Corporate Name: National Steeplechase Association, Inc.
Mailing/Street Address: 400 Fair Hill Drive, Elkton, Maryland 21921 (click for map)
Telephone: (410) 392-0700
Fax: (410) 392-0706
The National Steeplechase Association is the governing body of American racing over fences, a Thoroughbred sport that emphasizes festive racing events with family and friends, safety for all its participants, and preservation of open space. Steeplechase race meets are valued members of their communities and raise millions of dollars each year for local charities. Steeplechase racing also is conducted at several racetracks.
Founded by members of The Jockey Club in 1895, the NSA provides many services to the sport while fulfilling its original mandate to govern Thoroughbred racing over fences. The NSA writes race conditions for its sanctioned race meets and racetracks, adopts rules of racing, licenses participants, oversees officials, maintains official statistics, organizes national marketing and media efforts, and serves a constituency of race meets, racetracks, owners, trainers, jockeys, and individual members.
Racing occurs each year at approximately 30 one-day race meets extending through the East Coast and into the Midwest. Each race meet, staffed by local volunteers and assisted by its charitable beneficiaries, raises purse money through admission proceeds and corporate sponsorship. Attendance averages 15,000 per meet, with the Carolina Cup in Camden, S.C., annually attracting 65,000 or more to its early spring meet. The Virginia Gold Cup, now offering pari-mutuel wagering, also attracts large crowds on the first Saturday in May.
The steeplechase circuit begins in South Carolina in March and works its way northward through the spring. For the summer, steeplechasing moves to East Coast racetracks.
Saratoga Race Course cards the Grade I New York Turf Writers Cup and other stakes races as part of its meet-long steeplechase schedule. Jump races also are carded at New York’s Belmont Park as well as at Parx Racing and Monmouth Park. The fall schedule begins with race meets in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions before wending its way south and concluding in South Carolina in mid-November.
All steeplechase horses are Thoroughbreds and follow the same Jockey Club regulations as flat horses with lip tattoos, registration papers and Equibase past performances. Most steeplechase horses raced on the flat before switching to jump racing, and some switch back and forth from flat racing to steeplechasing in the same season.
Approximately 500 horses compete in nearly 200 individual races (hurdle, timber and restricted flat races) on the NSA circuit. NSA purses total more than $5 million each year. The meets offering the highest purses are the Far Hills Races in New Jersey, whose $600,000 in purses includes the $300,000 Grand National, the Virginia Gold Cup, and the Iroquois Steeplechase in Nashville, with $416,000 in purse money, including the $150,000 Calvin Houghland Iroquois, a Grade I race over National Fences.
The National Steeplechase Association achieved record purses in 2015, with payments to steeplechase horse owners totaling $5,836,050. The purse payments represented an increase of more than $600,000 over 2014, with a predominant share of the increase originating in the race meets.
Accompanying the 2015 record purses were more races, more starts, more runners, and more owners than the previous year’s levels. Attracting new owners is a mandate of the NSA’s Promotion and Growth Committee, which was formed as a task force in mid-2014 and introduced several innovations to jump racing in 2015. One was the first Owner-Trainer Symposium and Steeplechase Auction, held in suburban Baltimore in April.
A week later, another Promotion and Growth innovation—the Ratings Handicap—was introduced at the Atlanta Steeplechase. In the Ratings Handicap, every winning hurdler in training is assigned a rating, and race conditions and weights are based on those ratings. The Ratings Handicap proved popular among NSA horsemen and has become a part of the NSA condition book.
The year’s top-level competition was dominated by Irvin S. Naylor’s Dawalan and The Fields Stable’s Bob Le Beau. A Grade III winner in the spring, Bob Le Beau moved to the top of the standings with back-to-back victories in Grade I races, the $150,000 New York Turf Writers Cup at Saratoga Race Course and the $150,000 Lonesome Glory Handicap at Belmont Park. Dawalan, purchased and imported after racing in England in the spring of 2015, finished third in the Lonesome Glory before winning the season’s final two Grade I races, the Grand National and the Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup at Camden, S.C., where Bob Le Beau was unplaced. Dawalan took the NSA’s Lonesome Glory Champions Award as the year’s leading earner with $255,000 in purses from three U.S. starts.
Naylor, a York, Pa., sportsman and philanthropist, achieved record owner purses, shattering the record he had set in 2011. With Dawalan atop the earnings table, Naylor amassed 2015 earnings of $778,650. Jack Fisher continued his dominance of the trainer rankings with his fourth straight title by wins and for the second time he achieved annual purse earnings of more than $1-million. He trained two champions: Michael J. Moran’s Ivy Mills was the Life’s Illusion Filly and Mare champion, and DASH Stable’s Ice It won 3-year-old honors. Gary Barber, best known for his flat horses, won his first title over fences when African Oil reigned as the novice champion. Michael Wharton’s Grinding Speed won three stakes races to gain the timber championship. Paddy Young won his fifth jockey championship by wins and Jack Doyle led the rider standings by purse earnings.
Officers: Beverly R. Steinman, Chairman; Guy J. Torsilieri, President; P. Douglas Fout, Vice President; W. Patrick Butterfield, Secretary; Charles Strittmatter, Treasurer
Director of Racing: William Gallo, Jr.
General Manager/Chief Financial Officer: Peter D. McGivney
Racing Operations: Courtney C. Reid
Director of Communications: Don Clippinger
Location: Fair Hill, Maryland
Sanctioned Race Meets: 30 scheduled for 2016
Racetracks hosting steeplechases in 2016: Belmont Park, Saratoga and others
Membership: $150/year – admission for two to all NSA meets and host racetracks