Equestrians in the 17th century British Isles would race cross-country to the tallest church steeple, a tradition that has evolved into one of the most popular styles of modern horse racing over hurdles. Now the two most iconic steeplechase races in the United States and the United Kingdom are offering a $500,000 bonus to any horse that wins both races within a year.
The Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge is straightforward: win first place in both the Ladbrokes Group 1 World Hurdle on March 17, 2016, at Cheltenham Racecourse in England and the Grade 1 Calvin Houghland Iroquois Hurdle Stakes as part of the 75th Iroquois Steeplechase on May 14, 2016, in Nashville, or vice versa, within 12 months. Both are three-mile races on turf over fences.
“Throughout modern history, a number of great horses have crossed the Atlantic to race on these two historic courses, and we want to promote that international competition,” said Iroquois Steeplechase Chairman Dwight Hall, a former jockey and board member of the National Steeplechase Association. “This is a new tradition with significant implications – a successful horse could earn more than $850,000 by winning both races, considering their individual purses and the Brown Advisory Challenge bonus.”
Over the last 25 years, a handful of American horses and riders have competed with credit in the United Kingdom, including George Sloan, who became the only jockey from the United States to win the British Amateur Championship in the 1970s. The legendary gelding Flatterer, a four-time consecutive Eclipse Award winner, ran second at Cheltenham in the 1980s, and Blythe Miller on Lonesome Glory won at both Cheltenham and Iroquois in the 1990s.
More recently, the Calvin Houghland-owned Pierrot Lunaire came over from England to win the Iroquois Steeplechase in 2009, on his way to winning the Eclipse Award in 2012. The Iroquois race is named for a horse that was the first American to win the English Derby in 1881, before retiring to stud at General William Harding’s Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. All but a handful of horses that have won the Iroquois since 1941 descended from the race’s namesake.
The Cheltenham Festival has become England’s largest sporting event, attracting nearly 250,000 spectators to its annual four-day meet in March. The Challenge is an opportunity to attract more American horses to compete there, and to offer English, Irish and European horses a larger opportunity on the world stage. Full terms and conditions on the promotion will be announced soon.
“Steeplechasing in 2016 is an international sport, and our objective is to continue attracting the best horses in the world to compete at Cheltenham,” said Cheltenham Race Course Chairman Robert Waley-Cohen. “Thanks to Brown Advisory and their tireless support, we are now in a position to collectively offer a significant challenge to a winner of both races. This is an uncommon award, but one we feel is appropriate for the top echelon of steeplechase racing.”
The Baltimore-based Brown Advisory has long been a sponsor of steeplechase races both in America and at Cheltenham, and the company’s CEO, Mike Hankin, is a respected owner known for fielding competitive horses on both sides.
“The course in Nashville is exceptionally well kept, irrigated and professionally maintained year-round for the annual Iroquois race meet,” Hankin said. “This Challenge is attainable, and we look forward to issuing it directly to the Ladbrokes winner at Cheltenham in March of next year.”
For more information on the Brown Advisory Iroquois Cheltenham Challenge, go to www.iroquoissteeplechase.org .More Events Here