The Queen's Cup, North Carolina, USA
Springtime is welcomed in Mineral Springs, North Carolina, USA by the fanfare of the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase. The event is held at Brooklandwood, a site purpose-built with visibility in mind and to promote safety for horses and jockeys. A four-acre lake is used to irrigate the grounds, and creates an impressive fountain on race day. Surrounding trees adding to the natural beauty, flowers bloom in stunning colours and the expanse of grass is immaculately mown.
All this took two years to construct and was the vision of Bill and Carrington Price. The aim was to bring a somewhat royal experience to Charlotte but open for the local community. “We love a great cocktail party, but we also love to watch racing,” explains Bill. “We think we have combined the best of both worlds – great sport with great socialising in an amazing setting.”
The Queen’s Cup is a leading social occasion with not a single minute wasted: a hound parade, Hat Contest, Tailgate Competition, pony rides at $5 ago, terrier racing, a course walk, feasting and live music. A day of bowties, finest attire, cartwheel hats all add to the festive colours and elegance. Yet, the community is a much-emphasised word and every contribution is imperative. “There are a lot of long-time, loyal supporters,” Carrington says, “It’s rewarding to know that some people have been coming for the last twenty-two years to support the event, and it’s not only the patrons – we also have a handful of volunteers that have been volunteering for the last twenty-three years.” These praised volunteers number up to 300 in total.
Yet, for all the fun, excitement and partying, there is just as high importance on fundraising. So far, $800 000 has been donated to local charities, including the Alzheimer’s Association of Western North Carolina – and rapidly heads towards the $1 million mark.
The racing is top class too with a prize pot of $150 000 split between five races. There are two hurdle races, one chase, a timber race and a flat race run over the same distance as the Kentucky Derby.
For over two decades, this sun-drenched day has been an engaging experience, adding annually to the memories of organisers and race-goers alike. One year, Princess Anne attended but it will always have been created primarily for Charlotteans. “One of our biggest challenges is that people have this misconception that it’s hoity-toity,” muses Carrington. “But honestly it’s for everyone.”
The racing architecture is second to none and the spectators are guaranteed a wonderful day out. There are private boxes for wining and dining, all colour-coordinated with the theme of the day, clear views from the Lawn Boxes and the hospitality tents on Member’s Hill. Ten thousand race goers have a ball in the infield, watching the horses gallop by. Further up, Heart Break Hill aids this spectacular viewing but also makes a testing course for the runners. The track curves for just over a mile round, and has won accolades for being one of the best in the US.
The Queen’s Cup is the largest outdoor “tailgate” in the region, an American tradition of eating a picnic from the back of a vehicle alongside as many friends and family as possible. Tailgate plots sell for upwards of $150. The premier area is located on the inside rail, adjacent to the parade ring, so the winners can be cheered in.
This steeplechasing treasure is there to be discovered, along with the many friends and fellow race goers you will meet along the way. Last year, the running of the Silver Jubilee Queen’s Cup was abandoned due to the coronavirus pandemic but it will be back in 2021, though, as announced back in January, without an audience. All races will be live streamed and at-home tailgate and hand-decorated hats competitions are continuing with submissions all sent online - please watch this Saturday, 24th April.
At least, the Queen's Cup is happening again and will continue for long into the future.
Massive thanks for assisting with this article go to Bill and Carrington Price,
Kevin Tobin, Business Development Director,
QC Exclusive Magazine,
Emily Kristine Photography.
For more information: www.queenscup.org