Horse racing in SC + the Steeplechase of Charleston

Steeplechase of Charleston
Horse racing in South Carolina | Photo by @steeplechaseofcharleston

Held at the Stono Ferry Racetrack in Hollywood, SC, the Steeplechase of Charleston is a world-class horse race with five high-stakes horse races, live music, contests + the Vendor Village featuring Lowcountry artisans.  

The time has come for this year’s event, and we began thinking: How much do we really know about the history of horse racing in SC? The answer was not much, so we’ve done our research + we’re here to share the love.

When did horse racing begin in SC?

Horse racing arrived in SC in the early 1700s, with the first record of the sport appearing in a 1734 edition of the “South Carolina Gazette.” 

It didn’t take long for the sport to gain popularity among horse owners and breeders, who formed the South Carolina Jockey Club on Feb. 1, 1734. 

Records of first jockey club
Records of first jockey club | Screenshot via Steeplechase of Charleston

Where were the races held?

After the South Carolina Jockey Club was formed, horse races began at Charleston’s Washington Race Track in February of 1792 — which bordered what is now Hampton Park. 

Races were held Wednesday through Saturday, though the track was not limited to this event — dinners and balls were also held at the plot during Race Week. However, the main event was the Jockey Club Purse with four heats

While Washington Race Track had a long track record of events, in 1883, a new racetrack came to life in the Charleston area: The Charleston Driving Association’s course on Wagener Farm. 

The one-mile track began hosting its first races at “Wagener Park,” offering one and three-day meets while the facility’s track and grandstands were under construction. In January of 1884, more than 400 spectators were welcomed to the course.

There were no races held at the course for years following the 1886 Charleston earthquake. It was only in the late 1800s that horse racing began again, during which it is said that the grandstand was full, the track was good and hard, and the horsemen were enthusiastic.  

Horse racing today

Though the sport has seen a rise and fall in popularity, various horse racing events have popped up throughout the state to enjoy during the year — including the Steeplechase of Charleston. 

Steeplechase of Charleston FAQs

Check out the full schedule for race day below. ⬇️ 

Steeplechase of Charleston schedule
Event schedule | Screenshot via Steeplechase of Charleston

General admission tickets, parking passes + tailgate spots can be purchased online. 

Weather concerns, ticket questions, or hotel recommendations? Scroll through these frequently asked questions to learn more.