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late March – Camden, South Carolina
The Carolina Cup is arguably the most popular event on the NSA calendar.
Attracting more than 65,000 fans, the Carolina Cup has everyting from steeplechase horse racing to spring fashion shows and ever popular tailgate parties.
In Camden, South Carolina it is the horse, not the lion, which is the king of beasts. The Thoroughbred racehorse in particular has dominated the landscape for more than 200 years. There are hundreds of acres dedicated exclusively for training and schooling purposes, in addition to hundreds of miles of sandy woodland trails, again, for the benefit of horse and rider
As early as 1905 Camden was advertised as a winter destination in the prestigious Harpers Weekly Journal in New York. The ads stated that Camden had all modern conveniences, and was “... located in the long-leaf pine belt, offered every inducement for healthful outdoor life....with lots of horses...” Three trains a day, all with luxurious Pullman cars, headed south from New York for the warmer climes of the Carolinas and Florida.
The vision of Kirkover and Woodward came to fruition two months later on a rather bleak and blustery March 20 when ten ’chasers went postward. The Carolina Cup was the main attraction of the day, a race for four year olds and up at a distance of three miles over timber fences — 18 jumps without a repeat.
Even though the friends were co-founders, and their contributions equal but different, it was Harry Kirkover who was most often dubbed the Father of the Cup. Ernest Woodward, the retired CEO of the Jell-O Corporation, had deeper pockets than his colleague but he shunned the spotlight; by default, the gregarious Harvard graduate Kirkover became the public face of the Cup. Woodward did have one notable idiosyncrasy – wearing a white linen suit on race days, irrespective of the weather.
The Carolina Cup was popular from the inception and was staged annually until 1942 when the Committee voted that it be abandoned for the duration of World War II – which turned out to be three more years – 1943 through 1945.
The two-handled loving cup that is used as the trophy for the race is a lovely example of Queen Anne silver and has considerable intrinsic value; it was fashioned in Ireland in 1704. Harry Kirkover first saw it at an exposition in London in 1930, but thought it too expensive and reluctantly walked away. Later that same year, unbeknownst to Kirkover, Ernest Woodward saw the same cup in a sale of antique silver in New York — it had been recently engraved with a coat of arms. He was very impressed by the craftsmanship, paid the asking price and donated it to the Cup Committee. Today, the cup rests in the Steeplechase Museum on the grounds of Springdale, and the names of the winning horse and owner are engraved on the base each year.
Ernest Woodward left Camden during WWII; he gave Title to the Springdale property to his very good friend ‘Kirk’. The generosity of this self-effacing man was remarkable – he was a true philanthropist and gave unstintingly to many causes in New York and South Carolina. There would have been no Carolina Cup without his considerable financial support. His sudden death in 1948 while visiting his son in New Mexico was a terrible loss for all who knew him.
The exuberant and much loved Harry Kirkover died in 1958; a funeral service was held for him in Camden before his body was taken back to New York. His position as General Manager of the Carolina Cup Committee was filled by the extremely able Ray Woolfe, who had played a significant role at Springdale since 1931.
The Carolina Cup today is a Grade II race at 2-1/4 miles with 14 hurdles. One of the races on the undercard is named the Woodward-Kirkover Hurdle in honor of the two fine gentlemen who started it all.
Cup day itself has become a tradition in South Carolina and is arguably the most popular event on the NSA calendar. It is Camden’s biggest picnic and the rite of spring for college students throughout the South.
The Marion du Pont Scott Colonial Cup is also a perennial favorite in South Carolina – but in the fall at Springdale Race Course. As the final race on the US Steeplechase racing circuit, the Colonial Cup often decides which horse, owner, trainer and rider wins the coveted Eclipse Award.
For more information, please call 803-432-6513 or 800-780-8117 and visit the Carolina Cup website at http://www.carolina-cup.org.
For other events in South Carolina take a look at:
New Top Events USA nominations
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