The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase made its debut in Charlotte in 1995, the same year the Carolina Panthers emerged on the NFL scene. Except it wasn’t Jerry Richardon’s doing, it was the work of founders and race chairs Bill and Carrington Price, who grew up in Maryland around horse racing. They came to Charlotte when the Hornets games were the biggest sporting events in town.
They decided to change that.
The steeplechase event they’ve created — which runs April 30 this year — has some surprising similarities to Panthers games:
(1) The Queen’s Cup holds events on a field.
A really big field. The racing course property, called Brooklandwood, stretches over 260 acres in Mineral Springs. To put it into perspective, Bank of America Stadium and its adjacent practice fields sit on 33 acres of land uptown.
(2) There is mass tailgating.
The big day (April 30) begins at 10 a.m. when the gates open and tailgaters park their cars in their designated spots, where they are permitted to indulge in “beverages of all kinds.”
Like most Panthers games, the main event commences in the afternoon — the first of five races is titled “The $30,000 King George III Sport of Kings Maiden Hurdle” and starts at 1:30 p.m. But there is plenty of work to be done before then. Like socializing and drinking some drinks.
My friend and the Prices’ son Jamey gave me his No. 1 tailgating tip: “Have fun with it. Do some extravagant dishes, or really decorate the spread.”
And expect to be part of a tailgating contest.
(3) There is a huge crowd.
(4) There is a certain kind of dress code.
If you show up at a Panthers tailgate sans Panthers jersey or a well-thought-out array of black and blue garb and perhaps some beads, you probably don’t belong at that tailgate. If you show up at the Queen’s Cup in jeans, you probably don’t belong here, either.
Queen’s Cup attendees tend to treat the day as you would the Kentucky Derby: sporting large floppy hats, bow-ties, sundresses, preppy linens and blazers. To be crystal clear, according to the website, the archetypal Queen’s Cup hat is the Panama hat.
Someone please wear this outfit:
(5) You can get a PSL.
The Queen’s Cup issues Personal Space Licenses, so patrons have the privilege of keeping the same lawn box or tailgating space for the coming years.
But the Queen’s Cup doesn’t last a whole season — it’s the event of the season in the local horse-racing realm. And even though it only lasts one day, it’s packed with events from terrier races to an after-party. And even though it only lasts one day, it has raised over $640,000 for local and regional charities.
“Especially on a gorgeous spring day, there is nothing better than watching a field of horses gallop by 35 miles an hour,” Jamey said. “It’s just an amazing experience to be able to watch the professional sporting event from the comfort of your own tailgate with friends and family.”
General admission tickets are available for purchase right until the first race on April 30. Get them online (through noon April 28) and by phone for $55. The price is bumped up to $75 on race day. Pro tip: You can get them at Harris Teeter for $50.
Off to the races.
Queens Cup Steeplechase
When: Saturday, April 30.
Where: 6103 Waxhaw Highway, Mineral Springs, N.C.
Tickets: Starting at $55.
Photo: Joshua Komer/Charlotte Observer