history

The Iroquois Steeplechase has been Nashville's rite of spring since 1941, a time-honored tradition of Middle Tennesseans for seven decades. Its rich history dates back to the pasture races in Middle Tennessee during the 1930s, creating a legacy that resonates within the Nashville community.

Ernest K. Hardison, Jr.

2009 Inductee

Ernest K. Hardison, Jr. won the Iroquois Steeplechase in 1944 when he rode “Bank Robber,” after being bested by Calvin Houghland, on “Frederick II”, the preceding year. From H. Hooker’s Fox, Fin & Feather (pg. 101), “Perhaps my favorite memory from the Iroquois Steeplechase…is the year when Ernest Hardison rode ‘Bank Robber’. Sloan was announcing the race that day for WSM radio. When the horses came to the last jump, Bank Robber was challenging and Sloan was overtaken with competitiveness, he began screaming into the microphone, “Come on Bank Robber! Come on Bank Robber!!” and so he cheered him down the stretch. The crowd roared with excitement and then laughter as we realized the announcer was bringing home his own horse, the winner.” It could not be better stated than as published in the 1983 Steeplechase program: Dedication to the Senior Stewards “evolution from foxhunters to Steeplechasers” – “Ernest Hardison, Jr.’s victory aboard Bank Robber was but one triumph in a long series of brilliant efforts as an owner, trainer and rider of Steeplechasers. His ability to find the key to a horse and call on its best down to the wire became a hallmark of the affable Hardison’s style. There was that in him which needed no spur and his horses sensed it. Not so many Phi Beta Kappa’s make foxhunters, much less Steeplechasers so it is the more remarkable to see his exploits as a canny competitor which have so enriched our racing scrapbooks.” He helped support one of Nashville’s premiere events for 44 years. His family remembers him working hard to lose weight for the races and how much it scared his wife, Nancy, when he raced. Ernest also won the flat race aboard his own horse, “Tedder”, the day he won the Iroquois. With fond and loving memories of their favorite Steeplechaser, equestrian, scholar, and gentleman, the Hardison family continues today to support the Iroquois Steeplechase and Monroe Carell, Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.