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?

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.

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