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Competition Index
First Posted May 2007
Aug 15, 2010

Virginia Gold Cup

Steeplechase Races
by Debora Johnson

Virginia Gold Cup is much more than a day of fun (hopefully in the sun). Tailgate or tent, The Gold Cup is a Virginia tradition of steeplechase racing. Always held the first Saturday in May--the same day as the Kentucky Derby--the Spring Gold Cup races are considered Virginia's grandest steeplechase races. Races are also held in the Fall. Fauquier County has hosted the races since 1922. Great Meadows located in The Plains, Virginia is now the seat of the races. In the horse community, Gold Cup is one of the most popular sporting events in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area. You do not have to be horse lover to come--you just have to be a lover of fun.

Before the steeplechase races begin there is other entertainment which may consist of: Parachuters, Jack Russell Terrier Races, Pony races, hat and tailgate contests, the Junior Field Master Chase, many vendor booths for shopping, the paddocks at Members Hill, the Mounted Police Color guard, the Park Police Musical Ride, a chance to catch up with old friends, a chance to meet new friends, food, drink, conversation, and, of course, people watching. That is always great sport!!! The steeplechase races may consist of a total of 7 races. The next to the last race is traditionally the Gold Cup Race. This year there were 6 races and the 5th race was the Gold Cup Race.

There are many ways to enjoy the Gold Cup. Some people buy tickets and have tailgate parties from their cars or trucks. Others have tents, some on the rail, some not. The cuisine can be catered or closed cover dishes brought by the guests of a specific tent. My husband and I have been guests of good friends for many years. We are on the North Rail at the Theodore Case Whitehouse tent. Everyone brings closed cover dishes and drinks to share. Food and drink abounds, as do old friends, new friends, fine conversation, lots of warmth, smiles and laughter. It should be mentioned that all drinks are enjoyed, however, mint juleps are the traditional drink of the Gold Cup. Standing at the rail and looking to our left we have an awesome view of the horses coming over a timber-their hooves held high-manes flowing; looking to our right we see the rear of the horses going over a timber-their tails flowing. The ground just thunders as the horses gallop past, as do our hearts! The Judge's stand is right beside us. A large viewing screen, where close ups of the race can be seen, stands tall across the field. It is very much like an enormous television screen.

This May 5, 2007 was the 82nd running of the Virginia Gold Cup. There were over 50,000 people in attendance. A bit of rain fell and a cool, stiff breeze toppled my hat a few times. Rain or shine the races are always great fun.

I took the liberty of photographing a variety of hats this year.













Everyone gave their permission for any pictures appearing on this site. I am always amazed at the variety of "proper toppers" that are sported by both men and woman. It should also be mentioned here, that good cigars are a staple at the Virginia Gold Cup.



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