Virginia Gold Cup Finally Takes The Field

Livestream, limited attendees define unusual steeplechase.

Photo courtesy of Virginia Gold Cup

Virginia Gold Cup

The 95th running of the Virginia Gold Cup, one of the largest steeplechase events in the country, will be the most unusual in the history of the horse racing event.

Traditionally run on the same day as the Kentucky Derby (the first Saturday in May), the Virginia Gold Cup was forced to postpone May’s running until social distancing rules allowed for public gatherings. Officials were left with very few options for this year’s race—either cancel it or find a new way to run the annual contest. Consequently, this summer’s Virginia Gold Cup race will be unlike anything that has preceded it: When the race is run on June 27, there won’t be any fans in the stand, but a potentially unlimited audience watching a livestream from home.

Typically, the Virginia Gold Cup race would have 60,000 spectators in attendance, plus hundreds of jockeys, trainers, and support staff. This year’s race will have zero fans in attendance. Only one jockey and one trainer per horse will be allowed on the property, plus an additional groom or two if needed. Officials estimated that there will be approximately 225 workers and competitors at this year’s running of the Virginia Gold Cup, not the tens of thousands normally in attendance. One way to measure the unusualness of this year’s Virginia Gold Cup is that Great Meadow will have more acres of land (380) than spectators and staff members combined at this year’s running of the steeplechase. 

“It will be a bittersweet day without our loyal fans in attendance, but ultimately being able to host race day is a victory for us,” Dr. William Allison, chairman of the Virginia Gold Cup Association, explained in a press release. “We are hopeful racegoers will tune in to the livestream.”

Though attendance may be limited at the race, access will not be. One of the positives of the revamped presentation of the horse race is that cameras will allow viewers access to the stabling area, which they have never been able to experience previously. Viewers will also have the opportunity to see how jockeys and trainers get ready behind the scenes for a race with the cameras going where they normally wouldn’t be allowed.

Jockeys, trainers, and support staff for the 104 horses that qualified for the race have been observing their own social distancing rules as defined by the regions in which they live. Northern Virginia has been later in lifting restrictions, so many have been sheltering in place since March. 

To add to the fun and make fans feel a part of the action, the Virginia Gold Cup Association will host contests on social media during the race, like asking the public to post hat photos from their remote racing parties. 

View the race from home!

This year’s Virginia Gold Cup will be run Saturday, June 27 at 12:30 p.m. at Great Meadows in The Plains, Virginia, and will be streamed live on The livestream will begin at 12:15 p.m., and the first race will start at 12:30. Plus, follow the race on social media to join race-day games and fun.

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