Aiken Trials schedule:
Gates open - 10 a.m.
Vendors and concessions open - 11 a.m.
Tent party - 11 a.m.
Opening ceremonies and Carriage Parade - 1 p.m.
Races - 2 p.m.
Aiken is readying itself for a casual day of racing and tailgating during the first leg of Aiken's annual Triple Crown on March 15.
Aiken Trials gates will open at 10 a.m., and Nikki Bargeloh with Aiken Training Track said tickets are still available. However, tent tickets are nearly sold out.
“General admission is still available both online and at the gate on the day of the event,” Bargeloh said. “But you won't be able to buy tent tickets that day.”
The history of the Aiken Trials dates back to 1941 when horsemen Fred H. Post and his son William visited Aiken to play polo, according to the Aiken Trials website. Post was so impressed by the mild temperatures and soil that he decided to build the track along Two Notch Road.
Since the time of the track's construction, 39 champion Thoroughbreds have been crowned. The Aiken Trials provides an opportunity for young horses to experience every aspect of training, drawing more than 10,000 spectators from around the country.
“It's a fun day to hang out and tailgate,” Bargeloh said. “We have maybe seven races, which is different from most years. It's just a great opportunity to get up close and personal with the horses that are training here in Aiken.”
The second and thirds legs of the Triple Crown are Spring Steeplechase and Pacers & Polo, held on March 22 and March 29, respectively.
The Aiken Trials consist of six to seven races – five races for young horses and maidens and one race for older horses that have already won.
Dogs are not allowed at the Aiken Trials. For those sitting in the front row, spectators are asked to not hold umbrellas, balloons or tents.
“It actually scares the horses,” Bargeloh said. “This is their first experience of people for (the) baby horses, usually. Balloons and frisbees too can scare the horses.”
Spectators must have a general admission ticket to enter the Trials and every vehicle needs a parking pass to enter, as well. Spectators who don't tailgate will still have access to a variety of food vendors.
“Especially for people who have never been to the Aiken Trials or to a really nice race track, this is a great opportunity to see horses compete and just look at the splendor of the animal,” Bargeloh said.
The Aiken Training Track is located at 538 Two Notch Road.
For more information and prices, visit www.aikentrials.com or call 803-648-4631.
Maayan Schechter is the local government reporter with Aiken Standard.