(Edited National Steeplechase Association release)
The National Steeplechase Association announced Aug. 19 the inaugural running of the U.S. Steeplechase Championships on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009. The event will consist of 12 races contested for $700,000 in purse money at two different race meets on the steeplechase schedule: the Far Hills Race Meet in Far Hills, New Jersey and the International Gold Cup at Great Meadows in The Plains, Virginia.
The NSA has entered into a three-year multimedia deal with NBC Universal Sports to televise five hours of live coverage of the event, as well as to provide online and broadband coverage, beginning at noon (Eastern). The agreement also includes coverage of additional NSA events in 2010.
"We’re very excited to add this great new event to the Universal Sports stable, and to promote U.S. Steeplechase competition to our wide audience," said Carlos Silva, president and CEO of Universal Sports. "We look forward to having a long-term relationship with the NSA for years to come."
Far Hills will conduct a six-race program headlined by the $250,000 Grand National. The six races from the International Gold Cup will be highlighted by the 3 1/2 mile Gold Cup. The races will be run on an alternating basis at 20-25 minute intervals from meet to meet with the first race at Far Hills scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. The 89th annual Far Hills Race is expected to draw more than 50,000 spectators to Moorland Farms in central New Jersey. The 72nd International Gold Cup Race Meet is expected to bring more than 35,000 fans to the northern Virginia countryside.
"We are extremely excited about the opportunity to showcase the glamour and excitement of steeplechase racing on Universal Sports," said Lou Raffetto, Jr., CEO of the National Steeplechase Association. "The beauty and grace of a thoroughbred running and jumping will be brought to a new level as our partnership enables us to take center stage before a national audience."
The Far Hills race card will include five other stakes races in addition to the NSA grade I Grand National.
On hand to call the races for Universal Sports will be Mark Johnson, who now handles those duties at Churchill Downs and will be at Far Hills to call all the action, and Dave Johnson, who will handle the mike at the Gold Cup. Johnson called the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes on ABC Sports from 1987-2000.
The inaugural championship day will also mark the first time that these two steeplechase venues will be simulcast and pari-mutuel wagering offered on their races. Plans are in the works for an international site to establish wagering pools and to offer betting to various outlets around the globe. The details regarding all aspects of the wagering component of the day will be announced later.
As a prelude to the event, NSA will conduct a Fall Steeplechase Festival at Monmouth Park on Saturday, Sept. 26, making it the first pari-mutuel facility in the U.S. to ever offer a full card of steeplechase races integrated with four races on the flat.