Virginia Gold Cup: More than a Century of Tradition in Fauquier County

Fauquier County is an area of Virginia steeped in history and tradition, and the legendary Virginia Gold Cup steeplechasing classic is a must-do activity for any family new to the area. Not many cities can boast an activity that has continued for almost a century, but Warrenton has watched the steeplechase grow from a single-race event in 1922 into an annual nine-race card that attracts a sellout crowd of more than 65,000 people.

If you have never been to the races, a steeplechase involves horse racing in which the competitors jump fence and ditch obstacles and often traverse water elements and countryside. It originated in Ireland and the name comes from the days when the orientation of the course was related to a church steeple.

While horse racing is the main event, there are many activities throughout the day to enjoy.

“Whether you are a true horse lover or are just looking forward to the opportunity to enjoy the warm weather in your spring-time finest, race day includes something for everyone,” Sophie Scheps, a representative for Virginia Gold Cup, said. “The Jack Russell Terrier races, shopping at the vendor village and the hat and tailgate competitions are just some of the activities to look forward to.TheVirginia Gold Cup is also the only venue in Northern Virginia to offer sanctioned betting, so bring your cash. Coming to the Virginia Gold Cup and immersing yourself in the horse country culture is one of the best parts of spring.”


Tailgate Contest:Tailgating at theVirginia Gold Cup races is a time honored tradition.The best tailgates have a theme, decorations and special food and drinks recipes. Reserved tailgating spots are available on the Member’s Hill, North Rail and South Rail.When you reserve a tailgate spot you are eligible to enter the tailgate competition – and it is free! Tailgates are judged by a panel of local food and TV personalities.

Hat Contest:The hat contest is a popular event on race day! All you need to participate is a beautiful or whimsical hat celebrating the tradition of racing and the rites of spring.

Categories judged include:
1. Best Racing Theme
2. Funniest/Most Outrageous
3. Most Glamorous/Elegant
4. Best Child (under 18)
5. Best Men’s Showing
Jack RussellTerrier Exhibition:A Jack Russell terrier exhibition kicks off the morning and is always a big hit! Make sure to get there early to see these cuties in action.


The Virginia Gold Cup is the only venue in Northern Virginia to offer sanctioned betting. Betting on the races is easy and fun! Here are some tips on how it works:

Win-Place-Show:Which will you wager on?

-The Win Wager: Betting on a horse to win the race. The horse you choose must win the race for you to win the wager.
-The Place Wager:The bet is on a horse to place either 1st or 2nd.The horse you choose must either place 1st or 2nd for you to win the wager.

-The Show Wager: You are choosing a horse to show in the top 3. The horse you choose must finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd for you to win the wager.

Due to the difficulty of the win wager, it will have the highest payoff of these three wagers. The show wager offers you the greatest chance of winning but does have the lowest payoff.The minimum bet is $2.

EXACTA: Once you have mastered the Win-Place

Show wagering try an Exacta. You bet an Exacta by selecting a minimum of two horses to finish 1st and 2nd. The horses you choose must finish 1st and 2nd, in the order that you listed them, for you to win the wager. The Exacta is a bit more difficult than the win, place or show wagers but has a higher payout.

Choosing two horses in order sound too difficult? You can “box” your wager. A boxed wager will win if your two horses finish either 1st or 2nd, in any order, thus making it more likely you will win.The minimum bet for an Exacta or Exacta box wager is $2.


The Trifecta wager is more difficult than the other wagering options available but has a higher payout than other wagers.To bet aTrifecta you select a minimum of three horses to finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in that exact order.

You can also place a Trifecta Box wager. A boxed Trifecta wager will win if the horses you choose finish 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in any order. This makes the wager more likely to win.

For more information visit www.vagoldcup.com

By Elizabeth Denham

Photos Courtesy of Virginia Gold Cup


Leave a Reply