You feel a swoosh of air on your face as they rush by. The view from the finish line of the Queen's Cup Steeplechase is amazing as the host of riders and horses jump hurdles with colossal leaps.
Having become a major area draw during its 13-year history, this horse race offers a classic equestrian event with a distinctly Charlotte-inspired brand of tradition and style.
A Gift to Charlotte
Days leading up to the race truly test the nerves. No one--participants, spectators, and especially the event chairs--wants it to rain.
"We try not to weather-watch, but you can't help it," says Bill Price, who is race cofounder and cochair, along with his wife, Carrington. The two have long attended steeplechases together, which has fed their passion for the sport.
The race draws more than 15,000 visitors each year to Mineral Springs, about 25 miles from downtown Charlotte. From gourmet dining in VIP tents to chicken and fixings in the tailgating section, there's a scene for everyone.
"We felt like it was a great opportunity to bring something new to the area," says Bill. "Charlotte already had NASCAR and football, so why not horse racing?"
Carrington agrees. "At the end of the day, it's a lot of fun to be able to give back to the community," she says.
A Family Affair
Their kids, Brent, 18, and Jamey, 20, also attend the race annually. In fact, Jamey races for his family's stables. "My dad and I used to set up pillows in the front hall, and I'd pretend to jump them," says Jamey. In last year's sixth and final race of the day, Jamey came in first, wearing his family's signature pink and blue silks.
Bill and Carrington would love to see the Queen's Cup become one of the South's iconic races and hope future family members become part of the equestrian equation. "The Atlanta Steeplechase and the Maryland Hunt Cup have been passed down through generations," says Bill.
Leaps and Bounds
This race draws riders, owners, and trainers from surrounding states. They all come to Charlotte hoping to gain purses worth thousands. But win or lose, everyone cheers for the stars of the day--the horses. "They're a very valuable commodity and are sentimentally part of the family," says Arch Kingsley, Jr., a trainer out of Camden, South Carolina. "We invest a lot in them. The horses get treated better than those of us who work with them, sometimes," he says with a laugh.
"The Great Race" is from the March 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.