When it’s time for the jockeys to seat their rides, time for the horses to take the track, time for the bettors to make their picks (just kidding, betting’s illegal – everybody knows that) it’s time for Kevin Smith to do his job.
For the past 10 years, Smith has issued the “call to post,” the iconic sounding of the bugle, before every Colonial Cup and Carolina Cup race in Camden.
“You hear the bugle call, you think horse race,” Smith said. “It kind of lets everybody know, hey, stop drinking for a second. There’s about to be a horse race.”
It’s tradition, Smith said – just as horse racing is a deeply rooted Camden tradition.
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The 46th edition of the Colonial Cup, the year’s final National Steeplechase Association meet, was run Saturday at Springdale Racecourse.
Smith, a Camden native, grew up not far from the track, he said.
“I could hear the bugle call. I could hear everything from my house growing up,” he said.
Now living in Phoenix, Ariz., Smith makes the trip back home to Camden twice a year to blow the bugle.
As Smith sounded the call to post for Saturday’s first race, Becky Thayer stood by the fence near the track’s finish line, greeting one after another of her foxhunting peers who made their ways into the grandstand.
Foxhunters, members of another long-time Camden tradition, peppered the horse racing crowd, sharing an obvious appreciation of equine skill and majesty.
“They’re so gorgeous,” Thayer said. “I can’t believe they let us do this to them.”
Thayer, who lives south of Camden in Horatio, goes foxhunting about twice a week between Thanksgiving and March, she said. She trains retired racing thoroughbreds to transition into foxhunting after their retirement.
“The racing ties in with the hunting because for these horses to stay fit after (their racing careers), a lot of them go to foxhunting afterward,” Thayer said. “They love hunting. It makes sense to them because chasing things is part of their nature.”
It’s horse racing that’s in Bob Scott’s nature. An Irishman now living in Spartanburg, Scott grew up riding horses in Ireland and attended his first Carolina Cup in Camden in 1950.
For the past 23 years, he and his wife, Leslie, and their friends Gerry and Renate Grabcheski, of Cocoa Beach, Fla., have met in Camden twice a year for the Colonial and Carolina cups.
“There’s nothing like seeing a good horse run,” Leslie Scott said.
“The hair goes up on the back of my neck” when he watches the horses race, Bob Scott said.
As a pack of racers thundered past the finish line, he nodded, “That’s why we come.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.