It’s more than a day of horse racing; it’s an event unto its own with extra festivities including a hat contest and a tailgating party. The first leg of Aiken’s Triple Crown, the Aiken Trials will be held Saturday, March 18, at the Aiken Training Track.
“It’s much more of a family-oriented event. It’s fun for families and horse lovers. It’s up close and personal,” said Nikki Ridenour, event coordinator.
On the 75th anniversary of the event, there are some extra special things planned.
The gates open at 10 a.m. with the first of the six trials beginning at 2 p.m.
The opening ceremony will be at 1 p.m. and will feature the Fort Gordon Color Guard and Brass Quintet as well as a flyover by a 1942 biplane.
At 2:50 p.m., the first member of the Aiken Training Track’s ambassador’s club will be inducted. Cot Campbell, the owner of Dogwood Stable, will be recognized for his support of the Aiken Training Track over the years.
The Wells Fargo Stagecoach will also be on display, and people can have photos made with it.
Trials’ patrons can show off their fancy hats with the winner announced at 4:15 p.m., and the best tailgate party will be announced at 4:50 p.m.
Ridenour said people have a lot of fun with their tailgating parties. Some people keep things simple with a picnic basket, but others do more.
“Some people go full out. It’s really neat,” she said.
In the past, people have turned their tailgating spot at the Aiken Training Track into a beach getaway complete with sand, she said.
Started in 1942, the Aiken Trials is a series of races designed to train younger horses in the experience of racing. Five of the six races are for horses younger than two years old that have never won a race. The sixth race is for older horses that may have already won a race.
The event is held rain or shine, said Ridenour, and attendance is often determined by the weather.
Tickets are available online at aikentrainingtrack.com until 5 p.m. Friday, March 17. Advanced general admission tickets are $10. Also available on the website are VIP packages and parking passes.
Patrons can also watch the horses prepare and hear from local trainers as well as David Donk at the Breakfast at the Gallops event at 8 a.m. Friday at the Aiken Training Track. Tickets are $20 advance or $25 at the gate. See aikentrainingtrack.com.