75th Iroquois Steeplechase: Fast Facts About Nashville's Rite Of Spring

 
 

The Iroquois Steeplechase is an iconic sporting event that has been Nashville's rite of spring since 1941, attracting tens of thousands of spectators to watch the best horses and riders in the world race over hurdles on a three-mile turf track! Held the second Saturday of each May at Percy Warner Park, we are Music City's annual celebration of time-honored traditions, Tennessee hospitality and Southern fashions. See below for fast facts about #TNSteeplechase: 

  • Iroquois’ official tagline is “Nashville’s Rite of Spring Since 1941.”
     
  • 2016 marks the 75th year of the Iroquois Steeplechase.
     
  • The Iroquois Steeplechase is run by the nonprofit, 501c3 organization The Volunteer State Horsemen's Foundation. The VSHF’s function is to manage and produce a world-class event, to promote the sport and the spirit of steeplechasing throughout the community, and to use our opportunities to give back to the community.  
     
  • The Iroquois draws an average crowd of 25,000 on race day.
     
  • The Iroquois is the nation’s oldest, continuously-run, weight-for-age steeplechasing event.
     
  • Even under threatening weather conditions – such as the Nashville Flood of 2010  – the Iroquois has run continuously since 1941, only taking one year off during World War II. 
     
  • The Iroquois Steeplechase has a rich history first dating back to the pasture races in Middle Tennessee during the 1930s, creating a legacy that resonates within the Nashville community today.
     
  • The total purses, bonuses and awards of $460,500 for the race day makes the Iroquois Steeplechase the richest event on the National Steeplechase Association (NSA) spring circuit.
     
  • The Iroquois Steeplechase has raised more than $10 million for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt since the hospital was designated its beneficiary in 1981.
     
  • Each year since 2006, a child who has received treatment at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has been selected as the Child Ambassador to further promote and bring awareness to the Iroquois Steeplechase’s cause. Meet our 2016 ambassador here.
     
  • To commemorate 75 years in 2016, the Iroquois Steeplechase created The Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge – a transAtlantic rivalry that includes two of the world's biggest steeplechase races: the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville, and the Cheltenham Festival in England. The ongoing partnership offers a $500,000 bonus challenge to any horse than can win both the Ryanair Group 1 World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and the 75th Anniversary Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes in May (or vice versa, within a 12‐month period). Learn more about the Challenge here.
     
  • The list of Iroquois winners includes the greatest steeplechase horses in America. Six Eclipse Award winners – Flatterer, Lonesome Glory, Correggio, All Gong, Good Night Shirt and Divine Fortune – have won the Iroquois. Several others have competed in the race. 
     
  • When Iroquois  – the namesake of the Nashville race  – became the first American-bred winner of the English Derby in 1881, Wall Street closed temporarily for a celebration.
     
  • The Iroquois Steeplechase grounds were constructed in 1936 as part of a parks improvement project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
     
  • The Iroquois course is regarded as one of the best racing surfaces in the country and was one of the first steeplechase courses to use an irrigation system, which is maintained year-round. The turf is aerated and top-dressed with 640 tons of sand each year, allowing the course to retain moisture and providing cushion to the horses, which has dramatically reduced race injuries in the 15 years since the system’s implementation. 
     
  • The first steeplechase in the U.S. was run in 1834.
     
  • The average speed of a steeplechasing Thoroughbred is 30 mph.
     
  • The average steeplechase horse weighs 1,100 lbs, while the average jockey weighs 140 lbs.
     
  • In the mid-2000s, the Volunteer State Horsemen’s Foundation funded over $160,000 in renovations and repairs to the barn at Percy Warner Park, which houses the horses that come to race at the Iroquois Steeplechase.