The Florida Horse Park in Ocala is hosting a point-to-point event on March 5 that, if successful, could become a sanctioned event at the National Steeplechase Association track.
More than a decade has passed since the last steeplechase was run in Florida. The Little Everglades’ meeting, in Dade City, had a checkered history, starting as a National Steeplechase Association assisted point-to-point in 2000 and continuing with and without sanctions through 2009. thing constant though. The beautiful location in sunny Florida gave riders stuck in wintry regions something to look forward to as a starting point for the coming season.
On March 5, show jumping will return to the state in a point-to-point format — with support and guidance from both the NSA and the Temple Gwathmey Steeplechase Foundation — at Florida Horse Park in Ocala. The encounter is the brainchild of former NSA jockey Archie Macauley and his partner Jessica Berry. It has also received strong support from Mason Lampton, who runs the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia, and whose family has a rich history in the sport, along with Michael Hankin and Brown Advisory, one of the leading sponsors of steeplechasing. .
Preliminary plans call for a card of six races, three over hurdles, with a 12:30 p.m. post time. Registrations close on Monday, March 1, at 11:00 AM. For ticketing and other information, visit www.Thefloridasteeplechase.com.
“We stand behind the gathering and will support it in any way we can to create an exciting new event,” said NSA Chairman Al Griffin. “The goal is to put it on the calendar in 2023 as a well-sanctioned encounter. For now it is a great opportunity for trainers and owners to train younger horses and for us to view the facility.”
Berry, who is the vice president of the meet, said the seeds for the event were planted when she and Macauley befriended eventer Buck Davidson, who sits on the Horse Park board. Davidson told the couple that the park would like to host a steeplechase and put them in touch with its director, Jason Reynolds. Reynolds invited the couple over for a visit. The team began assembling the pieces in early 2020, aiming to schedule it in mid-November after the Charleston Steeplechase.
Then Covid struck, putting the project on hold until last fall.
“The Horse Park had available the first weekend of March,” Berry said. “We knew it was ambitious to try and get this done in about three months. But we also thought it was a good date because it was at the beginning of the show jumping season, it was still in the winter season of the other equestrian disciplines in Ocala and it was just before the 2-year-old Ocala Breeders’ Sale. It started to sink in that this was really happening when we launched the website in December, and from then on we haven’t had time to ask any questions about it, because we’ve worked really hard to organize it.”
Berry said the local community was very supportive, as was the Horse Park itself.
“They did everything they could to make this happen,” she said. “Jason and his team used their machinery and expertise to help us design, create and maintain the track. The Ocala Chamber of Commerce was also one of our first points of contact, and Louisa Barton, Director of Equine Engagement, helped us immensely by introducing us to members of the local equine community and having us at her show to talk about the event talk back. in Dec. The local businesses and riders we spoke to are all looking forward to the event and we hope for a great turnout and to establish the steeplechase as an annual fixture on the community’s calendar.”
NSA riders have also expressed their interest.
“Every owner and trainer we’ve talked to so far has supported the event and many have already offered to bring runners along,” Berry added. “There are also some former steeplechase riders living in the area who are eager to join in and participate. In addition, we are also grateful for the support of the Temple Gwathmey Foundation, the NSA and SOTA (Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association).”
The steeplechase track is situated within the existing cross country track. It is fully irrigated, about 1 1/16 miles around, and slightly undulating. It is not an oval, but there is a long straight leading up to the stretch which provides a great vantage point for spectators to view the final fence and race to the wire.
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