What is a steeplechase?
A steeplechase is a race for Thoroughbred horses over fences.
Steeplechase is an unusual word. Where did it come from?
The origin of racing over fences is shrouded by the mists of history, but by all accounts it began in Ireland in the 18th century. Its roots were in the fox-hunting field, and occasionally horsemen would match up their horses for races over considerable distances. They would race to landmarks such as church steeples, and thus one of these races was a chase to the steeple, or a steeplechase.
What is a steeplechase horse?
A steeplechase horse is a Thoroughbred, just like those that race at American racetracks on all over days. In addition to speed, the steeplechase horse must possess the ability to jump fences at a fast pace. They usually are a little older than the horses that race on the flat, and most of them have experience on the flat. Because steeplechase races are longer than those on the flat, the steeplechase horse also must have enough stamina to carry its speed over two miles or more. Most are geldings and are continuing their racing careers over fences.
Are these horses prepared for their races at the racetrack?
In most cases, no. While most flat horses are housed in the stable areas of racetracks, steeplechase horses generally are trained in country settings. Steeplechase horses can be trained anywhere, but most of them are based on the East Coast between Pennsylvania and South Carolina. The country setting allows them to spend plenty of time outdoors, unlike horses housed at the racetrack.
Who are the steeplechase jockeys?
They are a varied group. Most are professional riders, but some amateur jockeys remain in the steeplechase sport. Many of the leading jockeys today are from Ireland or England, where they gained valuable riding experience. Some women also are jockeys, and Danielle Hodsdon has been a champion jockey.
Do steeplechase jockeys have any special equipment?
Yes. The National Steeplechase Association requires jockeys to wear certified helmets that meet stringent crash-protection standards, and they carry padded whips to protect the well-being of the steeplechase horses.
Some steeplechase races are for horses known as novices. What is a novice?
A novice is a horse in the early stages of its steeplechase career. Novice races, restricted to horses that won their first races over fences after a specific date, give these younger competitors valuable experience before they face more seasoned jumpers.
Who benefits from steeplechase racing?
Of course, the steeplechase horse owners receive designated shares of the total purse money, and both trainers and jockeys receive a share of the owner’s portion. But the biggest winners are the communities where the races are held. American steeplechasing is unique because its races invariably support charitable efforts.
General Admission Tickets are still available for $25 at the ticket outlets listed below, and will be available on race day at the gate for $30.
- Brandywine Ace Pet & Farm
- Dover Saddlery
- Hoods BBQ
- Landhope Farms - Rte 82 and Rte 273 Stores
- Neuchatel Chocolates
- Northbrook Marketplace
- Outback Trading Co.
- Oxford Feed and Grains
- Ruby Slippers
- Stoltzfus Feed and Lumber
- That's Hats and Accessories
- Unionville Saddle Shop
- Vignette by LE Walker
- Wild Tyme
Please call the
Willowdale Steeplechase office
at 610-444-1582 for information
about available parking spaces.
Save These Dates!
March 9th Willowdale Steeplechase Preview and Mardi Gras Party at the Yellow House. Jimmy Duffy is providing the catering so the food will be fabulous. There will be great auction items, music, wine and New Orleans Hurricanes. Tickets are $75 per person. Patrons who renew their steeplechase parking prior to March 4 receive on complimentary ticket.
April 20th for the first annual “Shop Around Town Saturday”. Willowdale Steeplechase is partnering with local retailers in Kennett Square, West Chester, Glen Mills and Greenville, DE to encourage our patrons to shop for their Mother’s Day gifts and race day outfits on “Shop Around Town Saturday”. Participating retailers will help promote the races and will give away one complimentary ticket to the races to each person who spends $100 or more at their store.
May 12th for the 21st running of The Willowdale Steeplechase. The Mother’s Day tradition continues with seven exciting horse races, Jack Russell Terrier and Pony Races, antique cars, boutique shopping, tailgate competition and much more. Reserved tailgate parking spaces are available for purchase after February 1.