Guest Post by Lauri Powell
Not to Be Missed Bi-annual Charlottesville Social Event
Charlottesville has many annual events but none that hold more allure than The Foxfield Races. Held twice a year (the last Saturday in April and the last Sunday in September) in the middle of Albemarle farm and estate country, this event has been a favorite for tailgaters since 1978. Rivalled only by UVA football game tailgating, there are tents set aside for those who wish to have their parties catered and open areas for those who wish to bring their own gourmet tailgating affairs.
A Charlottesville Spring Spectacle
The April race means spring is in full bloom, gracing our Charlottesville homes with spectacular blossoms. Adding to nature’s colors are those of the race attendees – you will see everything from elegant summer hats and sun dresses (not unlike the Kentucky Derby) to shorts and sandals. Race day is popular among Charlottesville residents, UVA students, and UVA alumni who often travel back to Charlottesville to attend.
The History of the Steeplechase Racing
The Foxfield Race is a steeplechase race which draws top thoroughbreds from up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Steeplechase racing is one of the oldest organized horse racing events with the first being recorded in 1752 in County Cork, Ireland, when the races were run from one church steeple to another. Church steeples being the most prominent landmarks at the time, early races were run across the natural terrain (hills, fences, streams) between them. Today Steeplechase races are run on “turf” (a hardy, thick-bladed grass), down long inclines that allow the horses to build up speed, and over 52″ steel frames either stuffed with artificial brush, or in some cases natural brush. Most tracks are between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 miles long.
Locally, The Foxfield Races are held on a piece of prime Charlottesville real estate located just 8 minutes from town at the site of what was a grass runway airport in the 1920s. The old terminal building has since been converted into a home and the hangar into stables. It was owned as a private Albemarle horse farm until 1973 after which it was purchased and redesigned into the race facility we see today. The site (just 4 miles West of Charlottesville on Garth Road), sits among some of the loveliest Albemarle estate homes and offers magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The Sumo Gala
The Foxfield Races support local charities with a “black tie” event the evening before. This year, the benefit will be a black tie “Sumo Gala” with 12 world class Sumo wrestlers from the U.S. Sumo Federation. The black tie dinner, auction, and Sumo wrestling tournament is modeled on a Las Vegas style boxing match with a raised arena in the middle and tables all around. The beneficiary of this year’s fund raiser is the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Charlottesville.
Are You a Foxfied Race Regular?
If so, tells us about your most memorable race-day experience!