The following was written by Don Clippinger and appeared in Thoroughbred Daily News. Fans can bet at the Gold Cup in The Plains, Virginia on October 27th and also at the four Virginia Bets OTBs — in Richmond, Henrico, Chesapeake and Collinsville.
While betting has not been a major component of jump racing for nearly a half-century, steeplechase meets over the next two weekends will offer a trifecta of large crowds, pari-mutuel wagering, and high-definition video coverage.
Kicking off the jump-racing Octoberfest will be the 98th annual Far Hills Races in central New Jersey, where $850,000 in purses will be on the line, including the $450,000 GI Grand National, the richest steeplechase race in North America, on Saturday.
A week later on Oct. 27, the action swings to Virginia for the International Gold Cup in the Washington metropolitan area. The 35th annual International Gold Cup will offer close to $400,000 in purses over a mixed program of hurdle, timber, and flat races.
Both meets are extremely popular in their respective markets and draw crowds of up to 40,000 each.
In partnership with Monmouth Park, Far Hills will make its first foray into pari-mutuel wagering, while the International Gold Cup launched wagering on its races in 2013 under the supervision of the Virginia Racing Commission. Similarly, the New Jersey Racing Commission will oversee the Far Hills races, which are being conducted under Monmouth Park’s pari-mutuel license.
The International Gold Cup signal this year will be carried worldwide under a contract with XpressBet.
“The exposure is fantastic,” said Dr. William H. Allison, the longtime co-chairman of the International Gold Cup with Dr. Al Griffin. “It’s hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions. It’s the greatest thing for jump racing.”
Dr. Griffin said the International Gold Cup signal also will be picked up in Australia.
Dr. Allison noted that the benefit is not only for steeplechase racing. The wagering exposure supports all of Thoroughbred racing and especially Virginia racing, where the International Gold Cup and the Virginia Gold Cup in the spring have been the principal live racing venues since the closing of Colonial Downs in 2014. The track located in the Richmond, Va., area is scheduled to reopen next year under new ownership.
“Now and into the future, the Virginia Gold Cup and the International Gold Cup will occupy an important role in Virginia’s Thoroughbred industry,” Dr. Allison said. “We are so grateful for the support that we’ve received from the Virginia HBPA, the Virginia Equine Alliance, and especially the Virginia horsemen in the years that Colonial has been closed.”
Guy J. Torsilieri, Far Hills’ chairman, said the advent of pari-mutuel wagering is intended to provide the meet’s thousands of fans with another on-site amenity and also to promote American Thoroughbred racing around the world.
The Far Hills meet has attracted significant international participation over the past decade, and this year no fewer than six horses based in England or Ireland will be shipping in for the racing program.
“All the good things are coming together this year,” Torsilieri said. “We are becoming a target for overseas trainers in the early fall. Bettors in Ireland, England, and other overseas markets will be able to watch and wager just as American fans will be able to bet as part of Monmouth’s well-developed wagering platform.”
Two Far Hills races, the Grand National and the Foxbrook Champion Hurdle, will be a part of the New York Racing Association’s Cross Country Pick 4 with two Belmont Park races.
“We want the world to see American steeplechasing at Far Hills and the International Gold Cup, and we want the world the racing opportunities we provide,” said Torsilieri, who also serves as president of the National Steeplechase Association.
He expressed appreciation to those who brought about pari-mutuel wagering for Far Hills. “This was a long, sustained effort. We are especially grateful to the horsemen and management at Monmouth who made this possible. We had three races at Monmouth this summer, and we appreciate their support.”
“We’re also grateful to the New York Racing Association and their horsemen for supporting steeplechase racing at Saratoga Race Course and Belmont Park. We look forward to being a part of NYRA’s pari-mutuel menu,” Torsilieri said.
The National Steeplechase Association inaugurated high-definition video for all of its race meets beginning this fall. Live video of the Far Hills and International Gold Cup races will be streamed live on the meets’ respective websites.