NSA applauds the spirit of Steeplechase Racing in America
As we face global challenges which may temporarily affect our ability to present spring race meets in the U.S., the spirit of Steeplechase racing has never been stronger. As we look at the impact coronavirus could have on this majestic sport, the hope, desire and eagerness to continue the tradition are more evident than ever.
We want to share with you how the National Steeplechase Association’s Board of Directors and staff are approaching each meet and situation as we work to salvage the spring race season. Transparency is crucial and we want you to know that we have great hope and spirit as we look at the coming months. We will rise through the challenges and come out even stronger and more vibrant.
The backbone of the NSA is the vital consideration and safety of our communities, patrons and horsemen. That is our number one mission and guides our decision-making as, in consultation with the NSA, each race meet reviews its meet date and considers its options. There’s never been a more difficult time to assess the roadblocks and determine the best outcome for our sport.
While no one knows precisely what lies ahead in the coming weeks, we do know that all participants are cheering on the sport and making necessary accommodations to do our very best to present a tradition that garners camaraderie among friends and family as well as the community spirit at large.
NSA Director of Racing Bill Gallo shared that he has been talking to trainers on a regular basis about the future of the upcoming meets and the resiliency and enthusiasm is obvious. The possibility of reducing the 16-meet season to perhaps just five brought on a strong desire by the trainers to participate in any way possible. They are exploring every opportunity to continue to create a season of racing. It’s not just the trainers, but jockeys and support staff. All are eager to do what they are trained to do. A largely unknown fact about our sport is about 70 percent of steeplechase’s infrastructure relies on this as their sole source of income. We take that to heart and it’s a serious consideration in all of our decision making.
The start of our season brought great optimism with the incredible addition of several young American jockeys who have worked so hard and demonstrated great promise. With the cancellation of the Point-to-Points and several scheduled NSA sanctioned race meets, it’s unfortunate the steps in the apprentice riders process were lost and they are not able to compete as once hoped. NSA President Al Griffin said, “We understand the disappointment coronavirus has had on our young new riders who continue to work hard to gain experience and become licensed. We look forward to the addition of some non-sanctioned races in the coming months. Although we won’t see them excel this season, there’s no doubt their ambition and desire will soar and we can only anticipate their grand abilities hopefully in the fall.”
Ricky Hendriks, a leading trainer and father of new apprentice rider Parker, said, “We appreciate Al Griffin’s personal call to explain the NSA’s review of the situation. We agree that the safety of the riders and horses is of utmost importance and we look forward to advancing Parker’s career in racing. I applaud the NSA’s steps to ensure the integrity of the sport. We look forward to our next opportunity to become licensed and part of this magnificent sporting event.”
Steeplechase racing creates not only an expansive economic impact on our business partners like caterers, rental companies and community organizations, but each of the individual contributors such as groundskeepers, parking attendants and bartenders. We must also consider the many beneficiaries and non-profit organizations positively affected by the meets.
They’re the people involved in decision making. And there’s the horses. Most of you realize Steeplechase horses are trained on farms. Beautiful and magnificent landscapes that provide a good life for these majestic animals. Unlike flat racing, our horses enjoy large paddocks and freedom to run and relax. Many horses that run in flat racing are going from stall to track and back. Our sport not only considers the safety, but the lifestyle of the horses. It’s all about caring.
We may not know what our spring meet season will bring but we do know that if for some reason it is postponed, our next season will be even bigger, stronger and will demonstrate the ever-growing sport and need to gather and bring hope to our country, the livelihood of the participants and our community and beneficiaries.
It is our strongest intention to keep you apprised of our challenges and opportunities as we navigate through next steps. We pledge to continue to be a leader and to provide guidance, hope and drive to the continuation of the spirit of Steeplechase racing. This is one hurdle we know we can conquer.