April 16 with the $30,000 My Lady’s Manor in Monkton and continues the following week with the $30,000 Grand National at Butler.
The racing season begins March 26 with the traditional kickoff at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase. The National Steeplechase Association inaugurated a popular new race in 2015, the Ratings Handicap, and the South Carolina meet will include a two-mile Ratings Handicap as well as a featured $30,000 optional allowance hurdle.
A week later, the sport’s rising stars will be on display in the $75,000 Carolina Cup for novices, or horses in their first seasons of racing over fences. One of the most popular stops on the NSA circuit, the Carolina Cup regularly attracts crowds exceeding 60,000.
Other novice stakes on the spring schedule are the $75,000 Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase at the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase near Charlotte, N.C., on April 30 and the $75,000 Marcellus Frost Novice Stakes at Iroquois. The Nashville meet features the spring’s richest purses at $450,000 and also will offer the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley for fillies and mares.
On tap for the spring season are two Grade 3 races, the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 23 and the $50,000 National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races in Pennsylvania on May 21.
The spring schedule wraps up a week later at the popular Fair Hill Races in northern Maryland. Fair Hill will offer a $45,000 Ratings Handicap, the Valentine Memorial. Also offering Ratings Handicaps are the Stoneybrook Steeplechase on April 9, Middleburg Spring, the Queen’s Cup, and Radnor.
Here is the spring 2016 schedule:
Race Meet Date Location
Aiken Spring Sat., March 26 Aiken, SC
Carolina Cup Sat., April 2 Camden, SC
Stoneybrook Sat., April 9 Southern Pines, NC
My Lady’s Manor Sat., April 16 Monkton, MD
Atlanta Sat., April 23 Kingston, GA
Grand National Sat., April 23 Butler, MD
Middleburg Spring Sat., April 23 Middleburg, VA
Foxfield Spring Sat., April 30 Charlottesville, VA
Maryland Hunt Cup Sat., April 30 Glyndon, MD
Queen’s Cup Sat., April 30 Mineral Springs, NC
Block House Sat., May 7 Tryon, NC
Virginia Gold Cup Sat., May 7 The Plains, VA
Winterthur Sun., May 8 Wilmington, DE
Iroquois Sat., May 14 Nashville, TN
Willowdale Sun., May 15 Kennett Square, PA
Radnor Sat., May 21 Malvern, PA
High Hope Sun., May 22 Lexington, KY
Fair Hill Sat., May 28 Fair Hill, MD