Spectacular May 10th Event – The 67th Annual – Is A Chance To Experience Horse Racing As It Was Meant To Be
A Grand Reprise of Tennessee’s Historic Central Role in U.S. Horse Racing
“Sports Image Times Highly Recommends this Great Event! “
2007 Iroquois Steeplechase-Photo by: Jeff Kluss
NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 13, 2008 — Long before the first running of the Kentucky Derby, Tennessee – not Kentucky – was regarded as the center of horse breeding and racing in the United States. In keeping with Tennessee’s long and storied equine culture, the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville remains one of the best horse races in the country – attracting top horses and the crème de la crème of Southern society.
Presented by Bank of America and benefiting Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the Iroquois Steeplechase occurs the second Saturday of every May – the week after another popular horse race: the Kentucky Derby. The story of how Kentucky’s race became more well known than Tennessee’s is a long tale involving another popular Southern sport: politics. Worldwide popularity does have its consequences, however, and those seeking a pure, non-commercialized horse racing experience make it a point to be in Nashville’s Percy Warner Park, the site of the Iroquois, on race day. This year, the 67th running of the Iroquois Steeplechase will be May 10, 2008.
“If you want to see what horse racing was meant to be, and why Tennessee was the first center of America’s horse racing industry, come to the Iroquois,” said Henry Hooker, Iroquois Steeplechase Race Committee chairman. “If not for the nefarious wranglings of our state politicians at the turn of the 20th Century, the Iroquois Steeplechase would be one example – admittedly, a very fine example – of a booming horse racing industry in our state. Because it is the last surviving, and thriving, example of what horse racing could have been in Tennessee, it is all the more special. There is nothing like it. It’s the real thing in all of its unadulterated, charming glory.”
Bells of the Iroquois-Photo by: Jeff Kluss
The Iroquois’ race day purses and bonuses total $415,000, the second highest purse in American steeplechasing. While the large purses attract the best horses and jockeys on the National Steeplechase Association circuit, it is the tradition and pageantry of the Iroquois that draw a who’s who list of Southern society. Private box seats are filled with seersucker suits and mint juleps, and a rainbow of infield tents provides shade to young, jovial spectators celebrating as the pack rounds the final turn.
“The Iroquois Steeplechase has long been a major part of Nashville and Tennessee’s heritage – it is our traditional rite of spring,” Hooker said. “The excitement and prestige that were part of its first running are not only still present today, but seem to increase each year.”
Tennessee’s renown as the center for thoroughbred horses and horse racing reached its pinnacle during the 19th century. Andrew Jackson ran a horse in Tennessee’s first official race in 1804 and soon became known as the leading breeder and racer in the state prior to becoming president in 1829. During this time, the Tennessee thoroughbred had no superior in the United States. After becoming president, Jackson took three horses to Washington, D.C. to race and was the last president to race horses in the nation’s capital.
By 1839, there were at least 10 established racetracks in Tennessee and more than 20 organized jockey clubs. The same year, William Giles Harding placed the Belle Meade horse farm in Nashville at the center of the horse racing region. Belle Meade remained a famous stud farm from the 1830’s until the turn of the century.
In 1906, the Tennessee General Assembly passed an anti-betting law, bringing an end to horse racing in Tennessee for many years. However, the void was filled in 1941 with the first running of the Iroquois Steeplechase – named for Pierre Lorillard’s Iroquois, the first American-bred horse to win the English Derby. Iroquois’s victory was such a big event that Wall Street closed temporarily to celebrate. After his racing career, Iroquois was brought back to Belle Meade to stand at stud. The Iroquois Steeplechase has run continuously since 1941, except for 1945 when it was suspended because of World War II.
“Through the years, the greatest steeplechase horses in America have competed in the Iroquois. Past winners include four Eclipse Award winners – Flatterer, Lonesome Glory, Correggio and All Gong. The Eclipse Award is the highest award bestowed on a race horse by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association,” said Hooker. “This year is no different. With some of the top horses on today’s circuit returning, we can expect another historic race.”
Good Night Shirt – 2007 Iroquois winner, National Steeplechase Association single-season earnings record holder and leading candidate for the 2007 Eclipse Award – is anticipated to return for a chance at his second consecutive Iroquois win.
Photo by: Jeff Kluss
Should Good Night Shirt, jockeyed by Willie Dowling, reprise his performance in 2008, he would be the 13th horse in history to win the Iroquois two years in a row. His Iroquois win last year was his first of the 2007 season and acted as a springboard toward breaking the National Steeplechase Association single-season earnings record with $314,163.
While two-time Iroquois winner Sur La Tete and recently retired, three-time Eclipse winner and National Steeplechase Association career earnings record holder McDynamo were heavy favorites in the 2007 Iroquois, Good Night Shirt surprised the Nashville crowd by taking an early lead and maintaining it throughout the race. Sur La Tete, jockeyed by Christopher Read, and Chivite, jockeyed by Paddy Young, placed second and third.
Six races are held throughout the day, including the Bright Hour Amateur Hurdle. The Iroquois course, regarded as one of the best racing surfaces in the country, is maintained year-round with a computer-controlled, golf course style irrigation system. Below the course turf is 640 tons of sand that helps the course retain moisture and provides cushion to the horses in an effort to reduce race injuries. The Iroquois was one of the first steeplechase courses to use an irrigation system.
“The Iroquois is one of the best maintained steeplechase courses, which allows the best horses on the NSA circuit to perform to their highest ability,” said Dwight Hall, clerk of the course for the Iroquois Steeplechase. “Ultimately, this means more exciting races and a better race day experience for spectators.“
Recent improvements to the Iroquois include an increased purse size, a new tailgating area and an additional jumbotron for live viewing on race day. So the Iroquois has soft courses, big purses, fast horses and thrilling finishes. For information on advance ticket purchases, corporate tents, and tailgating and RV spaces, visit http://www.iroquoissteeplechase.org or call (615) 343-4231.
About the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt
The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is a leading provider of pediatric care, ranked 23rd in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Living by the principle of “family-centered care,” Children’s Hospital provides top-level care while including the family as an essential element of a child’s treatment plan. Children’s Hospital is a place to hope and a place to heal for patients and their families. Constructed in 2004, the freestanding children’s hospital is filled with state-of-the-art equipment and information systems to provide the best treatment for patients and offers a variety of family accommodations to help fulfill its mission. With 222 beds dedicated to high-level pediatric, subspecialty treatment, and trauma care the hospital is also a teaching and research facility, training many of the future’s top pediatric physicians. In addition, research conducted here is helping to shape the way the nation cares for children. Children’s Hospital features Centers of Excellence for the treatment of diabetes and congenital heart disorders and offers services for cancer care, organ and bone marrow transplants, level 4 neonatal intensive care, level 1 pediatric trauma care, treatment for developmental disorders, healing broken bones and everything in between.