The Iroquois Steeplechase and its 501(c)3 organization, the Volunteer State Horsemen's Foundation (VSHF), have selected Virginia “Gigi” Lazenby of Nashville as its 2016 honorary co-chair of the 75th Iroquois Steeplechase to be held May 14.
An oil and gas executive as well as a horse owner herself Lazenby was nominated to represent the premier spring race in American Steeplechasing for her lifelong dedication to the sport. As a current member of the organization’s race committee and board member of the National Steeplechase Association, she is part of a team that is helping ensure that the Iroquois’s diamond anniversary is a successful one.
“Gigi and her family have made a major impact on not only the American equestrian community, but also on the Iroquois Steeplechase and the significance it has to Nashville today,” said Dwight Hall, chairman of the V olunteer State Horsemen's Foundation . “I’ve worked with Gigi for years, and I know that her passion for the sport makes her the ideal representative for our organization.”
Lazenby and her family have a storied history with the Iroquois Steeplechase: her father worked for Mason Houghland, one of the initial founders of the “Nashville’s rite of spring since 1941,” and eventually became the secretary of the VSHF. Lazenby grew up around the Iroquois, and was lifelong friends with the likes of Henry Hooker chairman of the race committee for 17 years and George Sloan, an amateur jockey whose father, John, was also a cofounder of the Iroquois. Lazenby’s brother, David, was also a trainer and former jockey.
In short, Lazenby’s story is intimately intertwined with the equestrian and foxhunting community. She believes the same could be said for Nashville and the Iroquois Steeplechase.
“I believe that the Iroquois is part of Nashville’s roots. Every city no matter how big and diversified it becomes have certain traditions that become the fabric of that city. The Iroquois
is one of those events,” Gigi Lazenby said. “For me steeplechasing is a family tradition, that my husband [Ted] and I enjoy together. But even if you don’t know anything about horses, it’s fun: you throw your pick in a hat, you have a little friendly competition, and you enjoy the day in the company of others. That’s what life is all about.”
For nearly eight decades, the Iroquois Steeplechase has captivated thousands of spectators from near and far with its traditions, pageantry and the energy of the sport. For 35 of those years, patrons of the race and its Horsemen’s Foundation have also supported the event’s official beneficiary: the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“When many of our raceday attendees think of the Iroquois, it’s all about the social scene. And that’s great. But at the core of the day, it’s about something bigger, and that’s the young ones who are being served by the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt,” Lazenby said. “We are proud that the Nashville community has helped the Iroquois give more than $10 million to their cause to date.”
A native of Nashville and a graduate of Vanderbilt University, Lazenby is the CEO of Bretagne LLC, an oil and gas production company she founded in 1988. She currently serves on the National Petroleum Council (NPC), an appointment made by the Secretary of Energy. She served as chairman of The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), a Washington, D.C.-based national association that has represented America’s 6,000 independent oil and gas producers from 2011 to 2013, and recently rolled off the board of directors at the American Petroleum Institute (API).
For more information about the Iroquois Steeplechase and its relationship with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, go here.