The National Steeplechase Association concluded its 2018 spring season with record purses of $2,833,800, an increase of 7.2% and more than $140,000 over the prior record set in 2017.
For the first time, the NSA season featured two Grade 1 races, the $150,000 Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup at the Carolina Cup Races, and the $200,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois at Nashville’s Iroquois Steeplechase. Also for the first time, the NSA spring season had two Grade 2 races, with Middleburg Spring’s Temple Gwathmey joining the David Semmes Memorial at the Virginia Gold Cup.
Zanjabeel, owned by Rosbrian Farm and Ben and Wendy Griswold, participated in three of those races and ended the spring season as the leading earner at $160,500.
After a second-place finish to Stonelea Stable’s Balance the Budget in the Colonial Cup and another second to Robert A. Kinsley’s Lyonell in the Temple Gwathmey, the British-bred five-year-old scored a five-length victory in the Iroquois for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Ross Geraghty.
Also collecting graded stakes victories in the spring were Magalen O. Bryant’s Personal Start, winner of the David Semmes, and Wendy Hendriks’ Surprising Soul, who won the National Hunt Cup (Gr. 3) at the Radnor Hunt Races.
The record spring purses were achieved despite the High Hope Steeplechase in Lexington, Ky., moving to the fall schedule. While a cold late winter and early spring hampered training schedules, the race meets were well supported. Even with High Hope missing from the schedule, the spring meets recorded 670 starters, only 11 fewer than the previous spring.
The record purses contributed to another spring-season record, average purse per race. At $32,572, jump racing’s average purse is approximately $4,000 per race above the average for all North American Thoroughbred races.
The season closed impressively with an unprecedented 94 starters at Fair Hill on May 26. A $30,000 Sport of Kings maiden hurdle division was added to the lineup to accommodate heavy entries, and both races had long also-eligible lists. In all, well more than 100 horses were entered for Fair Hill’s nine races.
The Virginia Gold Cup, which offered a schedule of flat, hurdle, and timber races, had 65 starters pursuing its $431,800 in purses, and the Iroquois Steeplechase offered a season-high $516,000 in purses to 56 starters. The Middleburg Spring Steeplechase, always well supported, had 58 starters for its $198,500 in purses.
With the addition of the Colonial Cup, the Carolina Cup offered $322,900 in purses, a South Carolina record.