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History of the International Gold Cup Races

This past Saturday, Great Meadow hosted the 83rd running of the International Gold Cup Races and congratulations are in order for Curve of Stones, winner of the 2020 International Gold Cup Timber Stakes! Curve of Stones is owned by Rebecca Shepherd and was ridden to victory by Barry Foley.

Curve of Stones & Barry Foley on their way to a win in the 2020 International Gold Cup Timber Stakes © Kira Topeka

The International Gold Cup, a time-honored fall race, has had a long and interesting journey to its present home here at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia.

Seventeen entrants tackled the first International Gold Cup, which was held in 1930 at Grasslands Downs in Tennessee over a 4¼ mile brush course. The course was constructed to mirror the English Grand National course at Aintree, as an intentionally challenging preparation for that race. It was advertised as an international race because horses from England, Ireland, and France participated.

The winner of that first race, the owner of a horse named Alligator, was awarded a stunning gold trophy designed and donated by the King of Spain, Alfonso XIII. Decades later, that trophy is still awarded annually to the winner of the International Gold Cup Race.

After the Tennessee race meet ended in 1932, the event was moved to the Rolling Rock Hunt Meet course in Pennsylvania, a course built by General Richard King Mellon, whose horse Glangesia had won the 1931 race in Tennessee. The race was again relocated in 1984 to the Great Meadow racecourse after the Rolling Rock Hunt Meet racecourse fell victim to the land development.

Though Great Meadow is most widely known for the Virginia Gold Cup, according to The History & Origins of the Virginia Gold Cup, the first steeplechase meet ever held at Great Meadow was actually that 1984 International Gold Cup.

On October 20, 1984, before a crowd of 8,500 with some 80 horses on a seven-race card the International Gold Cup started a new chapter. In keeping with Virginia’s tradition of being the nation’s leader of timber racing, the International Gold Cup became a timber race.

The two top contenders of the 1984 International Gold Cup were Double Sparkle and Great Meadow Founder, Arthur W. Arundel’s, Sugar Bee. Double Sparkle won the first International Gold Cup at Great Meadow, but Sugar Bee came back the following year and won in 1985.

In 1989, the International Gold Cup race was awarded stakes designation by the National Steeplechase Association.

Today, the International Gold Cup Races are held annually on the fourth Saturday in October. This fixture of the fall calendar in Virginia attracts approximately 40,000 spectators. 2020 marked the first time the race was be held without spectators.

Recipient of the prestigious International Gold Cup in 1987, the late Richards Joseph Richards III. His horse was Colonels Request.