AIKEN, S.C.– For many young horses, the Aiken Trials is a milestone in their competitive career.
The trials give horses in training the opportunity to experience every aspect of live racing.
Locals come out to celebrate the time honored tradition– this year being the 75th running.
“We come with friends, and we come for the comradery and of course we come for the horses because my husband and I used to go to the derby,” Kay Moody, a long-time Aiken Trials supporter, said.
Moody and her husband have been coming to the Aiken Trials since the 1980’s. She and hundreds of others look forward to Spring because of the Aiken Triple Crown.
Bradley Stauffer, president of the Aiken Training Track, said this is usually the first time race horses get to see large crowds of people.
“Around the racetrack we call the first two year old racers a “Covia Quail.” They could come out of the gate and head in about any direction. Come out and spook from the people in the crowd from the inside or the outside or, you know, hear the noise,” Stauffer said.
He said horses that compete in the Aiken Trials generally move on to larger races. Competing in the Trials prepares horses and puts them a step ahead of first-time racers.
“The race is, for the most part, to educate the horses to further their education to go on to other races. Those horses are broken and trained and prepared for the races to leave here in about mid-April to had on to the races,” David Donk, a horse trainer said.
He traveled to Aiken from New York to go to the event. He said he’s watched horses that have become star racers make their debut right here at the Aiken Trials.
“There’s been some history where a couple of nice horses have run them in the past, and went on to be really good horses. There was a horse 10-15 years ago called ‘Summer Squall,'” Donk said.
Saturday’s event had seven trial runs with 5 to 6 different horses. The winning horses are awarded after each trial.
The Aiken Steeplechase, which is the second leg of the Aiken Triple Crown, will be next Saturday.
The third leg is the Pacers and Polo event, which will be in two weeks.