For the first time since April 2018, steeplechase racing returns to Green Creek Race Track in Columbus, N.C., on Saturday for the 73rd running of the Tryon Block House Races.
First race post time is 12:30 p.m. The five-race card, with $80,000 in purses, consists of two maiden hurdles, a maiden claiming hurdle, a handicap for horses rated at 125 or less, and a training flat race.
One of the maiden races, the Carter P. Brown Memorial, is named for the founder of the meet, in 1946. The first steeplechase to be held in Western North Carolina — at Harmon Field in Tryon — the “meet” was originally contested as a single race with a tin cup as a prize for the winner.
Brown eventually constructed a race course around what had been an old tavern called the Block House, hence the story behind its name. Since then, the Block House Steeplechase has moved, first to Foothills Equestrian Nature Center and, most recently, to the Tryon International Equestrian Center.
Saturday’s meet was rescheduled from its original date of April 10 in anticipation of safer conditions and to hopefully prevent the event from being cancelled due to the pandemic. The decision has, happily, paid off, and spectators and tailgaters will be welcomed.
In the featured $30,000 Block House ratings handicap, seven horses are expected to face the starter, led by Mark Buyck’s rejuvenated G1 winner Show Court, who ran his best race in several years when finishing second to Keystone Thoroughbred’s Noah and the Ark in the Carolina Cup last month. Bon Nouvel Chasers’ Repeat Repeat is coming off an allowance win at Middleburg in May, and two seconds in handicap competition last fall.
KMSN Stable’s Sportswear was fourth in the Carolina Cup and is still looking for his first on-the-board finish in two years following a precocious start to his jump-racing career. Hepcat, who races for Sanna Neilson and Steve Poorman, is stepping up from the claiming ranks after three straight in-the-money finishes. Silverton Hill’s Bodes Well led until after the final fence in the 2 ⅜-mile Carolina Cup and gave way grudgingly. The two-mile distance of the Block House might be more to his liking.
Sycamore Run Farm’s Adjutant is another entry who is stepping up from the claiming ranks. He finished third in his 2021 debut at the Radnor Hunt Races. Before that, however, he was a four-time winner in England in novice weight-for-age hurdle races.
Rounding out the field is Allison Fulmer’s The Happy Giant, who unseated his rider in the Carolina Cup and finished fifth in the Queens Cup novice stakes in April. He broke his hurdle maiden last summer at Colonial Downs.
If you are not attending the races in person, be sure to watch the live stream via the NSA’s website. The NSA will broadcast a recap show, Jump Racing USA, featuring replays, commentary and interviews, on its web site on Monday evening at 7 p.m. and on demand after that. The live stream is sponsored by Brown Advisory, the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation, Charleston’s Post & Courier, and the Virginia Equine Alliance.