Events Horse Happenings

Nashvillians Commence Spring’s Social Circuit with Celebration of Horse and Society

Iroquois Steeplechase Set for May 12, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 24, 2012 — Since prehistoric times, rites of spring marked the beginning of the year in many cultures. Since 1941, Nashville’s rite of spring, the Iroquois Steeplechase, has marked the beginning of the social season here.

The annual celebration – scheduled for Saturday, May 12, 2012 – is just as full of myth and magic as the festivals of yore, but in a very Southern way, of course. The women at the Iroquois Steeplechase are draped in beguiling sundresses and outrageous hats, rather than the floral garlands of ancient times, but the effect is the same. Beautiful women of any age have known how to dazzle, though it has been lifted to a high art form in the South.

And, as in old times, luscious food and drink is consumed, songs are sung, boasts are made, intrigues begin and women’s hands are won as the flag is dropped on the opening of Nashville’s social season.

Within a month, many of those cheering from the box seats at the Iroquois will be dancing at the Swan Ball, Nashville’s premier society event, while members of Nashville’s more well-known society, country music, will be downtown for the Country Music Association Festival. It’s a perfect storm of the refined and the rowdy. And like the Iroquois, it could only happen in Nashville.

“There is nothing like the Iroquois. It is the perfect combination of a social event and a sporting event,” said Deborah Lovett, president of the Iroquois Alliance, the volunteer organization associated with the horse race. “It has been known as Nashville’s rite of spring for as long as I can remember, and that is exactly what it is. The combination of Southern tradition and new energy is what makes Nashville great – and it is all on display at the Iroquois. There is no better time to visit Nashville, the real Nashville, than the second Saturday of May.”

Of course, there is also a horse race – the richest day of racing on the spring circuit of the National Steeplechase Association, as a matter of fact, with a total of $400,000 in purses and bonuses offered. The seven races of the day, all but one over hurdles or fences, includes one of the richest amateur steeplechase race in the U.S., The Bright Hour Amateur Hurdle, and is capped by The Calvin Houghland Iroquois, a Grade I steeplechase that attracts the best horses and riders in America.

“Iroquois winners include the greatest steeplechasing horses in America, including five Eclipse Winners – Flatterer, Lonesome Glory, Correggio, All Gong and Good Night Shirt. The top owners, trainers and riders build their year around the Iroquois,” said Dwight Hall, chairman of the Iroquois Steeplechase Race Committee and a former steeplechase jockey. The Eclipse Award honors the number one horses and riders in racing.

Once a year, the weekend after the Kentucky Derby, horse racing as it was truly meant to be takes place in Nashville.

“Remarkably, the Iroquois Steeplechase remains unchanged, for the most part, from its roots,” said Hall. “It remains the last surviving example in Tennessee of what horse racing was meant to be. And because of this, it continues to attract the crème de la crème of Southern society.”

This year’s running will once again benefit the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Since the partnership began in 1981, more than $9 million has been raised for Children’s Hospital.

For more information about the Iroquois Steeplechase, visit

About the Iroquois Steeplechase
Held on the second Saturday of every May at Nashville’s Percy Warner Park, the Iroquois Steeplechase is the premier spring race in American steeplechasing and Music City’s traditional rite of spring – typically attracting more than 25,000 spectators. Since being designated in 1981 as the official charity of the Iroquois Steeplechase, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt has received more than $9 million from the event proceeds. For information on advance ticket purchases, corporate and hospitality tents, and tailgating and RV spaces, visit or call (615) 591-2991.


About the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is a leader in pediatric care, ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and 15th in the nation by Parents magazine. The Children’s Hospital provides 222 beds for the highest level of pediatric care and is also a top-level teaching and research facility. The Children’s Hospital features Centers of Excellence for the treatment of diabetes and congenital heart disorders and offers services for cancer, organ and bone marrow transplants, level 1 pediatric trauma, treatment for developmental disorders and the highest designated level NICU in the state.


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