Iroquois Steeplechase at Percy Warner Park then and now

A horse and rider jumping a hurdle. | Photo via TSLA

It’s officially Steeplechase week, folks — and we’re not horsing around. Grab your derby hat and throw on your florals, because we’re breaking down the history of the nearly century old event + what you need to know before Saturday.

The origins

The Iroquois Steeplechase is a name derived from “Iroquois,” the first American-bred horse to win the English derby. The acclaimed animal was retired at the Belle Meade Plantation to stand at stud, or in other words, breed his DNA into almost every Kentucky Derby winner to date. Iroquois’ fame brought his stud fee to a steep $2,076 price tag — that’s ~$72,000 or 1,440 concerts at The Ryman in today’s money. 

The idea

In the 1930s, a group of fox hunters set out to build a Steeplechase course in Middle Tennessee. A man named Marcellus “Pops” Frost suggested a valley in Percy Warner Park was the perfect destination. By 1937, the Works Progress Administration provided the financial backing needed to make the goal a reality. Work began in 1938 and the inaugural race was held in May of 1941.

The location

Percy Warner includes hills and terrain changes suitable for jump installations + there is a hillside for spectators to view the event from up above.

Do you already have your outfit laid out? | Photo by Brenda Black Photography

Fast facts

  • The Iroquois Steeplechase has run since 1941, taking one year off for WWll and another during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020
  • The race draws ~25,000 spectators each year
  • Since 1981, the race’s official charity — the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt — has received over $10 million from the event

Event details

📍 Percy Warner Park | Sat., May 14

🎟️ Tailgating, hunt club, and individual tickets still available

🍽️ Shaved ice with Retro Sno, Hawaiian-style dishes with The Huli Hut + 11 more food trucks 

💰 Benefitting the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt

🗺️ Directions from each gate (Pro tip: Your gate number is on your parking tag).

What you’ll need

✅ Bring: Your ticket, armband, and parking pass (sunscreen, hats + comfortable shoes are recommended)

❌ Leave: Glass containers, propane grills, pets, buses, limos, and firearms