Imagine it’s the late 1800s. Entertainment and sport were quite a bit different than they were today. If you weren’t hunting foxes or quail, you were probably racing your well-trained horse across miles of lush, green fields. You certainly weren’t playing Wii golf or watching the game from the Jumbotron. But on the other hand, traditional sports came with strict regulations. In 1898, a group of Maryland equestrians were deemed too young to compete for the Maryland Hunt Cup. Undeterred, they didn’t just sit around waiting to grow old enough to race a steeplechase. They formed the Grand National Steeplechase, which went on to become a standard in Maryland Timber Racing. The Grand National became popular for its uniqueness and very specific set of challenges. And next weekend, you have the opportunity to see it in all its glory, over one hundred years later, and still as thrilling.
The Grand National is often compared to the Hunt Cup, and with good reason. They’re both extremely demanding, but the Grand National is shorter, at only three miles. However, the shorter distance means a faster race—with horses flying past, over eighteen different obstacles. Many great horses have had the chance to race the Grand National over time, but only a few have managed to win the race three times: Inshore, Winton, Landing Party, Mountain Dew, Buck Jakes, and Welter Weight. With his fourth win last year, Welter Weight joined only one other in winning more than three times. The other horse to share that distinction was six time winner (and reigning king of the Grand National) Mountain Dew. But whoever takes home the win, the Grand National (always run on the second to last Saturday in April) continues to be one of the most highly anticipated days of the year for all horse racing enthusiasts. This year marks the 115th running, which serves as a reminder of both Maryland’s long, rich history of racing, and the fact that it’s still as lively and fun as ever—the perfect way to spend a spring day.
The Grand National Race takes place Saturday, April 19th. Gates open at 11:30, post time 3:15. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Maryland Steeplechase racing season began Saturday, April 1 and runs through Sunday, May 21. For more information on specific race times and locations, visit www.marylandsteeplechaseassociation.com.