Tryon Riding & Hunt Club
The 48 registered jockeys reverses a 10-year decline in the race's participation.
Tryon Riding & Hunt Club
Tailgating is as entertaining as the Block House races,
With 48 registered jockeys, it reverses a 10-year decline in the race's participation.
The drastic increase in attendance this year is credited to the new partnership between Tryon Riding & Hunt Club (TR&HC), the organization that founded and has produced this steeplechase for 71 years, and Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), a 1,600-acre state-of-the-art equestrian lifestyle destination in Polk County, N.C.
With the partnership came a new A-rated course, double the prize money from $80,000 to $175,000, and a new date that did not conflict with any other steeplechase events, all of which resulted in a stronger showing from champion jockeys.
Some of the top-rated athletes scheduled to compete at this Saturday's Tryon Block House Races include: Paddy Young, five-time jockey champion by wins; Willie McCarthy, champion jockey by wins and purses in 2014; Kieran Norris, champion jockey by wins in 2016, Ross Geraghty, champion jockey by wins and purses in 2012; Sean McDermott, champion jockey by purses in 2016; Jack Doyle, champion jockey by purses in 2015; and Brendan Crowley, champion apprentice jockey in 2016.
"It's all very exciting. It's the 71st running of the Tryon Block House Races and I knew this partnership between Tryon Riding & Hunt Club and Tryon International Equestrian Center would succeed," said National Steeplechase Association President Guy Torsilieri.
"They have produced a spectacular event for Saturday and we have already added more races. The horsemen have embraced it and it's a very strong card this year. The horsemen have high regards for this new course and it's going to be a great event."
A bigger prize purse attracted some of the sport's top riders and allowed for more horses in the competition. For example, 15 horses were entered in the flat race, but not all could have competed in a single run. To accommodate the influx of interest from such high-level, professional talent, the Tryon Block House Races team added another $25,000 purse and split that race into one group of eight horses and another group of seven, which allowed all interested jockeys the opportunity to compete.
According to Torsilieri, the organizers' commitment to accommodating jockeys sends a strong, positive message of support to the horsemen.
"I am incredibly fond of this historic steeplechase and its legacy to equestrian sport in this region and beyond," said Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Tryon Equestrian Partners and operates TIEC and is the partner organization for the Tryon Block House Races. "I am pleased that we can leverage our resources to enhance the race experience for both the horseman and the spectator. I am certain the Tryon Block House Races will continue to grow and become one of the most sought-after opportunities for both athletes and spectators."
Tickets are on sale for tailgating, VIP Legends Hospitality Tent, or walk-in admission, and will remain on sale until 11 a.m. on Saturday. Gates open at 9 a.m. at the new facility located at 6881 South N.C. Hwy 9.
• Friday night Steeplechase Pre-Race Kickoff Celebration, 6-9 p.m., in The Legends Club at Tryon Resort.
• Lodging packages at Tryon Resort are also available for the ultimate steeplechase weekend getaway. Tickets can be purchased here.