Stoneybrook Steeplechase Set to Run
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Organizers of the 59th annual running of the Stoneybrook Steeplechase horse races Saturday at the Carolina Horse Park couldn't have ordered up a better weather forecast.
Mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the 80s will beckon thousands to what is an annual Rite of Spring in the Sandhills.
After two soggy years, the weather finally cooperated last year, and things look even better for this year's running.
"We are really excited," said Jane Murray, executive director of the Carolina Horse Park. "Ticket sales are going well. Phones are ringing off the hook. It promises to be a great day. In the past, it was just a Steeplechase. We've developed it into a day in the country with something for everyone."
Murray said last year's running drew about 4,000 spectators. She hopes to see that figure doubled this year.
"We've made a more far-reaching effort this year with our marketing " she said. "We had two or three years of bad weather, which hurt. But that shouldn't be a problem this year."
Murray said the proceeds of this year's running will benefit the Cancer CARE Fund of the Moore Regional Hospital Foundation. A Run for the Ribbons 5K and Family Fun 1K run will take place that morning.
"Cancer affects so many people in so many ways," Murray said. "We are really pleased to have that as a beneficiary this year."
This will be the 10th year Stoneybrook has been run at the Carolina Horse Park on Montrose Road just over the border in Hoke County.
For 49 years, the races were held at the Walsh Farm on Youngs Road in Southern Pines. The Walsh family sold the land in 1996, two years after founder Michael "Mickey" Walsh died. The races were dormant until 2001, when the Carolina Horse Park revived them for the 50th running.
While the park is in Hoke County, the tradition is very much rooted in Moore County, Murray said.
"It has been part of the Sandhills tradition for so long," Murray said. "We are keeping that going and adding new traditions. We still have a lot of loyal fans, diehards who come every year, rain or shine, to tailgate and enjoy the races. We also get a big draw from Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and Hoke County. We want to become bigger and better every year."
Mickey Walsh Sr. started the races in 1947. It was billed as an afternoon in the country with family and friends to enjoy fun, fellowship and a few horse races. And Murray said it is still that way today.
Stoneybrook grew in popularity over the years at the Walsh farm, attracting thousands. Generations of family came back year after year.
The Carolina Horse Park kept many of the traditions of the old Stoneybrook - such as the colorful hat and tailgate contests.
Several new "traditions" have been added such as a stick horse race contest sponsored by the Jefferson Inn. There is also a vendor area called Shops at Merchants Crossing.
There is also a children's area with a climbing wall and petting zoo. Since Stoneybrook falls on Easter weekend, an Easter egg hunt for children will be held.
Another added feature this year is the Run for Ribbons 5K and Family Fun 1K that will benefit Cancer CARE Fund of the FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital Foundation. Registration is from 8 to 8:45 a.m., with the 5K going off at 9 a.m. and the Fun Run starting at 10 a.m.
Murray said the Run for the Ribbons is shaping up to be a tremendous success, with more than 300 runners already signed up in advance.
The gates open at 9:30 a.m. The Shops at Merchants Crossing opens at 10 a.m. Registration for the hat contest, sponsored by Hawkins and Harkness jewelers, the tailgate contest, sponsored by The Wine Cellar, and the three stick horse races also open at 10 a.m. The Easter egg hunt begins at 10:45 a.m.
The opening ceremonies, which will include a military tribute, is at noon. The winners of the hat and tailgate contests will be announced about 12:15 p.m.
Speaking of races, post time for the first of five horse races is 1:30 p.m. The total purse is $55,000, according to Murray.
But the fun doesn't end when the last horse crosses the finish line. The New Familiars will be performing in the Festival Tent. The gates will close at 8 p.m.
There is still time to get tickets. The Stoneybrook ticket office is at 115 W. Pennsylvania Ave. in Southern Pines. Spectators can purchase general admission tickets at the gate for $20. Parking on race day is $15.
Murray said there is a lot of excitement surrounding this year's running.
"We are looking forward to a wonderful afternoon in the country," she said. "It has been a long winter. We are glad Stoneybrook time is finally here."
Contact David Sinclair by e-mail at email@example.com.
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