Get out your sun hats, seersuckers, and mint juleps, 'cause the Virginia Gold Cup is coming to town! This 96-year-old hunt tradition brings horse-lovers out in droves for Virginia's biggest outdoor cocktail party.

The Virginia Gold Cup is one of the nation’s largest steeplechase races. At it, you'll find some of the best horses in the world competing over hurdles, timber fences, and on flat, grassy fields. It's set in the beautiful Fauquier County countryside with the Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop, and it's attended by folks young and old, national celebrities, local VIPs, and politicians.

Where and when is it?

Virginia Gold Cup is held this year on Saturday, May 5, at Great Meadow, The Plains. The Great Meadow Foundation's address is 5089 Old Tavern Rd, The Plains, Virginia, but click here to get exact directions from your location. Gates open to the public at 10 a.m., and the race events start at noon.

How does it work?

Viewing areas for the races are divided into three basic sections: North Rail, South Rail, and Members Hill. Members Hill overlooks Winners Circle and has the best view of the course. That means, of course, that it's the most expensive spot at Gold Cup. All three sections include private tents, usually sponsored by corporations, event planners, or even private parties willing to "pony" up the fees for the space. Smaller tailgate spaces are also available and big enough for an SUV, or you can just buy individual passes to park in general parking and walk up to grab a spot at the fences. FYI, North Rail tends to be more geared to young professional types and social groups, and South Rail is where most corporate tents and family-oriented outings congregate. [caption id="attachment_6658" align="aligncenter" width="979"]Virginia Gold Cup Courtesy VA Gold Cup Facebook[/caption]

How much is it?

Since there are so many ticket types, this is just a sampling of the many ways to enjoy Gold Cup. For more ticket information, go here. General Admission -- North Rail OR South Rail ($100) Admits vehicle and six passengers to the North general parking area. Bring a blanket or a chair, and pack your own picnic basket or purchase food and drinks in the Tavern Tents. Limo Pass -- North OR South Rail ($400, 7-15 guests) Enjoy the races by coming in your own limousine. Cost is JUST for parking the limo -- the cost of reserving it is on you! Reserved Parking Spaces on Rails 1-3 (range from $400-$600) Reserved parking spaces are available in rows 1 through 3 (row 1 being closest to the race course). For Rows 1 – 3, the cost includes a 12'x 20' space which comfortably accommodates up to 18 guests, one reserved parking pass, two General Admission car passes, and six Members Hill badges. No tents allowed! Bus Tours and Tailgates For $55, Lindy Promotions has a pretty sweet deal! The price includes bus fare, your Virginia Gold Cup ticket, and a tailgate tent with food and open bar. There will be two bus pickup and dropoff stops, one in D.C. and one in Arlington (pickup spots TBA). Click here for details.

What do I wear?

Ladies will wear their sundresses and floppy hats (I've seen plenty of capris, too), and many guys dress up in bow ties and seersucker suits, or just a pair of khakis and a collared shirt or button-down. Jeans are rarely seen at Virginia Gold Cup, and shorts are not allowed on Members Hill. Embrace the fun in showing off your finery -- you might even see kilts and outlandish costumes! [gallery type="rectangular" ids="6664,6665,6666,6653"]

What do I pack?

Tailgating is the name of the game at the Virginia Gold Cup, and it can almost rival the races themselves in terms of showmanship. If you're not associated with a large group or tent, and you've just rented a rail space, the space will have plenty of room for your car AND tables, chairs, coolers, etc. There's even a tailgate contest you can enter if you have a reserved rail space!* I've seen the fancy, elaborate spreads with tablecloths, centerpieces, candelabra, full bars with garnishes, and silver trays with watercress sandwiches. I've also seen rowdy college kids with bags of chips, coolers of beer, and full-on flip cup or beer pong setups! The fancier tailgates are much more prevalent, though, be warned! One thing is certain: you'll need to pack food and water. Beer pong and fancy cocktails optional. *If you have reserved a tailgate spot and would like to enter the competition, send your name, contact information, and tailgate spot number to by 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 3, 2018. Past prizes have included dinners and hotel stays, airline tickets, and gift baskets. [gallery type="rectangular" ids="6652,6654,6660"]

Can I bet?

You bet your sweet horse pucky! There are many different types of wagers available, so check out all the variations here.

Race Schedule

10 a.m. -- Gates Open to the Public 11:30 a.m. -- Terrier Race Exhibition 12:30 p.m. -- First Race 1:15 p.m. -- Second Race 2:00 p.m. -- Third Race 2:45 p.m. -- Fourth Race 3:30 p.m. -- Fifth Race 4:15 p.m. -- Sixth Race 4:45 p.m. -- Seventh Race 5:15 p.m. -- Eighth Race 7:15 p.m. -- Gates Close [gallery type="rectangular" ids="6657,6667,6655,6661"] There you have it! Giddy up and save your space at the Virginia Gold Cup. Tickets are on sale now, and believe me, they sell out fast. Have you been to the Gold Cup? Planning to go? Sally on down to the comments and tell us all about it!

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