The traditional Virginia spring steeplechase circuit finale is fulfilling its normal role this year, seven weeks later than planned.
Having been rescheduled from May 2, the Virginia Gold Cup is running today at Great Meadow in The Plains. For the first time in the event’s 98-year history, no spectators are allowed, only jockeys, trainers, grooms and essential personnel.
A livestream started at 12:30 p.m. at nationalsteeplechase.com.
The program attracted 136 entries, with 104 horses in 10 races, 32 also eligible.
Headliner Virginia Gold Cup timber stake attracted a pair of champions, Andi’amu and Doc Cebu, first and second in the June 13 Middleburg Hunt Cup.
The Semmes hurdle stakes lured two Eclipse Award winners, Scorpiancer (2017) and Zanjabeel (2018), in a field of 11. Rounding out the undercard are the cross-country steeplethon, two divisions of a ratings handicap and maiden hurdles.
There are online virtual fancy hat and tailgate contests, and trivia questions are being posted on Gold Cup social media – Facebook and Twitter – through the day asking questions about the livestream. The first to post correct answers win tickets to future Gold Cup races, hats, shirts and more.
“We hope some of our many fans will celebrate the day with safe-distancing watch parties, tailgating and hat contests,” said race co-chair Will Allison last week. “It will be a bittersweet day without fans in attendance, but ultimately being able to host race day is a victory for us.”
Jump racing had been curtailed since the March 15 Warrenton Hunt Point-to-Point until the June 13 Middleburg Spring Races. In response to the unprecedented hardship, the steeplechase community came together under new National Steeplechase Association president, and Gold Cup co-chair, Al Griffin, to protect the livelihoods of more than 1,000 jockeys, trainers and industry professionals. Middleburg Spring and Gold Cup, along with a few pari-mutuel racetracks coast to coast that remained open in lockdown style, provide a tangible boost to keep the industry afloat, Griffin said.
For details on the hat and tailgate contests, visit vagoldcup.com.