The 2017 National Steeplechase Association season kicks off Saturday, March 25, with the 51st annual Aiken Spring Steeplechase, and jump racing is looking forward to record purses in an expanded spring schedule.
The 2017 spring schedule offers purses of nearly $2.6-million, which would be a 6.7% increase over purses paid in 2016’s record-breaking spring season.
“We are very excited about the upcoming season,” said NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr. “With substantial increases in purses, our race meets are contributing significantly to the growth of jump racing.”
The Steeplechase of Charleston at Stono Ferry joins the spring schedule on Saturday, April 8, taking the spot formerly occupied by the Stoneybrook Steeplechase. The Charleston races, managed by the Bruno Event Team of Birmingham, Ala., will offer purses of $90,000. Bruno also will manage a fall meet at Charleston.
The Tryon Block House Races will move its location and date, to be run on April 15 at the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Columbus, N.C. Projected purses are $150,000, more than double the $72,950 paid in 2016. Topping the schedule at the expansive new course is the $40,000 Block House handicap hurdle.
The Iroquois Steeplechase on May 13 again will be the spring’s richest race meet with record spring purses of $525,000, a 15% increase over 2016. The Nashville meet features the spring’s richest race, the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois (Gr. 1). The testing three-mile race drew international attention and competitors last year. Rawnaq prevailed in a heart-throbbing victory over two top-class Irish challengers and went on to win the 2016 Eclipse Award.
Iroquois is increasing the value of its Marcellus Frost novice stakes to $100,000, a 33% increase from 2016’s $75,000. Iroquois also offers the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley for fillies and mares.
In all, novice stakes will offer $250,000 in purses. Also on the schedule is the $75,000 Carolina Cup Steeplechase on April 1 and the $75,000 Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase on April 29.
The Virginia Gold Cup, a festival of racing on the first Saturday in May, and the Maryland Hunt Cup a week earlier again will offer the richest purses in timber racing at $100,000. The Gold Cup on May 6 offers the season’s second-highest purses at $425,000. In addition to the four-mile timber classic, the Virginia Gold Cup features the $75,000 David Semmes Memorial (Gr. 2) over National Fences.
Other open hurdle stakes on the spring schedule are the $50,000 Temple Gwathmey at the Middleburg Spring Races on April 22 and the $50,000 National Hunt Cup at the Radnor Hunt Races on May 20.