The Story of the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase

The Queen's Cup Steeplechase
The Queen's Cup Steeplechase

The Price family have been horse enthusiasts since their childhood in Maryland. Carrington recalls, “We used to go to steeplechases from the time you could walk. It was a great social event.” Bill also rode a bit during his youth, although Carrington jokes, “but he wasn’t as good as Jamey [their son]. “So, when we moved here [to Charlotte] we bought a horse named Break Clean, and his first time out he won. We had a very succesful spell for three or four years [with that horse] and we were hooked.” Then, at the urging of family and friends who suggested Bill and Carrington start their own steeplechase, the two obliged.

For the first several years of the running of The Queen’s Cup, the Price’s leased the land where the event was held. However, finding a permanent home for the event became a major priority but also posed many hurdles.

“We thought, how hard could it be, a few fences and a few porta-jons. Little did we know, it was really hard to find a large tract of land big enough to accomodate a championship calibre mile long track,” said Bill. The year was 1997, when they finally found a piece that was big enough, and that’s when things got even more complicated.

Bill started the huge undertaking by designing the majority of the course himself. This meant he was responsible for completing a daunting task: create a racetrack that fit seamlessly into the natural characteristics of the surrounding scenery while also being spectator friendly.

It took 45 days to buy the land and months upon months to clear and grade, almost blindly, the racecourse that Bill Price envisioned.

The process of building the Brooklandwood Racecourse, home of The Queen’s Cup, was an exhaustive but rewarding one. In the end the result was spectacular. The pristine course compliments the undulating landscape and offers spectators a chance to see the entire track from almost any vantage point, a rare feat not accomplished at many other courses in the Carolinas. In fact, talented riders from the United Kingdom and beyond, after racing on the course, have called it one of the best steeplechase courses not only in the country but in the world.

As the story goes, The Queen’s Cup was off and running. So much so that in the late 1990’s an anonymous offer came along to buy both the property and the Queen’s Cup for close to $10,000,000. This was far more than what the Prices had put into the property, and this extraordinary offer caused quite the quandary. Bill and Carrington remember it vividly. They sat down with their kids (at the time their oldest son Jamey was ten and their youngest daughter, Brent was eight) and told them about the situation. Bill recalls that family meeting like it was yesterday, “When we told the kids, both of their faces dropped and Jamey said, ‘I thought it wasn’t about money Daddy’ [then] Jamey ran away up stairs in tears and Brent followed big brother, tears and all. Then Carrington looked at me and said, ‘Now, what are you going to do?’” Ultimately, it wasn’t about the money. It was about creating a legacy, giving something back to the community, preserving the beauty of the racecourse and its contiguous land. So, they decided not to sell, a decision that drew criticism from friends and family.

The very next year,  the Prices put the property into a conservation easement with the Catawba Lands Conservancy, a move that guarantees that nobody develop the property and that it stay in its current natural state in perpetuity. According to Bill, as a 501(c) 3 and charitable organization, the race has never been a money maker. Instead, if you look at the bigger picture as the Prices do, “you don’t do this because you think it will have a big financial benefit, you do it because you love the idea of the sport, and you love the idea of giving back to the community. [We’ve] introduced the region to a sport that’s beautiful, yet treacherous, [that takes place] in an environment that’s beautiful. For one day of the year, The Queen’s Cup changes the social and sporting perception [of the region].”

For ten years the event prospered. It took a lot of hard work, a lot of relationship building with the sponsors, a lot of learning, but The Queen’s Cup had established its place in Charlotte. Then, 2009 and the accompanying recession hit hard. Corporate sponsorships for The Queen’s Cup dried up. Companies cut costs to weather the storm and frankly, the Prices did not know if the event would stay afloat. However, a few key contributors rallied behind The Queen’s Cup to keep it going. One of those saviors, an equestrian enthusiast and show rider herself, Molly Crosland, generously donated to the cause. Molly had only been to a handful of steeplechases at the Brooklandwood Racecourse, but always enjoyed her experience. In early July 2008, Molly passed away suddenly and sadly. Unbeknownst to the Prices, she had made the Charlotte Steeplechase Association, the governing board of The Queen’s Cup, her largest beneficiary, because of her love for the event and the sport itself. Her one caveat, the event had to feature a race with a $50,000 purse in order to attract better horses and jockeys to Charlotte. That race is now aptly entitled the Queen’s Cup MPC ‘Chase (after Molly’s initals) and is the feature race of the event.

Along with Molly and her altruism, many others stepped up to save the Cup when it needed it most. Glenn Springer and the board were integral, the volunteers as well, and BAE Systems, who signed on as presenting sponsor for two crucial years. If not for these truly amazing people and the Price family the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase would’ve fallen victim, like so many others, to that historical recession.

This year, on the last Saturday in April, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Queen’s Cup, we’ll keep the old proverb in mind: “You don’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” The Queen’s Cup has jumped quite a few hurdles in its first two decades, but with determination, perseverance, and a little luck, has cleared them all.