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The Running of the… Iroquois Steeplechase
Photo by Alexander Wark Feeney / Unsplash

The Running of the… Iroquois Steeplechase

New and old traditions collide this Saturday during the 82nd Annual event at Percy Warner Park in Nashville

On the heels of long shot thoroughbred Mage winning the 149th edition of the Kentucky Derby, the racing world turns its attention to Nashville this Saturday for the 2023 Iroquois Steeplechase.

Despite unfavorable weather in the forecast for this coming weekend, a projected crowd of nearly 25,000 from around the globe will look to carry on the traditions and pageantry that have made the six-race affair world famous for over eight decades. Fashion contests will once again see judges select the most stylish men and women in the crowd as the gentlemen suit up to impress while the ladies flaunt their elegant hats and dazzling dresses.

Following the noon Opening Ceremonies and initial undercard races, the children will compete in the Michael Stanley Stick Horse Race which has become yet another time-honored tradition of Steeplechase. This all sets the stage for the main event where horses from every corner of the planet will compete in the 3-mile stakes in hopes of claiming a piece of the $150,000 purse.

Two-time defending champion Snap Decision will make his much anticipated return to Nashville. This undoubtedly builds the anticipation for fans as the 9-year-old thoroughbred will try to become the first ever to win three consecutive Iroquois Steeplechases. However, a loaded field will not make this task easy. Hailing from Ireland is Scaramanga who has four jump wins and has drawn the attention of bettors and oddsmakers over recent months. Another to keep an eye on is Mortlach. He is no stranger to Percy Warner Park and collected a stakes win in 2021.

For many years, horse racing fans from all over have placed friendly wagers on their favorite “ponies” at onsite betting booths trying to cash in on races. When the State of Tennessee legalized online sports gambling in 2019, the interest, and stakes, reached an all-time high. Long gone are the days of quickly looking up a horse, reading the name, the odds, and placing a bet. With online outlets such as Horse Racing Nation and TwinSpires, onlookers can get minute-by-minute updates on their picks throughout the afternoon. Men and women alike now often have their noses buried in their phones by the track, seeing which wager they will place next as soon as a race concludes. Does this undercut some of the nostalgia of horse racing? Absolutely. But what it also means is big money for the industry.  

Outsiders with limited interest in the sport previously have now been drawn in due to the ease at which they can place a bet. As the intrigue blossoms, perhaps so will the crowd size year over year at the Iroquois Steeplechase. This is good business for both horse racing and the city of Nashville. While old traditions are vital to the event, it too must evolve with the times.

If you do choose to place a wager for the Iroquois Steeplechase, please be sure to do your own research before the races, and always gamble responsibly! (Tennessee state law 21+ for online gambling)