By: Carman Fowler
Each spring, the city of Camden, South Carolina plays host to around 65,000 people donning bow ties and Lilly Pulitzer along with some of the best jockeys and Thoroughbreds that have come to watch and participate in the Carolina Cup, the largest steeplechase horse race that began over 80 years ago.
Held at Camden’s historical Springdale Race Course, the 600 acre property was deeded to the state by Marion du Pont Scott under the stipulation that it continue to be solely for equine use. In addition, Mrs. Scott requested that the races raise money for the Kershaw County Health system of hospital and healthcare centers. To date, the races raise around $90,000 a year to help provide better equipment and services to the citizens of Camden and surrounding areas.
Camden is known for its exceptional training of racehorses and young Thoroughbreds, and many of the horses that are trained in the town’s facilities become future participants in the prestigious race. The town occasionally becomes the permanent home of retired champions as well.
Falling on March 30th this year, fans from all over will flock to the racetrack. Gates open at 9 a.m. and many dedicated attendees wake with the sun to get a head start to beat traffic and set up their tailgate spots. Well-informed fans come prepared, knowing that rain or shine, the races must go on. Luckily, most years you’re more likely to see women decked out in their oversized sunhats and pearls than a raincoat. Patrons stream in through multiple access gates, women trotting through grass in their high heels and men attempt to drag carefully packed coolers filled with food and drinks for the day. It’s a BYO event - no food or drink vendors will be in sight. And, although I doubt you'll forget your phone at home, be aware that it probably won't get service. The cell phone towers normally handle around 7,000 citizens, not 65,000. From personal experience, just know that you're not going to get a call through.
Although betting is illegal in South Carolina, the races are still riveting and fantastic to watch with the Cup being an important part of the steeplechase circuit. From tailgating to showing off your carefully crafted outfit, the Cup is an experience, and not one to miss.
Each year, the Cup attracts a large number of university students from SC, NC and GA, amongst other places. The students have their own tailgating section, College Park, a place commonly viewed as “party central.” Unfortunately, amongst all fun and races, last year 227 students were arrested for a range of offenses.
In order to keep out of trouble, there are a few things to remember:
Do not drink and drive, know your limits and don’t get too drunk. A little drinking is fun, but too much can lead to an arrest. Besides that, combining drinking and a hot South Carolina day can lead to unfortunate consequences. Even if you aren’t drinking, remember to stay hydrated - heat stroke is a definite concern. Staying safe and out of trouble is as simple as using your common sense.
Tickets can be purchased either from the Carolina Cup Racing Association Office in person or over the phone at (803) 432-6513 or (800) 780-8117. You can also purchase them from the Colonial Life Arena over the phone at (803) 576-9200 or from the online store.
Before you head out to the races, there are some terms you should familiarize yourself with. The Cup is a steeplechase race, meaning that over the course of the race, the horses have several obstacles to jump over at a high-speed. Horse races have their own vernacular so we’ve included some words you might hear:
At the post: The point at which horses gather before the start of the race
Blow out: When a roughy wins
Bog: A severely rain affected track
Break: The start of a race
Field: All the horses in the race
Hacked up: When a horse wins easily
He gave him a cold: When a horse flashes past another
Mud lark: A horse that likes wet tracks
Roughy: A horse with long odds
Scratch: When a horse is withdrawn prior to the race
Swooper: A horse that comes from the back of the pack during the last part of the race
Do’s and Don’ts
By: Sarah Martin
- Invest in Lilly Pulitzer or Southern Tide.
- Like “Carolina Cup Racing Association” on Facebook to keep up with official updates and information.
- Brush up on racing terms:
- “Gait” refers to the manner in which a horse moves
- “Handicapping” means evaluating a horse’s past performance to predict the outcome of the race.
- “Groom” is the caretaker of a horse, not to be confused with what you’re pressuring your boyfriend to be.
- Take plenty of pictures. How many times in your life will you be able to wear a huge, floppy sunhat and pretend you’re somebody?
- Take advantage of everything the event has to offer. Watch the races, shop the tents, meet new people, and have fun!
- Drink too many mint juleps before the races even begin; you want to remember these moments, rather than remembering stumbling onto the horse-trodden dirt.
- Participate in public displays of affection. Remember, Instagram is your friend, #gamecockmakeout is not.
- Pig out on too many southern hors d’oeuvres. Salty food dehydrates the body and will leave you in dire search for water.
- Believe your skin is invincible to the sun’s rays - those sunhats are tradition for a reason. Wear plenty of sun block and bring sunglasses.
- Gamble away your college savings on the races. You may think Spy in the Sky* is the clear winner, but Lonesome Glory* may make a comeback and cause you to lose your study abroad cash.
*Both are real names of past winners. G&B could not make that up.