Steeplechasing then migrated to established race courses throughout Ireland and England and eventually to the Colonies. Though pointing out the first U.S. steeplechase is a difficult assignment (reports point to an 1834 event in Washington, D.C.), several of the oldest and most prestigious races are still run. The Maryland Hunt Cup, raced over tall and stiff post-and-rail fences, was first run in 1894 and remains the oldest running steeplechase race run in the United States.
Steeplechase Racing or Jump Racing, is an imported product of Ireland with its roots originating from fox hunting. The first recorded steeplechase occurred in 1752 in County Cork, Ireland. Cornelius O’Callaghan and Edmund Blake engaged in a match race, covering about 4 1/2 miles from St. John’s Church at Buttevant to St. Mary’s Church in Doneraile.
Church steeples were the most prominent, and tallest, landmarks on the landscape. Though history did not record the winner of the O’Callaghan-Blake race, the sport took its name from this simple chase to the steeple. Cross-country match races spread to England, where the first reported race involving more than two horses occurred in 1792.
The most celebrated steeplechase race is the storied Grand National Steeplechase held at the famous Aintree course in Liverpool, England. It is a handicap ‘chase run over a distance of about 4 miles and 856 yards where forty starters are asked to negotiate thirty very stiff and challenging fences of varying sizes and breadth.
There is much debate among historians regarding the first official race held there and the majority of leading published historians such as John Pinfold, for example now prefer the idea that the first running was in 1836 and was won by The Duke.
To get from Ireland to Charlotte
One thing we do know, it took 263 years to get from Ireland to Charlotte – but arrive it did. The race meet was originally held on 300 acres of leased land off Gus Eubanks Road in southern Union County right on the State lines between North & South Carolina. The Association held its first race November 18, 1995, dubbed the “Taste of the ‘Chase” in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 1,500+ race goers. This race preempted the inaugural running of the Charlotte Steeplechase April 27, 1996, held the following spring on the same leased farm. In 1998, the Association, with the help of some wonderful benefactors including George Sloan and Coca Cola USA, welcomed the Royal Princess Anne, the Queen of England’s eldest daughter, and prolific mystery writer and retired jump jockey, Dick Francis to the Charlotte Steeplechase. Ever since, the spring race has become a highly anticipated annual event held the Last Saturday of every April.
Permanent move to
Mineral Springs, NC
Wanting to take control of its destiny, in August of 1997, the Price family purchased 260 acres in historic Mineral Springs, North Carolina to assure its permanence as a race meet in the Charlotte region. No expense was spared as the Association, in September of that same year, started the design and construction on what was to become a two and a half year, $2.6 million investment in racecourse grading, out-buildings and road infrastructure costs. Included in the construction was the design and installation of a four-acre pond feeding a fully automatic Toro irrigation system on the racecourse, Parade Ring and Member’s Hill. TruGreen provided the additional expertise for year-round aggressive turf management.
Over 1.8 million cubic yards of dirt was moved, permanent fencing and landscaping was installed, a permanent Steward’s Tower was designed and erected and 150 acres was seeded with fine turf tall fescue. The end result produced a magnificent and spectacular facility providing near-perfect viewing angles from nearly every corner of the racecourse.
The course and farm, nestled within a heavily tree-lined boundary on a 260 acres, was named Brooklandwood and officially opened to the public for the 5th annual Queen’s Cup, April 29, 2000. Then just 20 minutes from Charlotte’s I-485 beltway, the new state-of-the-art racecourse, then as now, is considered to be one of the finest steeplechase racecourses in the United States by both spectator and horseman alike.The Price family has added to the acreage over the years and now consist of 213 acres of which 246 acres are permanently protected!
A Family and Association
with a Heart
In December of that same year, the Price family donated the development rights of 201 acres into a permanent easement with the Charlotte region’s local land trust, Catawba Lands Conservancy, to permanently protect it’s view shed from development for generations to come. In October of 2006, the Price family donated another 44 acres into a permanent conservation easement.
The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase, produced by the Charlotte Steeplechase Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is an Association with a heart. Over $1 million has been raised for its charities since 1996. The Association has significantly benefited some wonderful charities over the years including Hospice of Union County, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Catawba Lands Conservancy and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central & Western North Carolina. This year, our charitable partner is the Alzheimer’s Association of Western North Carolina.