All of the inside scoop on Virginia's biggest day of Steeplechase racing -- the Virginia Gold Cup. Hey, 50,000 of your closest friends can't be wrong! Do you have your tickets yet?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Warmest holiday wishes from everyone at the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Horses and jockeys clear a hurdle during the Conditional Novices Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby racecourse at Wetherby, England, Friday, Nov. 2, 2007.

(AP Photo/John Giles-pa)

Monday, October 22, 2007


Arthur Arundel's Seeyouattheevent (pictured right in a photo by Tracy A. Woodward) won the feature race -- the International Gold Cup.

For a great photo essay courtesy of the Loudoun Extra and the Washington Post, go to:
For some more blog love and an awesome lobster bisque recipe along with every gin drinkers dream (a bucket of the stuff...), go to:

A good time was had by all!

Friday, October 19, 2007


Sarah Meyer Walsh's “The District Domestic” is a blog designed "to share my passion for incredible food, beautiful days in the garden and fine home keeping." In her “spare” time, she runs Haute Papier, a couture stationery studio in Washington, DC.

She also knows a first class social event when she sees one!

The District Domestic featured the IGC earlier this week...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Hey, I don't let everybody in on the inside information I get as a jockey, but here's something you should know: Saturday, the weather geniuses say it's going to be sunny and 72 degrees. I don't want to get caught up in Weather Channel hyperbole, but that sounds almost perfect for a day at the races...

Perfect for the horses, perfect for the jockeys, perfect for a tailgate...Perfect.

Who's with me?

Monday, October 15, 2007


There was some excitement in the Gold Cup office the other day when one of Britney Spears' "people" called in looking for free tickets to the International Gold Cup coming up this Saturday. There was a bit of scuffling about until it was verified that the caller was legit and was, in fact, representing Spears.

A quick meeting was held of everyone in the office, and the vote was 11-0. Well, the guy delivering the water hemmed and hawwed for a few minutes, but we told him if he wanted to vote he had to pull the trigger.

He voted NO.

So did everybody else.

Maybe next year.


Here's how this goes...You get a racehorse and you want to name it after one of your buddies or somebody famous. The registry -- The Jockey Club -- will let you name it Alvin Contradine, but they won't let you name him Bradd Pitt or George Clooney or Tom Brady. They most certainly will NOT let you name it Oprah Winfrey.

In order to give a Thoroughbred racehorse a famous persons name, you have to get permission from said famous person. In less of course, you hedge your bet just a bit...

Enter Oprah Winney. We don't know if her owners got permission from media mogul Oprah Winfrey or not, but Winfrey will pay tribute to her (almost) equine namesake next Tuesday, October 23, when The Oprah Winfrey Show runs a segment on the top filly sprinter Oprah Winney.

The segment is expected to include footage from Oprah Winney's victory earlier this year in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park over in Maryland as well as scenes from last year's Breeders' Cup World Championships. The fleet Rick Dutrow trainee is scheduled to make her next start in the inaugural running of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on October 26 at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. (ESPN2, 4:00-6:00 p.m., ET)
All this is great, and contratry to how this usually goes. Typically, if you name a horse after one of your friends or a celeb, they can't outrun a fat man uphill.

Way to go, Oprah!

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The Fall Golf Cup is just 10 days away, so it’s time to get serious about the wardrobe. It’s been a little bit hard to think about what to wear on a spectacular fall afternoon when the recent weather has seemed like July.

And then there was today…Break out the tweed! This Thursday a.m. awoke cool and brisk, and sort of…autumn like. It’s about time. Of course, the International Gold Cup is always a little more difficult to handicap in terms of weather since the third Saturday in October can be 55 or 80 – one just never knows.

However, just like the spring, keep in mind those famous words of rocker Joe Jackson – “You Gotta Look Sharp.” Trade in the sun dress for something a little bit warmer. Guys, hang onto the sport coat…it looked good in the Spring and it will continue to do so in the Fall while keeping you, the date you brought, or the date you just met warm. Tweed is good. It being fall with pumpkins and mums, brown seems to be popular. Just look at the horses.

If you’re a child, you can wear a costume. A horse costume is a good call. If you are older than eleven or twelve such an outfit will only scare people. If you must wear such a thing be sure to pin a sign on your chest that says “Lost a Bet.”

Like the spring and the world famous Virginia Gold Cup, hats are important. But spring hats and summer hats are different as most of you know.

Be creative, it’s all in good fun!


So what is the difference between the two race meets -- the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup? Well there are a few very subtle differences that you can best determine by attending each race. However, from a big picture perspective -- and big picture being about a fun day -- they are pretty much the same. The sun is in a slightly different position in the sky, there is probably a 10/15 degree weather variable, and a few more clothes may or may not be needed.

All and all, the smiles look pretty much the same.


THE OPERATIVE WORD IS COOL...It's just a cool picture of two horses going over a big jump on a spectacular October aftenoon.

Will you be there?

Hope so.

Friday, September 28, 2007


Here's how you impress people at your International Gold Cup tailgate: Start polishing up on what is happening in the sport of steeplechasing.

Last weekend Sonny Via's Good Night Shirt came off a 45 day vacation to win the inaugural Lonesome Glory Stakes at Belmont Park. Yes, that's the same Belmont where they run the third and final leg of flat racing's Triple Crown. The Vias are nice people who live in Free Union down by Charlottesville.

Lonesome Glory was a champion steeplechaser who had his retirement party right here at Great Meadow (stuff like that wows 'em every time, you know the details!).

The race had a purse of $168,400, so folks were taking it rather seriously. Ernie Oare's EMO Stables' Orison finished second. Mr. Oare is also a nice man and he lives in Warrenton, the quaint little town just down the road from Great Meadow.

A horse named Preemptive Strike was third.

You can make up the rest. Who's gonna know?


OK, let's get this straight up front. Part of the allure of the International Gold Cup is the spectacular fall foliage, the wonderful fall weather, the beautiful women, the handsome guys, all the great tailgates and some world class horse racing.

The other wonderful part of the allure is knowing so little about the actual racing part that you are never inclined to scream when something goes wrong. If the jockey you pull for does something stupid, unlike in OTHER SPORTS, you won't be bothered simply because you probably won't notice this little blunder. If you're horse is having an off day, how will you know? It's all good.

On a beautiful day in the country, it will all seem like it's going swimmingly...Think how much nicer that is than attending a sporting event with a negative outcome littered with decisions being made by overpaid knuckleheads...Does this sound familiar?

Oh, and you don't have to wear any really ugly clothes either...

We thought you would agree...Do you have your International Gold Cup tickets yet?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Oh yeah, we already did that...However:


The Virginia Gold Cup Association announced today that riders from across Europe will compete in the upcoming 70th Running of the International Gold Cup on Saturday, October 20, for the Fegentri World Championship . The jockeys are official members of the International Federation of Amateur Riders (FEGENTRI). As amateur riders, they come from varied backgrounds and have full time professions such as banking, high technology, doctors, dentists and lawyers. Some students also compete. All are united by a common passion for horseracing and an addiction to the adrenaline rush they get from the speed.

(Of course, they are also united by being a little bit crazy, yes?)

The International Gold Cup, presented by Porsche of North America, has a long-standing history of international involvement. One of the most prestigious timber races in the country, the event includes seven races timber, brush, and the flat. Attracting the finest jump-race contenders in the United Sates and Europe, the International Gold Cup presents purses (prize money) totaling over $175,000. Pre-race festivities, including Jack Russell terrier races and a musical ride demonstration by the U.S. Park Police, add to the genteel character and family enjoyment of an autumn day in Virginia horse country.

New this year, the International Gold Cup is extremely proud to host a Porsche Sports Car Exhibition, presented by Porsche Club of America and the Washington, D.C. area Porsche dealers, will feature an exciting display of vintage and current model Porsches. Porsche enthusiasts will be on hand to share their passion for and knowledge of these gorgeous exotics. So, there is horse power both on the field and off the field.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Virginia's fall steeplechase season is rapidly approaching, do you know where your plaid is?

The first event is Sept. 15 - Thornton Hill Hounds Point-to-Point, followed by the new Blue Ridge Hunt Fall Races Sept. 22.

Post time for Thornton Hill is 12:30 p.m.; races include timber, hurdles and turf along with a hound race. The Thornton Hill course is just south of Sperryville in Rappahannock County. Details are online: .

The Blue Ridge races run Sept. 22 starting at 1 p.m. at historic Woodley Farm south of Berryville. Races include timber, hurdles and turf. Check the Web site for more information: .

These races give horsemen the opportunity to tune up for the rich National Steeplechase Association fall season. NSA races in Virginia include the Sept. 30 Foxfield Fall Races near Charlottesville, Oct. 6 and 7 Virginia Fall Races in Middleburg, Oct. 13 Morven Park Races in Leesburg, Oct. 21 INTERNATIONAL GOLD CUP RACE at Great Meadow, Oct. 28 Steeplechase at Oak Ridge south of Charlottesville and the Nov. 3 Montpelier Races near Orange.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Running and jumping on the lead for 4 miles, timber veteran Salmo won the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup May 5 at Great Meadow. Salmo is a homegrown Virginia-bred produced by Sara Collette at her and husband Bruce’s Pageland Farm in Casanova. Salmo’s dam, Melanta by Vast Empire, is also a Pageland homebred.
The 11-year-old son of steeplechase sire Northern Baby went to the lead at the start, maintained the advantage with superb jumping over the 22-fence course and repelled a stiff challenge from VTA member Harold Via, Jr.’s Mr Bombastic in the stretch to win by a head. Chip Miller rode the winner for trainer Jack Fisher. Ghost Valley was third and Arthur “Nick” Arundel’s Seeyouattheevent was fourth.

The world's first timber race with a six-figure purse, the Gold Cup featured five major contenders in contention at the last fence. Salmo, Mr Bombastic, Ghost Valley, Bubble Economy and Seeyouattheevent were all in with a chance. Bubble Economy fell and Salmo and Mr Bombastic surged away toward the wire.

Colette produced Melantha from the *Zabeg mare Flower Bow. Flower Bow was the dam of 11 foals, eight to race and five winners including $72,488 winner North Station and $42,974 winner Fairfield Joe. Flower Bow was a half- sister to stakes winner Turma-Now who won the Arch Ward Stakes and placed in the Hyde Park Stakes and the Futurity Trial Stakes. The colt by Tooley also set a new track record at Gulfstream Park. The extended family incudes Grade 1 winner Wedge Shot and the stakes winners Pitching Wedge and Arctic Search.

Collette was there when Salmo was foaled. “He was enormous, but had this athletic coordination. I always had the feeling he was an extraordinary horse,” said Collette.

Salmo, aside from being by Northern Baby the sire of steeplechase champions Highland Bud and Warm Spell, never raced until he was a five-year-old in 2001. He only made three turf starts on the flat at Colonial Downs and Pimlico before setting his sights exclusively on the jump meets. He has always liked the course at Great Meadow, breaking his maiden there in 2003 as a seven-year-old. He also was third in the 2004 International Gold Cup to Chinese Whisper and Joe at Six.

Collette sold Salmo to Irv Naylor following his maiden victory at Great Meadow. Acting on the advice of Kasie Kinglsey, the mother of Naylor’s then trainer Arch Kingsley, Naylor paid what Collette called a huge price “since I really didn’t want to sell him.” Naylor agreed, and the rest is history.
Now under new silks, timber racing continues to agreed with the now 11-year-old Salmo. He won the Winterthur Bowl and the Radnor Hunt Cup in April and May of 2006, and he prepped for his Gold Cup win by running second to Ghost Valley in the Middleburg Hunt Cup at the Middleburg Spring Races at Glenwood Park this April.

“Everybody longs to win the Gold Cup,” Collette told the Fauquier Times-Democrat after the race. “He (Salmo) needs to be a happy horse to run his best, and I think Jack has him happy,” she added.

Saturday, May 5, 2007


What are you doing on the internet? There are only two places you should be today. One is pictured above -- the Gold Cup, and the other is pictured below -- the Kentucky Derby.
You need to get dressed, or you might miss something.

Friday, May 4, 2007


…you are in the wrong place.

How do you get to Great Meadow and the Virginia Gold Cup? From DC/Northern Virginia get on Interstate 66 and drive until you no longer see ANY buildings. We're talking NONE. Don't be scared, it's OK.

If you have a South Rail pass, get off at the Gainesville exit and take 29-211 to Warrenton. In Warrenton, turn right on 17 North. Go 8 miles and look for lots of policeman telling you where to park. You can’t miss. If you have a NORTH RAIL pass stay on 66 all the way to Exit28 Marshall. Take 17 south for 3 miles. You will be tempted to take Exit31 The Plains, but don’t. It doesn’t work.

Also, be advised that Nissan Pavilion in Bristow is hosting the WMZQ Fest 2007 on the same day. That means more traffic in Gainesville, so plan accordingly. If you take a wrong turn and see LOTS of cowboy hats, you are in the wrong place.

Drive safely, and we will see you tomorrow.


By now you should have figured out what you are going to wear...

Here is one last minute tip: DON'T WEAR THIS. For starters, who knew they even made black metalic duct tape? Secondly, the taped-up face is gonna scare, your friends, your date, your spouse, Homeland Security, you name it.

Bad idea, OK?

Finally, your tan lines are going to make you look like a Haloween pumpkin.

Get back in your closet and try again.

Thursday, May 3, 2007


Here's how we handicap the 82nd running of the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup (for recreational purposes only, of course):

3 to 1 – GHOST VALLEY –This one comes from the First Family of jump racing being owned by George Strawbridge’s Augustin Stable. Sanna Hendriks trains. Career earnings over timber $77,400. Ghost Valley, pictured right, has made 18 starts over timber and been in the money all but once. He most recently won the Middleburg Hunt Cup. October 2006, he won the Gold Cup’s sister race, the $50,000 International Gold Cup.

4 to 1 – BUBBLE ECONOMY – Does Saluter ring any bells? How about Jack Fisher? Bubble Economy has lifetime earnings of $127,000. He won the Little Grand National last time out on April 21 by 3.5 lengths. Prior to that, he was second in the My Lady’s Manor a week earlier, and back in March he won the open timber race at Green Spring.

5 to 1 – NO FAST MOVES – The Kinross-Morris combo wins jump races like Tiger Woods wins golf tournies. No Fast Moves ($42,900) was second in his only 2007 prep race at the Fairfax Point-to-Point beaten four lengths by Fields of Omagh. Last year at Iroquois, he was second in a $75,000 timber stake, and the race prior to that he was second in the My Lady’s Manor. He likes to be second.

7 to 1 – MR. BOMBASTIC (GER) – Nizza pferd! Mr. Bobastic has won $58,300 and was recently third to Fappa Fire and Bubble Economy at My Lady’s Manor. One week earlier, he won the Lady Rider Timber race at Elkridge-Harford Point-to-Point. In his last start of 2006, Mr. Bombastic won the New Jersey Hunt Cup at Far Hills. Question is can he win this far below the Mason-Dixon line? Jack Fisher trains.

10 to 1 – FIELDS OF OMAGH – He doesn’t like his races to close together. He won the International Gold Cup in 2005, but then only wandered out of his stable three times in 2006. Ah heck, he just needed some rest. After a cushy five plus months off, Fields of Omagh ($43,800) got his game on and won the open timber race at the Fairfax Hunt Point-to-Point three weeks ago. He is owned and trained by Randy Rouse who knows his stuff.

12 to 1 – SALMO – Salmo ($49,900), pictured right, is another Jack Fisher trainee. He was recently second to Bubble Economy at Middleburg. Last year, he won the Radnor Hunt Cup.

12 to 1 – IRON COUNTRY XMAS – Iron Country Xmas is trained by Doug Fout, and he has won $30,900. ICX was third in The My Lady Manor Stakes and prior to that he won the open Rokeby Bowl at Piedmont. Prior to that, he was on vacation for almost three years. Nice work if you can get it.

15 to 1 – FAPPA FIRE – Last time out Fappa Fire ($29,000), pictured left, beats Bubble Economy, so why doesn’t he have better odds? Excellent question, grasshopper. Seems as Fappa Fire beat Bubble Economy over three miles, but the experts think he won’t cotton to that last mile of the four mile Gold Cup. Sort of like Rosie to Donald Trump, if you get my meaning?

30 to 1 – THE REST OF THE FIELD -- ROSBRIAN, SEEYOUATTHEEVEN, PATRIOT’S PATH, MR. LIBERATOR and J. ALFRED PRUFROCK – Rosbrian ($81,150) hasn’t won yet this year, but was third in the open timber race at Green Spring. Seeyouattheevent ($13,500) has only been out once in 2007, finishing third in a $20,000 timber allowance at the Carolina Cup races. He won two timber races last spring for trainer Jack Fisher and owner Arthur Arundel. Both of those boys know their way around the Gold Cup course, so don’t be fooled.

Patriot's Path has one third in five career starts and $5,350 in earnings. His entry into a $100,000 race is a reach. But his trainer, Bruce Haynes, is no dummy, so the wager is he thinks he will like the distance and the going. Mr. Liberator ($9,000) is another with limited experience. However, this one has at least won a race – the $15,000 maiden timber at My Lady’s Manor. Owner, trainer and rider Conrad Somers has decided to take a swing at the big boys with J. Alfred Prufrock. “J. Al”, as his friends call him, is undefeated in 2007 going three for three. He won the Amateur Highweight Timber race at My Lady’s Manor as well as the Heavy Weight Timber races at Brandywine Hills and Cheshire Point-to-points. Maybe J. Al has a little “Rudy” in him, who knows?

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


10. I can’t believe you told me to wear these high heels.
9. I left the car right here…
8. Man, I wish I had a golf cart – they’re chick magnets!
7. Nice hat!
6. The brown horse won the race! (Oh yeah, they’re all brown.)
5. What time is kick off?
4. Gold Cup? I thought this was the Virginia audition for American Idol?
3. I don’t need sunblock. I NEVER get burned.
2. That jockey is cute! Which one? The thin one. (Oh yeah, they’re all thin.)

...and the number one thing you might overhear at Saturday's Virginia Gold Cup:

1. Is that a horse in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


Quick question: How many places can you wear an extravagant hat without looking really silly? As a matter fact, how many parties can you wear a hat to period – and we’re not talking about the batting helmet with a beer can on either side!

The Virginia Gold Cup, like that little race down in Kentucky on the same day – what’s the name of that thing? Oh yeah, the Kentucky Derby, that’s it…Like the Kentucky Derby, the Gold Cup has become a place where hats are considered an important part of the fashion parade. Almost everybody has a hat they never wear because they haven’t found the right opportunity. Eureka! Opportunity found.

So get in that closet and locate that great hat you’ve been saving for a special event, or head out on an expedition in search of a nouveau chapeau. Think outside the hat box, and go for it.

Don’t be shy. Enter the Hat Contest held on Members Hill at 2:15. We know what you’re thinking, “How will I get there if I’m at a tailgate on the North or South Rail, and how will I remember 2:15?” No problem, the ticket takers at Members Hill will let any and all Hat Contest contestants up to Members Hill at the appropriate time. No special ticket required.

As far as remembering the time, you have two options. You can listen to the P.A. announcer, and he will tell you when to come to Members Hill for the contest. Your other option is to write it on your hand, maybe in a foreign language just to be festive. For example, take a Sharpie and across the back of your hand write in French “2:15 Concours de Chapeau.” Or how about in German “2:15 Hutwettbewerb” or in Italian “2:15 Concorso del Cappello.” Look, if you're going for the ultimate conversation starter or reminder go exotic, how about: “2:15 состязание шлема” (Russian) or “2:15 帽子のコンテスト”(Japanese).

The contest has several categories – best looking, most outrageous, etc. No, we don't know what #46 was thinking when he got dressed. Who knows?

There’s even a category for kids. If you win, you get a nice prize from Leesburg Premium Outlets.

So grab that great hat, and we will see you on Saturday.


Please help.

While doing research for the post above, we made an unfortunate discovery of a group of hat models, several of which are pictured here. It seems as though these poor waif-like creatures are in desperate need of 1) some food, 2) some sun, and 3) some help with their makeup. If you visit web pages that sell these hats, you will see hundreds of these pale, pencil thin, hard working models.

Should you see any of these poor unfortunates ladies wandering about on Saturday at the Gold Cup, please take a moment to stop and give them 1) a ham biscuit, and 2) some eyeliner and lipstick.

It’s frightening to think about how many pizzas have gone to waste just so this mannequinesque group can remain gainfully employed.

Friday, April 27, 2007


“Damn it, you’re gonna watch a race!” So says the Director of Racing, Don Yovanovich. He may have said more than “damn,” but this is, for the most part, a family blog.

Here’s how this goes. Everybody has said, “I went to the Gold Cup and I never saw a horse.” Har-Har. It’s an old joke. Let it go.

There are wide cross sections of groups at the Gold Cup with various levels of interest. There is the "horsey" set that actually cares what happens. Usually because they know somebody involved with one of the horses or, better yet, they know one of the horses. Then there’s the “non-horsey” set who simply finds the racing action fascinating. Then there is the “interested to be polite” group. They pay attention to the races so as not to offend their host or hostess. After that you have the “modestly interested” set who will watch a race if they happen to be looking in the right direction when the race starts. And, finally, there is the “don’t care” group. Hey, you “don’t care” people, I’m talking to YOU!

Fact is there are six, maybe seven, races with purses in excess of $240,000. The Gold Cup is now run for a record purse of $100,000. That’s real money.

People spend a large part of their lives looking for the “right horse” that can jump 23 big immovable obstacles while running four miles. The horses can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000. Trainers spend years and years honing their skills to condition these horses properly, and the jockeys basically risk life and limb.

So could you just look out there for one race? Just one…C’mon, stop socializing and smell the roses…er, uh…I mean, the horses.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


You know there has to be a story behind this. It couldn’t just be as simple as somebody showed up one day with a picnic basket and a jug of wine and the tailgate was born. Nope. Not so fast.

Actually, according to, tailgating dates back to the very first college football game between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869, when fans traveled to the game by carriage, grilling sausages and burgers at the "tail end" of the horse. Today tailgating is a part of most athletic events, especially college football. Now the folks at Yale say it all began there in 1904. Their story says there was a train made up of private railcars that brought fans to a Yale game. The train stopped at the station and the fans had to walk the distance to the stadium. When they arrived at the stadium, they were hungry and thirsty. So the idea was born to bring along a picnic hamper of food for the next game. And so Tailgating was born. This story has been verified as absolute truth hundreds of times by…well, you know, Yale.

And so folks showed up to eat before and after the game. Then some genius invented lights. Sweet move for the tailgaters! The towering electric lamps and night football games brought about the practice of hosting all day football parties at fans’ homes where they would congregate and leisurely hop from house-to-house as the evening kickoff approached. Night games were a critical social development since they allowed for men and women to dress up. Women commonly wore their best dresses adorned with team-colored corsages while men frequently donned coats, ties and the now-forgotten, but once-popular derbies and fedoras. Is any of this starting to remind you of the Gold Cup?

These festive pre-game jaunts continued unabated for 40 years or more until daytime college football on television pre-empted the house parties that were previously the norm. The alternative to not house partying was simple to the legions of football fans that had been weaned on pre-game football parties: Take the party to the stadium!

Now when people started steeplechasing out in the middle of a field on a sunny day it only made sense to have a picnic. Since one needed a car to reach said field and since the card of eight races or so made time for lunch and a snack, the tailgate was a natural fit.

We like to think of the Gold Cup as the biggest tailgate in Virginia. Maybe in the U.S., but we’d get some argument from the Gators and Bulldogs who say the Florida-Georgia football game in Jacksonville is the world’s largest. Ok, their fans show up and start the party on Wednesday for a Saturday game. They win.

But the Gold Cup is still a great tailgate and here’s a few ways to go about it.

BASIC TAILGATE: The main beauty of the tailgate is that it comes in all shapes and sizes. The starter model is the basic tailgate. All you need is a car, a bucket of chicken and a cooler. Chairs and a boom box are optional. Food, drink, transportation. Done.

MODERATELY SOPHISTICATED: The moderately sophisticated tailgate is the trickiest. You want it to look really nice, but not too nice so people won’t think you are trying to hard to be cool. Basically some simple decorations will do. A nice table cloth and some pretty flowers are a must. But the critical element is good food. Don’t forget the staples – ham biscuits, deviled eggs, fried chicken and some type of sweets. Try not to be tempted to utilize a theme.

SOPHISTICATED: This is where you pull out all the stops. You literally decorate the tailgate utilizing a theme. You plan the props, the decorations, the flowers and the food to the nth degree. You labor over this for weeks. A labor of love, of course. You have the finest booze, fancy champagne, imported beer, fancy hors d'oeuvres, catered lunch – the works. Then you enter the Tailgate contest and win a great prize! Finally, there’s the:

FREELOADER: Just show up looking good and wearing your best smile. Amble up, linger, and hopefully since we are still in the South per se, some polite host, hostess or guest will offer you something thinking you know the other host, hostess or guest(s). There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of good ‘ole Southern hospitality. You will get a chance to return the favor next year.

Of course, there are about 1,000 variations on these four themes, so come on out and get your tailgate on!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


A horserace changed my life. Let me tell you the story.

I had never been to a horserace in my life when I went to the Virginia Gold Cup in 1970. I went with a group, and I was surprised to see that there were bookies there, taking bets out in the open. While those days are gone, that day no police bothered them, and I thought it was great fun to place a bet. I don't recall the bookies ever having to pay me back, however, but, my interest was piqued. I went to the racetrack that summer and bet on some horses. I cashed my first ticket that day, and that made me think that there had to be a way to make money at this. I started studying every book I could find, and I went to the races every time I was home from law school.

Taking the Daily Racing Form for one month while I should have been studying law, I saw a tiny ad for tickets to the Preakness, the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown. On the third Saturday in May, 1973, my best friend and I went to Pimlico and saw the most incredible performance I've ever seen. When Secretariat came past us on the first turn, he was last. Less than a quarter mile later, he was first, and he stayed first the rest of the way. It was dizzyingly impressive, and as he was pulling up, I got down from my chair, turned to my friend and said, "I'd like to have a horse like that someday."

That statement sent my life on to a completely different path from the one I thought I had chosen. After seeing that, practicing law seemed deadly dull, and I gave it up after five years to get into the business of syndicating racehorses. I brought in my family and friends, and many are still in racing over a quarter century later. We endured six years of failures before our stable took off, and then we went everywhere and we beat everybody.

You may think you have your life all planned out. I certainly did. And then something unexpected happens, and your life is never the same again. Many times I've asked myself, "Suppose I had never gone to the Gold Cup. How different would my life be now?"

(George Rowand is the Business Editor of the Fauquier Times Democrat and the author of the book Diary of a Dream: My Journey in Thoroughbred Racing which details George’s career as a racehorse owner. Before trainer Barclay Tagg won the Kentucky Derby with Funny Cide, the best horses he trained belonged to Rowand and his family of syndicate members. Their best was a mare named Miss Josh who won over $500,000.)

Friday, April 20, 2007


By Bob Hilton, Clerk of the Course
Winner 2003, 2005 and 2006
Gold Cup Lawnmower Races

It’s a three man grounds team here at Great Meadow, so for the three weeks prior to the Gold Cup we run at full tilt getting everything ready for the Virginia Gold Cup races. So what does that mean? It means we are mowing grass. And with the weather turning warm this coming weekend, it means we will be mowing and weed-eating until the sun sets each day. Don’t tell us we don’t know how to have a good time!

To get the race course ready, it’s a process. First we mow the new spring grass to about 5 inches to thicken it up. Then, we slowly raise the height up on the race course to 6 or 7 inches to make the perfect cushion for the horses. (We also have our own rain dance here at Great Meadow because it is important that the ground have a certain level of moisture on race day.) So, about two weeks ago, we rolled our irrigation reels out onto the course so they would be ready to irrigate as the weather had been very dry. Sometimes, this process is kind of like getting your car washed on a sunny day, it brings the rain. It worked again this year.

Lots of people ask if we aerate. Fortunately, the girls wearing high heels take care of that for us at the fall and the spring races. Once they figure out that while high heels are fashionable, they aren’t the best answer for steeple chase footwear, we’re going to have even more work on our plate.

There is also the work we do to the jumps, fences and other structures in preparation for race day. We’ve repaired, painted and stained fencelines, jumps and more. The roads are groomed so they are ready to handle the nearly 8,000 cars and buses that will pull through the gates on May 5.

That’s basically the strategic plan for Gold Cup preparations. Lots of work, but you’re worth it. Did I mention that we have to mow? I’m off to draw straws to see who gets to use the John Deere Chopper Snapper today. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


OK, in our first Top Ten post, the #1 reason for attending the Gold Cup was that Sanjaya Malakar won’t be singing the National Anthem. That remains true. However, now that the under-talented but unflappable singer has been voted off Fox’s hit show American Idol, why not kick off the festivities with a song? He’s gotta be better than Rosie!

Malakar was voted off this week, ending an improbable run on the popular reality show. Sanjaya either horrified or captivated millions of viewers depending on your take on such things. Judge Simon Cowell, who’s isn’t known for his charity, was particularly harsh on young Malakar. But Sanjaya, to his credit, was never fazed. In fact, he seemed to enjoy tweaking the star making machine's nose.

Considering his fashion sense, crazy hairdos and irreverent attitude, Sanjaya could probably come up with something really fun for the Gold Cup.

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


All of us at the Virginia Gold Cup offer our thoughts, our prayers and our condolences to everyone touched by the senseless tragedy that occurred Monday at Virginia Tech.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Up front, we all know the Gold Cup can be a big party for many people. Just make sure it isn't too big. If you plan to drink, make sure you have a designated driver. It something we take very seriously, so be smart and work it out before you get here.

Not sure how to go about it? Try this top ten list...

10) See if Lindsay Lohan’s driver is available. Lord knows, he knows how to navigate around trouble.
9) Invite a pregnant woman. Buy her a ticket. Buy her husband and some of their friends tickets. Grovel if necessary.
8) Play rock, paper, driver the night before. Cheat if you must.
7) When was the last time your parents dropped you off and picked you up?
6) Tony Stewart has threatened to retire from NASCAR, maybe you can catch a ride with him.
5) Hitch hike with the guy with the Bud Light and the chainsaw…No, even the guy with the Bud Light and the axe thought that was a bad idea.
4) We don’t ride the bus, you don’t ride the bus, but everybody loves a party bus.
3) Maybe your fifth cousin, the nun, doesn’t have plans on Saturday?
2) Hire somebody -- that ALWAYS works.
1) Volunteer. Step up to the plate, it’s probably your turn.

Friday, April 13, 2007


BEST OF WHAT’S AROUND – The Gold Cup is the best day of fun around. Dave knows that, we know that, now you know that. Score a ticket and get over here. What Would You Say to free tickets. Enter our contest.

PROUDEST MONKEY – You may have the proudest monkey, and we’re down with that Dawg. But, you have to leave the monkey at home. Proud or not. No dogs, cats, birds, snakes, whatever – no pets. It’s not that we don’t love pets ‘cause we do, it’s just too crowded and something might spook a horse and cause an accident. Come early and get your pet fix by watching the Jack Russells race. Be careful, they can get under your feet like Tripping Billies.

ANTS MARCHING – Go ahead be a corporate ant and march right into a party -- if you’re invited. If not, just grab a ticket and c’mon. Join some friends on Members Hill or be part of one of a zillion tailgates. Or just come and do your own thing like Dancing Nancies.

AMERICAN BABY – Ahh…lots of them. Lots. We’re talking lots and lots. In Dave parlance – Dreamgirls and guys.

TOO MUCH – Don’t have too much of anything. Don’t have too much food, too much drink or too much sun. Don’t end up Under The Table And Dreaming.

CRASH INTO ME – Don’t. The parking lot is a field. If it rains, it’s not the best place for a fancy sedan. Of course, it never rains on Angels With Dirty Faces on the first Saturday in May. If you are planning to drink, bring a designated driver.

SATELLITE – There’s a jumbotron so you won’t miss a thing that happening out on the racecourse. So it won’t matter about The Space Between you and the ponies.

TWO STEP – Good luck if you wear the spikey cool expensive heels with your great new dress. The entire lower surface of the Virginia Gold Cup is au natural. That means it grass, and no matter how dry, heels sink. Just keep that in mind when you’re making fashion decisions. There is no Rhyme and Reason for losing your shoe every other step.
DRIVE IN DRIVE OUT – Come early and avoid the traffic. Things run pretty smoothly because we know what we’re doing, but come early and enjoy a great day in the country. Hang out with Heathcliff’s Haiku Warriors. They throw a serious tailgate.

#40 – Actually it’s the 82nd Gold Cup, but who’s counting. Come on out and do the Jimi Thing.

CHAMPIONS – You bet. Not only are the jockeys Smooth Rider(s), but the horses are very impressive as well.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Well, the short answer is whatever you want, but here are some tips that might help. Today we will focus on the men. Closer to race day, we will talk about what women should wear, and, of course, will devote a day, if not several days, to hats and hats alone!

For starters, you must wear clothes. No wonder this chap is grinning as it certainly appears that his date/girlfriend/wife/sister/friend is, at the bare minimum (pun intended), topless.

Simply put, you can dress up or not dress up. Plenty of folks who come to picnic dress casually in comfortable clothes. Sun block is a must, and a lid is not a bad idea for winter traumatized skin. Shorts, long pants, long sleeves or short – suit yourself (pun intended).

If you are hanging out with an NFL Hall of Fame guy like Sam Huff you may want to wear a tie…

If you are going to a fancy tailgate or a party in a corporate tent, you may opt for the bow tie. This abbreviated neck wear radically reduces the likelihood of some food or drink spilling on your favorite silk. We don’t care what they say, dry cleaners and silk neckties do not a perfect marriage make.

Of course, you can always opt for a tie with a horsey theme.

You can wear your sash if you want to.

You can wear your mask if you want to, but really, why would you want to?

As you can see from these handsome fellas, you can go coat and
tie, coat and no tie, or no coat and no tie. It’s all good. Just remember your smile, and you will be fine. Just remember to try to look good. Be on your game.

Finally, if you are going to ride in one of the Gold Cup races and go galloping around 30 mph on the back of a 1,200 lbs. horse jumping over hurdles that are four feet tall, you have to wear a helmet just in case you have to make an emergency exit.