Each spring and fall, Virginians don their “afternoon dress” or “Sunday best” to celebrate the state’s steeplechase tradition with posh horse races. Social affairs, these events are filled with fashion and tremendous tailgate spreads, complete with lawn games and farm-to-table food and drinks. The sport is one of elegance and beauty as equestrians race over lush fields and hills. This season, the custom continues with the Foxfield Spring Races on Saturday, April 28, and the Virginia Gold Cup on Saturday, May 5.
(Below, bottom photo by Richard Clay, courtesy of VA Gold Cup)
The proximity to the horses on race days make for an exhilarating experience. Reaching speeds around 45 miles per hour, the horses test the limits of speed and agility and tradition includes spectators placing friendly wagers on their favorites and then raising their glasses to the fastest. In addition to the competition on the field, hat and tailgating contests are added entertainment.
No matter the season, this 250-year-old tradition continues to excite and entertain equestrian lovers. Be sure to check our Facebook and Instagram for special ticket giveaways for upcoming races.
To learn more about Steeplechase, click here. Scroll on to see our horse race fashion guide!
(Below, bottom photo by Chris Weber, courtesy of VA Gold Cup)
From broad-rimmed hats embellished with lively accessories to bright seersucker suits, the preppy fashion showcased at Virginia horse races is always a staple of the events. We put together some of our must-have pieces to help you plan the perfect look.
For Her (1–3) & For Him (4–6):
Spring/summer dress: Forever Holiday Dress from Verdigris
Broad-brimmed hat: “The Vineyard” hat with “The Traveler” scarf from Wine & Country Collections
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During the fall in Charlottesville, there are many fabulous events to tailgate at, especially the horse races. Horse races provide the perfect opportunity to gather and enjoy amazing food while watching a spectacular and traditional sport. Each year, the Montpelier Hunt Races hosts a tailgate contest showcasing how best to execute this form of entertaining. Here are Wine & Country’s tips for horse race tailgating featuring the Montpelier Hunt Races:
Presentation, Presentation, Presentation. Break out the silver and fine china to set a spectacular arrangement. Bring your vintage silver wine bottle cooler to keep the white wines chilled and plenty of serving bowls and dishes for displaying your food. While it is perfectly acceptable for guests to use plastic plates and cups from which to eat and drink, serving out of Tupperware is a faux pas.
Embrace a Theme. Whether you showcase the look of the season, such as the table with the leaves and engaging fox head below, or choose to highlight the theme of the event you are attending like the horse cookies and horse cake below, themed presentations are sure to make your table stand out. The perfect tailgate spread incorporates appropriate decor while also providing delectable food, both of which can delightfully feature your theme.
Prepare to Feast. When choosing the food for your tailgate, you want to cover all your bases: beverages, finger/snack foods, side dishes, entree options and desserts. If hosting for a large group of people, it is a good idea to provide gluten-free and vegetarian options as well. If you are planning to stay at an event long enough, it is often a good idea to provide for multiple times of the day (having breakfast and lunch spreads, for example). Tailgating tends to be an all-day or all-afternoon affair, so be prepared to set out different foods throughout the day depending on the time.
We cannot wait to see the tailgate spreads at this year’s Montpelier Hunt Races on Saturday, November 4, and are proud to be both sponsoring and providing a judge for the tailgate contest. We are looking forward to spending a delightful afternoon at the races.
To learn more about the Montpelier Hunt Races, be sure to check out our previous blog post on the event.
The Virginia Gold Cup will host its 92nd steeplechase racing event this Saturday, May 6, at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia (about an hour west of Washington, D.C.). This Virginia tradition, drawing over 65,000 people, showcases some of the country’s best horses and jockeys as they race over hurdles and timber on the Great Meadow’s 380 acres. This steeplechase course also hosts the prestigious International Gold Cup Races each fall.
The event’s eight exciting steeplechase races will begin at 12:30pm, with the Virginia Gold Cup Race being the fifth race at 3:30pm. The day’s festivities will also include a Tailgating Contest, a Hat Contest and a Terrier Race Exhibition. In addition, at 6:34pm, the Kentucky Derby will be broadcast live.
Tickets can be purchased online until 4pm on Wednesday, May 3. Click here to learn more about the Virginia Gold Cup.
First group of photos: Left photo by Camden Littleton | Top right photo by Chris Weber | Bottom right photo by Richard Clay
Second group of photos: Top left photo by Chris Weber | Bottom left photo by Camden Littleton | Top right photo by Richard Clay | Bottom right & lead photo by Isabel Kurek
All photos courtesy of Bendure Communications, Inc.
For over 80 years, Montpelier, the former home of James Madison, has housed premier steeplechase racing that has showcased some of the most prized national and international horses. Today, the races continue as an extremely popular event for the National Steeplechase Association with a full day of exciting races, opulent vendors and lavish tailgating. The 2017 Montpelier Hunt Races are being held on November 4 and you don’t want to miss such a great day.
The Montpelier Hunt Races not only showcase superior horse breeding but also highlight the grand race culture. From tailgating to the Jack Russell Terrier Races and the hat contest, there is plenty to experience throughout the day. Enjoy viewing the day’s extravagant tailgate spreads, or perhaps design your own. Charlottesville Wine and Country Living is excited to be judging this year’s tailgate contest! The popular hat contest will be sponsored by Dubarry of Ireland with prizes awarded for elegance and best race theme and best group entry.
For an all-around experience, browse the diverse collection of vendors. Jewelers, equestrian outfitters, boutiques and more will have their products displayed for all to peruse. And, food and drink vendors will be offering everything from crab cakes and finger-foods to wine and cider.
The steeplechase races are set to begin at 12:30 p.m. with two races on the flat and five over fences. The sixth race is the premier race, featuring Montpelier’s live brush fences. Take advantage of viewing at the rail to experience the excitement and energy of the jockeys and their horses!
Below the Race Tower in the Winner’s Circle, you can watch the presentation of the winning horse, jockey and trainer following the races. For more information about each jockey, who they represent and each horse’s statistics, be sure to pick up one of Montpelier’s Race Programs at the event.
From the culture to the sport itself, a day at the races will surely make for a grand time. Charlottesville Wine & Country Living is proud to be a sponsor, and we cannot wait to tailgate, shop, mingle and cheer on our favorite horses at this year’s Montpelier Hunt Races.
Yesterday marked the 39th spring steeplechase at the Foxfield Races, celebrating decades of time-honored traditions, Virginian hospitality and fashion. More than just a Charlottesville tradition, the Foxfield Races are the biggest party of the year! We had a terrific time as sponsors of the race again this year, which attracted more than 25,000 spectators, many of them UVA alumni and students, to cheer on the horses. The turf track consists of 17 furlongs, just over two miles, of hurdles, hills and obstacles for the jockeys to maneuver their steeds through. Despite the somewhat cool weather at this popular annual rite-of-spring, revelers were not deterred and we had a fabulous time.
In accordance with tradition, the guys were in ties and the girls in pearls. Visiting the infield paddock to take a look at the horses warming up for the next race, we caught sight of our favorite hat of the day, this fabulous Ascot-style chappeau shown above! Also seen above, vintage-camera photography isn’t the only trendy endeavor this fellow is engaged in. He revealed his plans to open a new brewery in the Woolen Mills area later this summer. Keep an eye on our blog for more on that in the future!
With plenty of time for visiting with friends between races, we caught up with Jamie Morton at the Brown Automotive tent, where she was hosting an elegant catered spread alongside gorgeous Mercedes Benz cars. Elated after her visit to the winner’s circle as a leading sponsor of the race, we sampled their melt-in your-mouth ham biscuits. Can we say delicious?! Awesome spread Jamie! Cheering on the horses nearby, we found another friend and W&C supporter, the amazing interior designer and founder of Leftover Luxuries Wendi Smith (at center), looking super chic in her favorite cowboy hat and enjoying the day with friends. Loved it!
If there’s one thing we know about spring’s Foxfield Races, it’s that it’s just as much of a social event as it is a sporting event. UVA students, alumni and the like, packed the field in a sea of natty bow-ties, adorable sundresses, hats and rain boots. With a favorite cocktail in hand, attendees rocked tailgating parties with cornhole toss games to dance floors. We loved all the Lilly Pulitzer fashion we spotted, especially from the Pink Palm tent! Love that shade of pink on the cute Cathy Shift dress from Lilly Pulitzer above! The girls unleashed their elegant inner Kate Middleton and the boys joined them in sporting their preppy best, including seersucker, bold pastels, and bright patterns, along with amazingly fun statement accessories.
While the Foxfield Races are a great time for all, they are more than simply a tailgating party and steeplechase. Every year, a portion of proceeds from the Spring and Fall races are donated to local charities. This year’s 2016 beneficiary were the Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Central Blue Ridge. If you missed the revelry this weekend, never fear. You can join in the fun again this fall for Family Day on Sunday, September 25! If you made it out to the soirée yesterday, share your Foxfield fashion with us on Instagram for a chance to be featured on our feed. Follow us all this week as we show some love to our hometown musicians, the Dave Matthews Band, coming to town to kick off their 25th anniversary at the JPJ Arena next weekend!
Since the first hounds made the trek from England to the shores of Maryland in the 1650s, fox hunting has been a long standing tradition on the East Coast, particularly in colonies such as Virginia. The first organized “club” hunt took place in the 1700s, and it continues to be enjoyed by iconic colonists such as George Washington and Charlottesville’s Thomas Jefferson. The oldest continuing hunt in America is the Piedmont Fox Hunt, which began over 150 years ago in the historically steeped Virginian countryside.
While it is easy to connect the dots between fox hunting and preserving Virginia’s colonial sporting traditions, it is a little known fact that many hunt clubs and individuals are advocates in the conservation of land and wildlife. Even the Masters of Foxhounds Association & Foundation (MFHA), the collective group under which all hunt groups of America fall, strongly supports local charities in conservation efforts.
MFHA lists the benefits of conserving land for fox hunting, not the least of which “prohibit land uses such as subdivisions, shopping centers, malls, factory farms and many other undesirable practices.” The Foundation also encourages “farming, parks and many other uses which are consistent with outdoor recreation,” even giving out awards for clubs and individuals that make significant contributions to the cause.
With its historical and philanthropic ties to America, fox hunting continues to be a sport that preserves colonial traditions and our beautiful lands. To read more about fox hunting traditions and practices in Virginia, and for a look inside the Farmington Hunt Club just minutes from Charlottesville, pick up your copy of our inaugural publication at your favorite local vendor!