AP NEWS

Spring Steeplechase, a tradition in Aiken, returning to Bruce’s Field on Saturday

March 21, 2019

Spectators dressed in brightly-colored outfits will be pouring into Bruce’s Field on Saturday for Aiken County’s biggest sporting event.

The 53rd running of the Aiken Spring Steeplechase could attract a crowd of more than 30,000 based on past attendance figures.

There will be lots of sun and a high temperature of around 69 degrees, according to the forecast from the National Weather Service in Columbia.

Flashy hats and novelty bow ties will be in style.

The Spring Steeplechase “is such a rite of spring in Aiken; it is a tradition that shouldn’t be missed,” said Jessica Miller, who is the event coordinator for the Aiken Steeplechase Association.

Gates will open at 9 a.m., and the post time for the first of the six horse races will be 1 p.m.

“The worst of the traffic will be between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.,” Miller said, so people should plan to arrive early.

Those with reserved parking spaces will be allowed into Bruce’s Field from noon until 4 p.m. Friday to set up tents.

“We think that will be helpful,” Miller said.

New to the Spring Steeplechase will be an activities tent for children. It will be located in the racecourse’s infield in the Village of Shops, which will open at 10 a.m.

“We will have face painting, a kid’s photo booth and games like jumbo bowling,” Miller said. “Kids also will be able to fly kites.”

In addition, the Aiken Spring Steeplechase will be live streamed.

There is a live stream link on the home page of the Steeplechase Association’s website: aikensteeplechase.com.

Attendees unable to see the entire racecourse at Bruce’s Field or those who can’t come to the Spring Steeplechase will be able to view the equine competition on their mobile devices.

“It will give more exposure to steeplechase racing and, hopefully, encourage more patronage in the future,” Miller said.

The Guarantor Tent Party will start at 11 a.m.

Aiken County Council Vice Chairman Andrew Siders will sing the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at 12:30 p.m.

He said he is bringing S.C. Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette with him and that U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., will join them at Bruce’s Field.

Prior to the national anthem, Friesian horses will perform, Miller said.

A carriage parade is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., and there will be hat and crazy pants contests in the Village of Shops at 2:15 p.m.

The hat contest will have most elegant and spring-themed categories.

The Spring Steeplechase will kick off the 2019 season for the National Steeplechase Association, which is based in Maryland and is the governing body for jump racing in North America.

Saturday’s feature event will be the $30,000 Budweiser Imperial Cup, which is the fifth race on the program.

Its post time will be 3:30 p.m.

Eight horses are entered in the Imperial Cup, and they will run 2 miles while leaping over barriers with steel frames that are stuffed with plastic brush.

Patron passes for the Spring Steeplechase will be available for purchase for $40 apiece at Bruce’s Field on Saturday. Children ages 10 and under will get in free.

Powderhouse Polo Field parking will cost $30 per vehicle.

The Aiken Horse Park Foundation’s Bruce’s Field is at 931 Powderhouse Road.