Historic Block House Steeplechase Races - TribPapers

Historic Block House Steeplechase Races

Horses enter the track for the historic Tryon Riding and Hunt Club’s Block House Steeplechases. This year’s meet will be Saturday, April 16, 2022 on the Green Creek Race Course in Columbus. Photo courtesy of the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

Tryon – “They have the heart of a lion and are as clever as a cat,” said steeplechase historian, James Cullen.

Cullen was speaking about the horses that will be racing in the 74th running of the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club’s Block House Steeplechase, Saturday, April 16, 2022. 

The historic Block House Steeplechase is one of the oldest horse races in the United States, featuring some of the best horses from the across the country. The meet includes five races with purses ranging from $15,000 to $30,000.

Other events at the meet include fun for the entire family, such as the tailgate contests, the “Go To Hell” pants contest and the ladies best hat contest. Children’s events include an Easter egg hunt, stick horse races pony rides, face painting, balloon animals, carriage rides, caricatures, a magician, hobby horse jumps, relays, corn hole, and bounce horses.

Spectators are treated to spectacular views from the infield of the Tryon International Equestrian Center’s (TIEC) Green Creek Race Course. The course is designed with tailgating in mind and the infield will be filled with every type of vehicle from Rolls Royces to pick up trucks. Tailgating parties range from the elegance of silver service, complete with champagne, to the simple fun of sandwiches and craft brews. Viewing is perfect as the horses race over the slightly rolling hills and brush jumps of the surrounding oval track.

Photo courtesy of the Tryon International Equestrian Center.

A Rich History

Compared to flat racing, steeplechasing is a relatively new sport with the first official meet in County Cork, Ireland in 1762. During the 1800s it gained popularity along with the increased interest in foxhunting and jumping in Great Britain 

They are called “steeplechases” because the first races ran from one small village to another, using church steeples as landmarks. The first United States steeplechases started in the 1800s in New York, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. 

The Foothills area colonists began racing horses in the 1700s. In the early 1900s, Carter Brown founded the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club (TR&HC) and started the first Block House Steeplechases. The depression and WWII caused the races to be suspended, but Brown and TR&HC revived them in 1946. The meet was again suspended in 2019 and 2020 because of track conditions and Covid. 

For the 74th running, Cullen will speak about the history of steeplechasing and the Block House Races during the pre-race concert in Rogers Park on April 15.

Thoroughbreds race for the finish line in the historic Tryon Riding and Hunt Club’s Block House Steeplechases. This year’s meet is Saturday, April 16, 2022 and will feature five races with purses ranging from $15,000 to $30,000. Photo courtesy of the Tryon International Equestrian Center.


This year’s Block House meet will feature two Maiden races for horses four years old and up. Maiden races are for horses that have never won a National Steeplechase Association sanctioned race. Purses are $15,000 and $25,000.

There are two Hurdle Handicap races for four-year olds and up racing over two miles. Hurdle handicap races vary the weights the horses carry according to the horses’ racing records. Purses for the Block House handicap races are $20,000 and $30.000. The fifth race is a 1 ½ mile training race on the flat (no jumps) and no purse.

Gates open at 10:00 a.m. with the first race beginning at 12:30 p.m. Children’s events start with the easter egg hunt at 10:00 a.m. Spectators are advised to arrive early to find a good parking space along the rail and be set up in plenty of time for all the festivities to begin. Cars will not be allowed to enter the infield during the races. 

Ticket costs start at $100.00 for non-tailgating pasture passes. Tailgating space costs begin at $275 for non-rail tailgating. Tickets can be purchased at tryon/page/blockhouseraces, call 828-278-8088 or email tickets@tryon.com. For more information visit the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club at tryonridingandhuntclub.org.   

Next week’s Tribune Papers will include more information about the sport of steeplechasing, the type of track and jumps, information about the riders and the horses.

Racing Glossary

Steeplechase – Horse race over jumps

Brush jump – A jump made of two foot high boxes and filled with natural or artificial foliage sticking out the top. 

Timber Race – Horse race over solid wooden fences.

Point to Point Race – Horse race over jumps typically through the woods and fields used for foxhunting.

Handicap Hurdle Race – Weight allowances are assigned to the horses depending on the horses’ race records.

Maiden Race – For horse that have never won a sanctioned race.

Jump Jockey – Riders who ride steeplechase races.

Jump Races – Horse races over jumps.

Thoroughbred – A breed of  horse registered with the Jockey Club. All thoroughbred can trace their ancestry back to three founding Arabian stallions.

Colors – The colors and pattern of the racing silks the jockeys wear for a horse race.

Furlong –  One eighth of a mile. 

Infield – The inside grassy area of a horse race track. 

Stallion – A male horse age five or older.

Mare – A female  horse age five or older.

Colt –  A male horse less than five years old.

Filly – A female horse less than five years old.

Gelding – A neutered male horse.

Purse – Prize money for a horse race. The winners are award percentages of the purse up to fourth or fifth place.

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