The best things in life, Joel Sadler believes, are inconvenient.
“And this is incredibly inconvenient,” he said.
“And it’s one of the best things in life,” added Philip Sasser, who met college friend Sadler in Camden Saturday at the 47th Colonial Cup steeplechase.
Sadler came from Charleston and Sasser from Raleigh to for a get-together they vowed to continue since their first Colonial Cup in 2014.
“It was perfect two years ago and it was perfect last year,” Sasser said.
And it was perfect the third time on an idyllic fall day when the sun warmed yellowed grass and a comfortable breeze whipped through steeplechase hurdles.
Boys in button-down shirts and khakis tossed footballs, ladies in flowered and feathered hats sipped wine and families crowded along the infield fences to see jockeys in neon jackets bounce above thundering thoroughbreds.
Horses might look faster racing on television, said Allyson Roberson, but there’s always a thrill to watching them race.
Roberson came from Kinston, N.C., with daughters, 4-year-old Leann and 1-year-old Avery to watch the races for the first time with relatives. When she was younger, Roberson used to tend to horses. Now, she “watches them on TV all the time” with her daughters.
“It’s exciting and thrilling when you’re watching it and more of a peaceful, free feeling when you’re riding, having so much power beneath you,” Roberson said.
Blair Atkinson has dreams of owning her own thoroughbred.
“His name is going to be Mr. Right,” she said. (Though her husband, of course, says she already has Mr. Right.) “It has to have a black mane and a black tail. Otherwise, it’s Mr. Maybe.”
She and husband Paul, an Air Force pilot, came from Georgia to enjoy the Cup for the second time with friend Paul Batish, a pilot based at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.
The easy-going atmosphere of the fall races – a contrast to the wildly vibrant air of the springtime Carolina Cup at the same course – was a welcome place for friends to relax and reconnect.
Sadler and Sasser planned to spend the hours catching up in the way the dearest of friends do, letting the roots of their young Colonial Cup tradition grow deeper with each passing of the pack around the racetrack.
One day, Sasser said, perhaps he’ll bring his children into the tradition. Then they can experience one of his favorite parts of the Colonial Cup – “the sound of the horses.”
“It’s a sound that, through all history, it’s familiar. The sound of hoofbeats storming past you,” he said. “You hear it here and ... whatever sort of hereditary, atavistic part of your body awakens. And you realize, yeah, that’s a sound that one ought to hear every so often.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.