The Aiken Triple Crown features three equine-related events happening on three consecutive weekends in March: the Aiken Trials, the Aiken Spring Steeplechase and Pacers & Polo.
Run first in 1942, the Aiken Trials gives young thoroughbreds the experience of live racing in front of cheering fans.
Many of the horses that get their starts in Aiken go on to be champions. Summer Squall, owned by the late Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable, lost his race at the Aiken Trials – he was gazing out at the infield, Campbell said in “Bloodhorse” in 2015 – but went on to win the 1990 Preakness Stakes in the Triple Crown and become a local hero.
The first leg of the Aiken Triple Crown, the Aiken Trials, now in its 80th year, is an opportunity for racing fans and horse enthusiasts to pack up a feast for tailgating, reunite with family and friends and celebrate the coming of spring a few days early. The 80th running of the Aiken Trials will take on March 18.
For more information, visit aikentrainingtrack.com.
Aiken Spring Steeplechase
Every March, thousands of spectators gather to watch horses fly over fences at the Aiken Spring Steeplechase, the second leg of the Aiken Triple Crown.
The Spring Steeplechase is scheduled this year at the Aiken Steeplechase Association’s new venue off Richland Avenue East.
The Aiken Steeplechase Association, founded in 1930 by several influential horsemen, including Thomas Hitchcock, considered the dean of American steeplechasing, held its first race in Hitchcock Woods. More than 1,000 spectators watched that first race, but this year's running will attract almost 30 times that many.
The Aiken Spring Steeplechase, sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association, probably is Aiken County's biggest sports event and its largest outdoor party. Women in spring frocks and fashionable, wide-brimmed hats and men in colorful print pants – often in bold, "crazy" patterns – and snappy bow-ties have become a Steeplechase fashion tradition. The event will take place March 25.
For more information, visit aikensteeplechase.com.
Pacers & Polo
The 18th annual Pacers & Polo is set to be held the first weekend in April.
This event is hosted by donors, alumni and friends of USC Aiken in partnership with the Aiken Polo Club. It serves not only as the third part of Aiken's Triple Crown, which started in 1971, but also as a fundraiser for USCA athletic scholarships.
Polo first came to Aiken in March 1882, just six years after the “Sport of Kings,” as it has been called, arrived in America.
With polo's long history and tradition in Aiken, it was only fitting that Pacers & Polo became the third leg of the Aiken Triple Crown in 2004, replacing harness racing.
For more information, visit https://www.usca.edu/events/pacers-and-polo.