The system is similar to the one used at Cheltenham and will help ensure lush turf and the best possible footing for better protection of horses and riders at the Virginia and International Gold Cup Races.
Great Meadow, the home of next month’s Virginia Gold Cup and its fall counterpart, recently announced the installation of an extensive and much more powerful irrigation system to water the race course in The Plains, less than an hour from Washington, D.C.
While the Virginia Gold Cup Association oversees race-day events, the Great Meadow Foundation oversees the conditions, upkeep, and care of the course itself, which requires year-round attention.
Since 1985, the Virginia Gold Cup races – which will be contested for the 98th time on May 6 – have been held at Great Meadow, and the event attracts as many as 45,000 attendees, who may not be fully aware of the correlation between course conditions and safety.
For horses and their jockeys, the condition of the turf is critical. Great turf conditions not only ensure that horses are not pounding their legs on hard ground, it also minimizes falls from poor footing.
“The Virginia Gold Cup rents our race course from the Great Meadow Foundation, which is a separate entity,” said Dr. Al Griffin, co-chair and director of racing for the Virginia Gold Cup Association, (and president of the National Steeplechase Association.) “Thankfully, Great Meadow just invested in a lot of new course maintenance equipment, including a new irrigation system for the course. The new head of grounds at Great Meadow is Mike Smith, a long time NSA owner. He understands the importance of good ground for horses to run over and has put a lot of his own resources into the effort, and we are all very grateful.”
The race course comprises approximately 70 of Great Meadow’s 380 acres. The irrigation system is similar to one used in England at Cheltenham Race Course, which hosts the most significant steeplechase meet in the world every March. It has four large traveling Amadas gun reel systems, each covering an area 900-feet long and 300-feet wide, utilizing underground pipes to transport water from a series of three stock ponds and a brook. In addition, course turns will now be irrigated as well. This Australia manufactured system is extremely popular with the overseas horse community for factors including cost, ease of use, and effectiveness.