Virginia Gold Cup Moved To May 29, Will Allow Limited Spectators

The following appeared in The Paulick Report February 18.

Every May, on the same date as the Kentucky Derby, one of the nation’s largest steeplechase events takes place in Northern Virginia. As an event that has been run on the first Saturday in May for the past 95 years, the Virginia Gold Cup is considered to be Virginia’s answer to the Kentucky Derby. This year that date will change to May 29.

Last year, the event moved to June 27 and ran without spectators. It was livestreamed without charge so its many fans could watch online.

This May marks the 96th year for the event and organizers have completely overhauled the spectator portion to comply with COVID-19. The event will now run on May 29 with limited ticket packages for sale. Spectators will be allowed in a reduced number of pre-purchased rail spaces that will ring the entire racecourse. No corporate tents will be allowed on site. Rail spaces will be spread out and will be larger than in past (12′ wide by 20′ deep.) Those attending must purchase a rail spot that comes with 10 tickets (10 wristbands, one reserved tailgate car pass and two general admission car passes.) The cost is $675 for a rail space on Member’s Hill and $500 for rail spaces on north or south areas around the racecourse. No individual tickets will be sold.

Doc Cebu (#1) has the edge over runner-up Codrington College (#6) at one of 23 timber fences the field encountered in the 2020 Gold Cup. Photo by Tod Marks.

Limited ticket packages are available and purchases can only be made by calling 540-347-2612. Sales are on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. Attendees who have had a regular rail spot year-after-year will not receive that space this year and those who acquire a rail space this year will not receive any privileges for subsequent years. In 2022, the event will revert back to its space reservations of 2019 as there are a number of people who have held specific spaces at the race for years.

“A final ruling on the event is expected from the Governor a month before the race. Should something happen with Covid-19 between now and April 15, we will be able to adjust accordingly,” explained Dr. William Allison, chairman of the Virginia Gold Cup Association. “In the interim, we’ll accept space reservations but they’ll be very limited.”

Covid-19 restrictions will limit the availability of food at the event. “All spectators will have to bring their own food and drink,” Allison continued. Some catering will be available for on-site pickup (see website for details.)

Anticipating was one of two winners Jonathan Sheppard had on the 2020 fall International Gold Cup card. Photo by Douglas Lees.

The pandemic has severely financially impacted the equine industry in Virginia. It is an industry that’s very important to the Commonwealth’s economy. A 2018/19 report by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services reported that the horse industry brings more than $2 billion annually in economic development to the Commonwealth. The report noted that there are more than 183,643 horses in the state that provide approximately 38,874 jobs. It also stated that there are 30.5% or one million households that contain horse enthusiasts.

“It’s important to run these races so that we can continue to help out the equine industry and provide some income,” stated Allison. “So many jockeys, trainers and industry employees are dependent on these races.”

For more information visit The website will be updated as additional information becomes available.

The 2021 Virginia Gold Cup Races are presented by Brown Advisory, the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, the Virginia Thoroughbred Association, Virginia Equine Alliance and the Virginia Breeders Fund.