Steeplechasing's Rich History
American steeplechasing traces it's lineage to England and
Ireland, but owes it's life to nine men from New York.
August Belmont, H. DeCourcy Forbes, Samuel S. Howland, James O.
Green, Frederick Gebhard, A.J. Cassatt, Foxhall P. Keene, John G.
Follansbee and Frederick H. Prince founded the National
Steeplechase Association. The purpose of the organization,
according to the original charter dated February 15, 1895, have
Those men created an association to keep records; govern, promote
and hold races; advance steeplechasing throughout the United
States and license individuals and race meetings.
Racing itself spawned from the foxhunting field had occurred
earlier, but never under such sanction. Meets took place on Long
Island and in northern New Jersey before spreading to the south
to the Carolinas and Tennessee.
In Europe, racing started much earlier. The first recorded
steeplechase occurred in 1752 in County Cork, Ireland. A horseman
named O'Callaghan and Edmund Blake engaged in a match race,
covering about 4 1/2 miles from Buttevant Church to St Mary's in
Doneraile. Church steeples were the most prominent, and tallest,
landmarks on the landscape. The sport took its name this simple
"chase to the steeple." History did not record the winner of the
Cross-country match races spread to England, where the first
reported race involving more that two horses occurred in 1792.
Steeplechasing then migrated to established race courses.
Though pointing out the first U.S. steeplechase is a difficult
assignment, several of the oldest and most prestigious races are
still run. The Maryland Hunt Cup, raced over tall post-and-rail
fences, celebrated it 100th anniversary in 1994. The American
Grand National, run at Far Hills, N.J., began in 1899. The
National Hunt Cup in Radnor Pa. dates to 1909.
The above-mentioned men could never have guessed at the future of
Steeplechasing occurs in 12 states, offers $4
million in total purses, is seen by millions of people, includes
the best horses and horsemen thoroughbred racing has to offer and
each year raises millions of dollars for charity.
The association today, located in Fair Hill, MD, includes 1,200
dues-paying members, plus a 15-member Board of Directors and a
Racing occurs March through November
and attracted an estimated one million fans last year.