Post & Courier (11/11/18): High energy Sunday at Steeplechase of Charleston, the ‘Super Bowl’ of steeplechase racing


By Derrek Asberry

HOLLYWOOD - Back living in Charleston for the first time in 25 years, one Holy City tradition has not escaped Deborah Valis.

The former Beaufort resident was one of thousands at the Steeplechase of Charleston on Sunday afternoon in Hollywood.

Though her address hasn’t been local, Valis said she’s always made time to make the trip out to Stono Ferry.

“I’ve been coming here off and on for 30 years,” she said, as she visited some of the craft vendor tents a few yards away from track.

It looked like rain could come crashing down early Sunday morning. But by the start of the first race at 1 p.m., the sun was cozily blending with the cool air, making for a great day for horse racing.

It was a perfect afternoon to be at the track, said Austin Walker, the executive director of the event.

Walker explained that the local Steepelchase is sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association. And Sunday’s event is the last race on the Fall circuit.

“We’re like the Super Bowl of Steeplechase, and we have the Tom Bradys of horses here competing,” he said. “So everyone who came out today is really seeing some of the best competition the sport has to offer.”

That reality wasn’t lost on the money. The five races on Sunday totaled a $100,000 purse, the largest in the history of the event.

Camped out at the railing, Paul and Betsey Geier had a close-up of the action. It was exhilarating each time the horses sped by, the couple said.

The two have been to other races, including the famed Kentucky Derby. But this was their first time at the local Steeplechase.

Paul Geier grew up around horses, so heading out to Hollywood was a no-brainer for him.

“It feels like a hidden gem,” he said. “There’s a really good crowd, but I think there would be a lot more if everyone really knew how cool and important this event is.”

That’s one of the goals moving forward, Walker said. From the beer and cigars to the food and various vendors, there’s something for everyone at the Stono Ferry event.

Walker wants to make sure more of the folks in the metro area are aware of what’s happening just a short drive out into the country.

“Steeplechase racing started in downtown Charleston in 1792,” he said. “So there’s a rich history here and we want to preserve that while also keeping it fresh and entertaining.”

Austin Walker