FIRST STEEPLECHASE - 1752
As British agricultural land was enclosed in the 18th century, hunters had to learn to jump hedges, stone walls, and post and rail fences. Faster horses and faster hounds were also being bred at this time, which led to argument over the horses' abilities. To prove the owners' boasts, race matches were run across country. The first recorded match was in Ireland in 1752, when Mr. O'Callaghan raced Mr. Blake from Buttervent Church to St. Leger Church. Church steeples were prominent landmarks so matches were frequently from one church to another and came to be called steeplechases. The first steeplechase course set up on a race track was created with artificial barriers at Newmarket in 1794. Gradually, the idea of a laid out jump course caught on, and the sport of steeplechasing was organized; prize money was offered, betting opportunities abounded, and classic races, like the Grand National at Aintree (1839) were created. Barriers designed to provide the most challenging events included stone walls, hedges, fences, and brooks. Steeplechasing came to the United States in 1869 with the first race held at Jerome Park in New York.
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