Block House Races Get New Location for April Steeplechase

Erik Olsen—Courtesy of Tryon International Equestrian Center
Tryon International Equestrian Center is located in Mill Spring

TRYON — This year, Tryon Riding & Hunt Club is partnering with Tryon International Equestrian Center to host the 71st Annual Block House Races.For the first time, Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) and Tryon Riding & Hunt Club (TR&HC) have partnered to host the 71st Annual Block House Races, the steeplechase of Tryon Riding & Hunt Club.This year’s steeplechase will be held April 17th, and for the following years the event will take place on the third Saturday of April. At $150,000 this year’s purse is the highest in event history. Andrew Bannon, President of TR&HC noted in a press release this was an exciting and changing time for the event, “Through this partnership, beginning this year the Block House will offer a competitive purse structure that will attract more horses and will improve the overall experience of race day for everyone. Most importantly, this partnership allows TR&HC to preserve and protect the 70-year tradition of this race for our community and ensures its viability for future generations.” said Bannon.The Block House Races have been hosted at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) since 1988. This year they will move to a one-mile track of land on 115 acres managed by TIEC and located in Columbus, North Carolina. While this year the steeplechase will be receiving first-class treatment, it was originally held on farmland surrounding a pre-Revolutionary trading post and fort called the Block House. It wasn’t until 1947 that Carter Brown officially started the race, establishing Tryon as an important destination for distance horse racing. Over the years, it’s not only the event that has grown but community participation and the quality of horse and rider due to the focused importance on having an A-rated course.Sharon Decker, the Chief Operating Officer of TIEC said, “We are committed to making this event a can’t-miss attraction for everyone – from owners to riders and from casual spectators to steeplechase enthusiasts.” The Block House is a tailgate event with entry by the carload. Tickets go on sale to the general public online March 15th. TR&HC members receive advanced ticket purchase privileges and seniority.In November, TIEC was selected to host the FEI World Equestrian Games, a major international championship hosted by the Federation Equestre Internationale which serves as the governing body for the equestrian sport. The $400 million dollar event attracts equestrian enthusiasts from 70 countries and is hosted every four years halfway between Olympic game cycles. Next to the Olympics, the FEI World Equestrian Games is the most important.TIEC located in Mill Spring, North Carolina, is owned by Mark Bellissimo and situated on 1,600 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. The venue has risen to prominence within the equestrian world for its state-of-the-art facilities. There’s 1,200 permanent stables, 12 arenas including a floodlit international spectator arena with general admission seating reaching 12,000 and VIP at 1,500. There’s also a covered arena with 5,000 seats and a cross-country course used for both Eventing and Driving. The natural beauty and resources of the surrounding area also contributes to surrounding endurance courses for training.