The Aiken Triple Crown has coincided with the end of winter and the start of spring for more than two generations. The series is composed of three jewels, the Aiken Trials, the Aiken Spring Steeplechase and Pacers and Polo, and the events themselves have become a timeless tradition for families who eagerly await the electric feeling of the atmosphere associated with equestrian sport.
Horsemen have an opportunity to showcase the equine athlete, highlighting the countless hours of training and preparation involved to get the horses to a particular level where they can be competitive, providing wholesome family entertainment in a safe and controlled environment.
The sound of hoofbeats on racetracks and polo fields offer the participants a quiet rhythm that is part of the charm of the activity itself. The subtleties provide an irresistible allure to a diverse audience as the events themselves are a ritual of moment and pleasure.
But, the rich informality enjoyed by those in tailgating spots, the infield, by the sideboards or tent parties only serves to intensify the experience.
The Aiken Triple Crown is a social event, and the ancillary activities are a mildly diverting interlude. Young girls can be seen fawning attention lavishly on the horses. Men and women can be seen standing around, peering over at the field as they enjoy a favorite beverage and placing a friendly wager on their favorite horse. It's an afternoon of beauty, barbecue and bacchanalian spirit.
The Triple Crown is also the whistling wheeze of the horses as they exert themselves on the polo field and racetrack, the triumphant stare after demoralizing an opponent or the agony associated with a losing effort as an athlete's eyes take on a terrible softness.
The equine athletes convey an indelible impression that they are supremely fast, their taut muscles flexing as they explode across the racetrack and polo field. Victory means the horses will get their share of the spoil, and the connections of the horses and winning teams can be seen smiling sheepishly as the press, the audience and family members have cameras at the ready to preserve the moment.
Spectators find themselves squinting through the sunshine, some making undeniable fashion statements with eye-catching ensembles, stunning hats, bow ties, freshly pressed shirts and pleated trousers as they become part of a larger story that resonates with a powerful authority.
The horses can be seen in tight packs as they work to establish position from the opening bowl-in at a polo game, or offer the audience more than mere looks of efficiency as they attempt to improve their position appreciably as a race unfolds.
The Aiken Triple Crown
Aiken Standard file photo The Aiken Trials is the first jewel of the Aiken Triple Crown. Carolyn Vogel’s Scootles, ridden by Jessica Schultz, opens up to score a three-length victory in The Von Stade Trophy.×
Aiken Standard file photo The third jewel of the Aiken Triple Crown Pacers and Polo will be held this Saturday at the Powderhouse Fields.×