Steeped in local history –Block House Steeplechase Races
Published 10:07 am Thursday, March 31, 2022
Steeplechasing began in Ireland when some foxhunters dared each other to race to the nearest church steeple. Since then, “steeplechasing” as it came to be called, has become popular in Great Britain and the United States.
Locally, the Block House races were started by Carter P. Brown in 1946 at Harmon Field. The first steeplechase in Western North Carolina, it was a single race with a tin cup as the winning prize.
Eventually Brown built a racecourse around what had been an old tavern called the Block House, which gives the Tryon race its name. The course went from North Carolina into South Carolina several times and included a daring ride up Heartbreak Hill. Officials used flags to let the jockeys know how many times they had been around the track.
Since then, the Block House Steeplechase has moved—first to Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) and, most recently, to the Green Creek Race Course where it is held today. The recent move was made to provide a more stat e-of-the-art course with improved footing, irrigation and year round maintenance. “The improved conditions means a safer course for the horses, jockeys and trainers,” explains Angie Millon, TR&HC president.
Today, the Block House races attract horses and jockeys from across the United States. “Sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association, the Block House races are an enduring and much-loved tradition in western North Carolina,” says Millon. “Most importantly, the Block House Races are a tradition worth protecting.”
Submitted by Leigh Borreson