Aiken Steeplechase races at a brand new course this spring, kicking off the NSA season on Saturday, March 26.

In a positive sign that the sporting life is one step closer to a return to normalcy, the National Steeplechase Association has a full slate of 16 race meets scheduled for this spring, the most since the pre-pandemic 2019 season.

Overall, 82 races, worth $2.33 million in purses, have been carded across seven states. The season begins on March 26 at Aiken’s brand new course and location in South Carolina, and ends at another new course, the redeveloped Fair Hill Races in Elkton, Md., on May 28. All but two of the meets will be run on a Saturday; Cheshire and Winterthur will take place on a Sunday. Meets will share a race date on four occasions: My Lady’s Manor and Tryon Block House (April 16); Grand National and Middleburg (April 23); Foxfield, Maryland Hunt Cup, and Queen’s Cup (April 30); and Iroquois and Willowdale (May 14). Two meets feature purses topping $300,000 – the Virginia Gold Cup ($390,000) and the Iroquois ($360,000).

The season’s stellar event remains the $150,000 Iroquois in Nashville, the only Grade 1 of the spring, a target for the sport’s two marquee names, the recently crowned Eclipse-Award winner, The Mean Queen, and her rival Snap Decision. Other highlights include the Temple Gwathmey at Middleburg and David Semmes Memorial at Great Meadow, both Grade 2 open hurdle stakes each worth $75,000. For 2022, the Carolina Cup has been restored to stakes status, too, this year a $50,000 contest for novice hurdlers. The return of the Fair Hill Races also marks the return of the Valentine Memorial, which will be run as an open hurdle stake with a $50,000 purse. Foxfield will feature the $50,000 Van Clief Memorial (open stake), and both the Virginia Gold Cup and Fair Hill meets will host $50,000 stakes for four-year-olds.

Timber stars have eight opportunities to grab stakes glory. The two richest events, the historic Maryland Hunt Cup on April 30, and the Virginia Gold Cup on May 7, are worth $100,000. That reflects a substantial bump up from 2021, when purses were slashed due to economic hardships wrought by Covid.

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