Steeplechasing includes the thrills and speed of Thoroughbred racing at flat tracks. It mixes in the precision of jumping to create a hybrid—like hurdle events in track and field—where the premium is on speed, but the concern is focused squarely on the jumps. Thoroughbred horses, almost all of them converted flat racers, compete in 12 states at 36 National Steeplechase Association stops and at some of the nation's finest racetracks. More than 225 sanctioned steeplechase races—worth a combined $5 million—occur in the U.S. every year.
All steeplechasers are Thoroughbreds whose lineage must be proven with official Jockey Club registration papers. Horses can begin steeplechase careers at age 3. Most steeplechasers competed or still compete in flat races. The ideal steeplechaser has speed, stamina, smarts and enough athletic ability to run and jump at the same time. Steeplechase horses are often larger than flat horses, but it's the size of the fight in the horse that matters—not the size of the horse in the fight.
Training and Racing
Steeplechase trainers are based throughout the Mid-Atlantic, with most concentrated in the Pennsylvania , Maryland , Virginia area. Almost all trainers are based on private farms or training centers, where horses enjoy the outdoors while also exercising and working toward their next racing date. A typical daily workout involves at least 1 ½ miles of galloping. Horses train at full racing speed just once or twice per week. Because of the distances (2-3 miles) involved, steeplechase horses must learn to relax in their races, so they are trained to conserve their energy and save their speed until it's needed.
|700 horses compete in U.S. steeplechase races each year.|
|225 NSA-sanctioned steeplechase races take place at one-day race meets and racetracks each year.|
|100 jockeys take out U.S. steeplechase licenses each year.|
|36 one-day race meets are sanctioned by NSA each spring and fall.|
|6 racetracks will host steeplechase racing on their turf courses this year.|
|Almost $5 million is given away each year in American steeplechase purses. A similar amount is raised by NSA race meets for charities each year.|
|440 wins by jockey Joe Aitcheson, the all-time U.S. win leader. The next highest total is 398 , while the leading active jockey, Chip Miller, has 183 (through March 24, 2006 ).|
|$1,318,868 dollars earned by Lonesome Glory, U.S. steeplechasing's career leader.|
|$833,104 dollars earned by McDynamo, who closed the 2005 season in second place behind Lonesome Glory.|
|$211,755 dollars earned by Pompeyo in 2000, the horse's first year as a steeplechaser.|
|8-18 jumps are in a typical hurdle race.|
|52 inches is the height of a standard U.S. steeplechase fence, called the National Fence. Also called a hurdle.|
|1 million people saw a steeplechase race in the United States last year.|
|37 jump races won by Tuscalee, the all-time leader by wins in the United States.|