For years, two of the biggest fall steeplechase meets have bumped heads on the third Saturday in October. With the Far Hills Race Meeting (N.J.) and the International Gold Cup (Va.) refusing to give up the weekend, officials of both have tried to make the best of it, but it’s long been a sore spot among owners, trainers and race goers.
Although it won’t cure the obvious jockey deficit, which was always one of the main complaints about having two important meets on the same day, it appears there might be some benefits to a shared date now that NBC Universal Sports is signing on to cover the two events.
Touting it as “The U.S. Steeplechase Championships,” the National Steeplechase Association is partnering with NBC for a three-year multimedia deal to televise five hours of steeplechase racing beginning at noon (EDT) on Oct. 17.
With $700,000 in purse money between the 12 races, Far Hills will feature the $250,000 Grand National, while the Gold Cup will showcase their signature $50,000 timber stakes. Far Hills agreed to drop their only timber race to allow more entries at the Great Meadow course for the Steeplethon and the timber stakes at the IGC.
The brainchild of NSA Chief Executive Officer Lou Raffetto Jr., this project has been in the works since the beginning of the year. Raffetto was concerned about how to get the two meets on the same page for the sake of the sport.
“We needed cooperation from both sides to work with the TV people,” Raffetto said. “We want to bring the spirit of steeplechasing to more people. There are over 80,000 spectators who will be at both events; this is a wonderful opportunity to get the word out.”