The National Steeplechase Association is the official sanctioning body of American steeplechase horse racing. The NSA licenses participants, approves race courses, trains officials, coordinates race entries, enforces rules, compiles an official database and oversees the national marketing and public relations efforts of the sport. Among the groups the NSA serves are owners, trainers, jockeys, members, race meetings and race tracks. The NSA headquarters is located in Fair Hill, Md., home to a world-class steeplechase course, a thoroughbred training center, an international three-day event course, the Thoroughbred Racing Associations and Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. Fair Hill, which also includes a 5,600-acre state-owned natural resources area, is about a one-hour drive from Baltimore in Northeastern Maryland.
Steeplechasing’s Rich History
American steeplechasing traces it’s lineage to England and Ireland, but owes its life to nine men from New York. August Belmont, H. DeCourcy Forbes, Samuel S. Howland, James O. Green, Frederick Gebhard, A.J. Cassatt, Foxhall P. Keene, John G. Follansbee and Frederick H. Prince founded the National Steeplechase Association. The purpose of the organization, according to the original charter dated February 15, 1895, have changed little. Those men created an association to keep records; govern promote and hold races; advance steeplechasing throughout the United States; license individuals and race meetings.
Racing itself spawned from the foxhunting field that had occurred earlier, but never under such sanction. Meets took place on Long Island and in northern New Jersey before spreading to the south to the Carolinas and Tennessee.
In Europe, racing started much earlier. The first recorded steeplechase occurred in 1752 in Country Cork, Ireland. A horseman named O’Callaghan and Edmund Blake engaged in a match race, covering about 4½ miles from Buttevant Church to St. Mary’s in Doneraile. Church steeples were the most prominent, and tallest, landmarks on the landscape. The sport took it’s name from this simple "chase to the steeple." History did not record the winners of the O’Callaghan-Blake race.
Cross-country match races spread to England, where the first reported race involving more than two horses occurred in 1792. Steeplechasing then migrated to established race courses.
Though pointing out the first U.S. steeplechase is a difficult assignment, several of the oldest and most prestigious races are still run. The Maryland Hunt Cup, raced over tall post and rail fences, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1994. The American Grand National, run at Far Hills, NJ., began in 1899. The National Hunt Cup in Radnor PA. dates to 1909.
The above mentioned men could never have guessed at the future or their sport. Steeplechasing occurs in 12 states, offers over $4.5 million in total purses, is seen by millions of people, includes the best horses and horsemen thoroughbred racing has to offer and each year raises millions of dollars for charity.
The association today, located in Fair Hill, MD., includes 1,000 dues-paying members, a 15-member Board of Directors and a six-person staff. Racing occurs March through November and attracted an estimated one million fans last year.
Contributed By: The National Steeplechase Association