Organizers of the Aiken Trials are hoping the weather is going to clear up on Saturday before the 1 pm carriage parade and 2 pm post time of the first race. The Aiken Trials are a day of racing for fledgling racehorses that have trained at the track all winter. There are many promising young horses learning their trade in Aiken, and this is an unequaled chance to see potential future champions in their first outings in front of a crowd.
Tickets to the races will be available at the gate and are $10 for general admission and $10 for parking. There is also a tent party that you can join for $75 ($25 for children.) Gates open at 10:00 am.
The event is rain or shine, and although the forecast is improving, there looks to be about a 50% chance of getting wet. Racegoers should be prepared with rain coats and hats, but leave umbrellas at home — young horses might be spooked by the sight of them lining the track and they are not allowed. (Consider going to the tent party: that will be dry.)
More Aiken Racing
The Aiken Trials always bring a number of racing related activities with them. These include Breakfast at the Gallops, held on a cool and rainy Friday, March 13. This event showcases racehorse training and gives people a chance to watch horses work and learn more about what the trainers look for and what they are doing.
Another important event is the annual Aiken Trained Horse of the Year ceremony held on the Sunday after the trials. This takes place at the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame in Hopeland Gardens at 2 pm on Sunday, March 15.
This year, there will be a double ceremony. The Aiken Trained Horse of the Year is Palace Malice, the winner of the Belmont Stakes in 2013. The other honoree is Demonstrative, a 2007 gelding who won the Eclipse Award as the champion steeplechaser of 2014. Demonstrative will be inducted into the Aiken Racing Hall of Fame itself.
Entry into the Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame is extremely selective. To qualify, a horse must have trained in Aiken, and he also must have won an Eclipse Award, recognizing him as a national champion. Demonstrative will be the 40th horse to earn his spot in the hall. He joins such illustrious champions as Kelso, Swale and Conquistador Cielo as well as the steeplechasers Barnaby’s Bluff, Elkridge, Neji, Oedipus and Quick Pitch. Memorabilia from his career will be on display.
Demonstrative, by Elusive Quality and out of the Quiet American mare Loving Pride, was bred at Gainsborough Farm in Kentucky. As a yearling, he was shipped to England, where he started his racing career. He raced 11 times as a 2 and 3 year old, earning one win, three seconds and two thirds and the equivalent of about $15,000. The summer of his 3-year-old year, he was sent back to the United States to the Tattersalls Mixed Sale at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Jacqueline Ohrstrom and her trainer Richard Valentine bought him there for $39,876 and switched him over to steeplechasing.
It was a good move. He won two out of his three first starts that fall, along with $21,000. After the season ended, he came to Aiken, where he was housed at the Stable on the Rail until it was time to return to the campaign trail in the spring. The next year, at 4, he had eight starts with two wins, four seconds and two thirds. His career continued on an upward trajectory, and last year, at 7, he was spectacular, winning three Grade I races in a row: the New York Turf Writers Cup, the Lonesome Glory and the American Grand National. With earnings of over $350,000, there was no horse that could touch him for the Eclipse: he had 206 first place votes. The second place horse had 12. Demonstrative’s career earnings stand at $809,800 to date. He is trained by Richard Valentine and ridden by Robbie Walsh.
Palace Malice just missed securing his own spot in the hall of fame this year: early in the 2014 season he was widely considered the best racehorse in America. But, after an uncharacteristically dull performance at Saratoga, it was discovered he had a deep bone bruise and needed to be rested, keeping him out of the prestigious fall races. He was still in the running for Champion Older Male, but finished second behind Main Sequence. Palace Malice had 103 votes, while the winner had 127. Palace Malice still has another chance at an Eclipse: he trained in Aiken this winter and is now in Florida getting ready to return to the racetrack.
Watch Demonstrative and Palace Malice race below: