Every May, on the same date as the Kentucky Derby, one of the nation’s largest steeplechase events takes place in Northern Virginia. As an event that has been run on the first Saturday in May for the past 94 years, the Virginia Gold Cup is considered to be Virginia’s answer to the Kentucky Derby. Like other industries, COVID-19 has forced the equestrian industry to quickly pivot due to ongoing restrictions. Now, having had to cancel the May event on its 95th year, the Virginia Gold Cup will be held June 27 without spectators and with limited people on the grounds (participants and essential personnel only.) It will be livestreamed and will be available at no cost.
“We wanted to provide a venue for the steeplechase/racing industry to be able to get horses out and receive some financial support in the form of purse money,” explained Dr. William Allison, chairman of the Virginia Gold Cup Association. “Jockeys and trainers have continued training their horses all spring without having anywhere to run them. This will provide a great opportunity.”
Race meets have been cancelled all spring and this has left the horse industry flat out with unprecedented hardship. The steeplechase community has come together to try to maintain the employment of more than 1,000 jockeys, trainers and many others on farms who exercise and care for the horses. The 95th running of the Virginia Gold Cup will provide purse money for participants. Even more importantly, it will provide a viable and tangible boost to keep many working in the equine industry employed.
The equine industry is important to Virginia’s economy. A 2018/19 report by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported that the horse industry brings more than $2 billion annually in economic development to the Commonwealth. The report noted that there are more than 183,643 horses in the state that provide approximately 38,874 jobs. It also stated that there are 30.5% or one million households that contain horse enthusiasts. “The viability of the horse industry is an important component for the Commonwealth’s economy,” Allison added.
The 95th Virginia Gold Cup will be held with limited people on-site—participants and essential personnel only. “We’ve worked closely with the National Steeplechase Association and Virginia Equine Alliance to find a way to run the Virginia Gold Cup that follows the current restrictions, but helps support the struggling horse industry in Virginia,” Allison added. “It will be a bittersweet day without our loyal fans in attendance, but ultimately being able to host race day is a victory for us. We are hopeful racegoers will tune into the livestream.”
The Virginia Gold Cup encourages race fans to tune in and celebrate with appropriate socially- distanced Gold Cup watch parties. Tailgate recipes and hat photos, in honor of the annual Hat and Tailgate Contests, can be shared on the VGCA facebook, Instagram, and twitter. Viewers can tune in to http://nsa.network.video/ to live stream the event on June 27 at 12:30 p.m. EST.
For more information visit vagoldcup.com.