The crowd size looked like that of Carolina Cups past while the demographics were that of the former Colonial Cup races. Saturday was a “win-win” for race officials and fans.
When the Carolina Cup became the only steeplechase meet in town, following the shuttering of the fall Marion duPont Scott Colonial Cup after the 2016, outgoing Carolina Cup Executive Director John Cushman and his team wanted to put a more family- and fan-friendly look on the Carolina Cup which had taken some hits both attendance- and public relations-wise as to what some perceived as being a wild party which just happened to have a few Thoroughbred races thrown in.
Saturday, thousands of patrons made their way onto the Springdale Race Course -- many pushing or riding in baby strollers -- as the organization’s attempt to make the Camden spring classic a three-generation event went from being a pipe dream to reality. There were pony rides and games for the youngsters in the infield. The Paddock Shoppes located behind the grandstand attracted customers both young and old to their tents.
The sponsor mounds were filled while the The Meadow -- formerly known as College Park -- was a runaway hit and will only continue to grow in popularity. Cushman, the man who turned College Park into the place to be for the college-aged set more than 20 years ago, has waved his magic wand again on the back side of the race course.
As for the course itself, thanks in part to the efforts of Modern Turf and the diligent tending to the grounds of race and grounds director Jeff Teter and his staff including James Harris, Grady Humphries, Bill Martin and Jonathan Smart, the going never looked better. In the paddock, one owner was overhead saying it was the first time in 20 years that he did not see a cloud of dust accompanying the jumpers and runners.
From all initial returns, the 85th Carolina Cup races were a smashing success and the result of many hours of hard work and labor put in from Cushman, Teter and his staff, incoming Executive Director Toby Edwards, Assistant Executive Director Maggie Davis and Business Development Director Shannon Ferguson.
Under normal circumstances, we would say to all those involved in putting on such an event to take some well-deserved time off. Instead, there will be no rest -- for the time being, at least -- for the weary as the group is back at work promoting and preparing for Saturday’s “The Cup Runneth Over” steeplechase races at Springdale.
Even with little prep time, we know with this group this weekend’s races will be nothing short of being a first-class event.