Carolina Cup, the bellwether for spring in South Carolina, commences Saturday, April 2, in Camden. For most attendees, the event is an excuse to party, put on the newest fashions and enjoy a day outside.
Carolina Cup attracts 50,000-70,000 spectators, “a fraction of which is actually interested in watching the races,” Carolina Cup Racing Association CEO Nick Ellis said.
The steeplechase race horses are not the well-seasoned champions that hit Springdale Race Course in the fall for Colonial Cup, Ellis said, so the atmosphere is suited to those who come for the fun and aren’t necessarily serious racing enthusiasts.
“Some people call it a whole football season’s worth of tailgating jammed into one day,” he said.
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If your aim is to throw down at Cup, make sure you come prepared with our Must Haves, listed below. And don’t forget that at the end of the day, Carolina Cup is a charitable event. All profits are given to local hospitals.
For ladies, Cup is all about The Dress. Lilly Pulitzer is the standard. “Southern Charm,” a mix of neon pinks and greens, is the hottest Lilly pattern this year, said Beth Baxley, owner of the Columbia Lilly retailer Pink Sorbet. As for dress cut, crop tops and rompers are on trend, she said. And don’t forget your floppy hat and flat shoes. “You’ve got to have flat shoes,” Baxley said. “Do not wear your best shoes. They could get ruined.”
For gents, a button-down shirt, a bow tie and nice (bright) pants are a must. It is also now acceptable for you to break out the seersucker.
If you’re in the infield or College Park, bring your own booze, coozy and tumbler.
All the Carolina Cup bars will be serving a “Carolina julep” – a South Carolina version the Kentucky Derby’s famous mint julep – made with Woodford Reserve. Tastings will be offered in the infield.
Under-21 revelers should be cautious as Carolina Cup has cracked down on underage drinkers in the last few years. Roaming police officers will slap you with a drinking ticket faster than you can say “beer pong.”
There aren’t a ton of food options, so stock the cooler. Not everyone can be fancy and have a caterer, so be sure to at least have snacks to last you the whole day.
College students, do not forget your bus ticket!
Drivers, the earlier you get to the track, the easier it will be to park. Do not leave Columbia at 11:30 a.m. and expect to breeze right in.
We’ll say it again, don’t forget about the horses. Camden is known as the “Steeplechase Capital of the World” after all. There are six races, and the fifth race is the official Carolina Cup.
You can also catch the horses in the paddock area, where you can get a closer look.
The 15,000-20,000 college students that come to Carolina Cup are relegated to an area in the back of the racetrack (for good reason). Things can get raucous in College Park. Kids come by the busload from various universities, often with their own catering, music and even furniture from the frat castle.
The infield skews a little bit older and is by and large made up of local folks. Most infielders have had a reserved parking space for many years, and Carolina Cup is an annual reunion of sorts for them. It’s also the place to be for anyone 30-50 years old experiencing Cup for the first time.
Across racetrack is the grandstand and the boxes. There are about 200 boxes and they are pricey. One grandstand box goes for $500. Adjacent to the grandstand is the hospitality terrace, where corporate types rub elbows.
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: Carolina Cup
WHEN: Saturday, April 2. Gates open at 9 a.m. First race is at 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Springdale Race Course, 200 Knights Hill Road, Camden
COST: $45 for a general admission ticket
ALSO: On Friday, April 1, the Fine Arts Center of Kershaw County hosts a Carolina Cup Weekend Kick Off, a free concert with performances by local musicians. 6-8:30 p.m at the Town Green, 1015 Market St., Camden.
9 a.m. Gates Open
1 p.m. National Anthem - Bugler Kevin Smith
1:30 p.m. First Race, Maiden Training Flat
2:05 p.m. Second Race, Training Flat
2:40 p.m. Third Race, Sports of Kings Maiden Hurdle
3:15 p.m. Fourth Race, Allowance Timber
3:50 p.m. Fifth Race, The Carolina Cup
4:25 p.m. Sixth Race, Filly & Mare Maiden Hurdle