Setting the Standard for Nashville Events Since the 1940s

Photo by Westlight Studios

Photo by Westlight Studios


This article was originally published by Thomas Schultz on on April 26, 2017.

Nashville became one of the South’s leading travel destinations when it was named the Country Music Capital of the World during the 1940’s. While country music still plays a significant role in the community, visitors will find the city has also become a hub for all genres of music, cultural attractions, and commerce. Nashville offers something for everyone including clubs on the Honkey Tonk Highway, restaurants and boutiques in Midtown, and more than 10,000 acres of public parks.

The Iroquois Steeplechase has been a mainstay in the community and the region since its inception in 1941. This year’s event will take place May 13, at Percy Warner Park (5 miles southwest of Downtown Nashville). The race is America's oldest steeplechase event, offering the largest purse for top performing riders. Attendees can enjoy horse races, Iroquois Shoppes (vendor area) filled with event collectibles, and a family area with free games and activities for all ages. The Michael Stanley Stick Horse Race offers kids a chance to compete for gift cards. Patrons will also encounter a selection of the city’s finest food trucks, serving up a variety of meals. Proceeds from the event go to a variety of organizations with the primary recipient being the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. We got the chance to interview Libby Cheek, a representative of the event, to learn more about this horse racing spectacular.

RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

LC: The Iroquois Steeplechase has been Nashville's rite of spring since 1941, attracting more than 25,000 spectators annually to watch the best horses and riders in the world race over hurdles and timber on a manicured turf track.

RAL: How long has the event been running?

LC: The first running of the Iroquois Steeplechase was in 1941, and it has run every year since, except in 1945 when it was suspended due to World War II.

RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?

LC: More than 25,000 each year!

RAL: What demographic does your event attract?

LC: The Iroquois Steeplechase boasts more than ten different ticketed areas, with attractions and amenities to appeal to all demographics!

RAL: What makes this event unique?

LC: The Iroquois is the nation’s oldest, continuously-run, weight-for-age steeplechasing event, and is the richest race on the National Steeplechase Association’s spring circuit.

RAL: Take me through a day at the event.

LC: The gates to the race grounds open at 8:00am, and the air begins to buzz with excitement as attendees start to arrive. All vehicles with a parking pass inside the track must be in place by noon (and some even earlier, depending on their location), so the morning consists of spectators driving in, locating their area, finding their friends and setting up their tents. The first race of the day is at 1:00pm, concluding with the seventh race, the Iroquois, around 5:30pm. There are approximately 40-minute breaks between each race.

RAL: What activities will attendees encounter?

LC: Attendees have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities on race day! There is a hat contest every year, where a panel of judges award patrons who are wearing the most impressive and creative headpieces!

For the children, the annual Michael Stanley Stick Horse Race is a time-honored tradition in which children race others in their age group for the chance to win gift cards donated by local retailers and restaurants.  

The Iroquois Shoppes are retail tents set up in two areas on the race grounds. All ticket holders can access the vendors to browse a wide variety of goods and Steeplechase souvenirs.

RAL: Will there be any dining options?

LC: We have several food trucks on the grounds on race day for those who didn’t bring their tailgating fare, or ate it too quickly!

New this year is the Fox Den -- a hospitality tent located in the middle of the infield -- from which ticket holders can access food, craft beer and wine all day. Tickets to the Fox Den are $75 apiece and can be purchased as an add-on to those who have a tailgating space, infield tickets, or tickets to the box seats. Tickets to the premium areas, such as Hunt Club, Hospitality Village, and Skybox Suites include all-day catering and beverage service in those areas.

RAL: What does this event mean to the community?

LC: The Iroquois Steeplechase is run by the nonprofit 501c3 organization, the Volunteer State Horsemen's Foundation, which manages and produces a world-class event and promotes the sport and spirit of steeplechasing throughout the community.

Through the Iroquois Steeplechase, the foundation supports several local organizations by way of proceeds. Since being designated as a primary beneficiary, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt has received more than $10 million from The Volunteer State Horsemen's Foundation. Our organization also supports Friends of Warner Parks and other deserving nonprofits and charities.

RAL: Why should people come to your event?

LC: The Iroquois Steeplechase has been dubbed “Nashville’s Rite of Spring since 1941” and for a good reason -- it is a “must see” event for locals and visitors alike and all ages are welcome. It’s a popular destination for college reunions, bachelor parties, and a fabulous way to entertain clients, and with an area designated just for families with children under 12, it’s kid-friendly, too! Ticket prices range from $20 for General Admission and $85 for tailgating singles to luxurious VIP packages that scale in price, including the premium, climate-controlled Skybox Suites.

For more information about the Iroquois Steeplechase, please visit the event website.