Foxfield – The Spring Race 2023


Ella-Mae Price, Staff Writer & Opinion Editor

As the blazing sun beats down on the pastel-dressed crowd, a gun sounds and the horses take off, making their way around the grass race track. Nearby, ponies are led by squealing riders and a pig race not far off captures plenty of the group’s attention. Under the sea of tents are guests, ranging from families to college sororities, and encircling the area are vending stands with clothing, accessories, and snacks from sponsors. Long lines lead out from local food trucks. This is Foxfield. 

Foxfield is a biannual horse race held in Albemarle County, Virginia, about 15 minutes outside Charlottesville. The popularly attended races typically have varying demographics, with the Fall event hosting mostly families, and the Spring race attracting local college students from the University of Virginia. This year’s race was on Saturday, April 29, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and expected about 20,000 attendees. 

Foxfield is not only an event that serves as entertainment, but it is also committed to philanthropic giving through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville and Camp Holiday Trails, who are long-term sponsors of the Fall and Spring races. Each year, Foxfield aims to support and establish connections with local organizations and charities during and after the event. Many sponsors are advertised on banners, saddle clothes, jumps, tickets, and even lunch for the jockeys. 

Lea Bricker, a CHS junior, comments on her attendance at the races, saying “It would always be such a good time,” as she has gone several times with her family. She also expresses concern over cost, explaining, “Some tickets are expensive…I would say it’s not always accessible to everyone, but there is always the possibility of volunteering and finding another way to get tickets.” 

The Foxfield races serve as a significant part of the culture at the University of Virginia, which is shown through the heavy attendance of students each year during the Spring. Mary Celentano, a third-year student at UVA and member of Alpha Chi Omega, says that her experience at Foxfield was very enjoyable because of the time spent with friends and the available vendors “to browse what was being sold,” (clothes, accessories, food, etc.). However, she admits she “did not engage with the horse races much at all.” Celentano expresses that Foxfield is “most easily accessible to students in Greek life or other major organizations that organize for transportation, thus lowering the cost as well because of bulk ordering.” 

Despite the popularity of Foxfield and the positive memories that many hold with the races, there is some concern over the animals involved, as one anonymous CHS student who regularly rides horses puts it, “[horses ridden off the track] seem to be wired differently. Something about the high-stress situation puts them in a place or mindset where they’ll never be relaxed.” 

They explain that “[the race horses] are bred to be high-strung which makes them race better,” but this may be detrimental to the mental health of the animals. 

Furthermore, the student expresses disapproval of treating them as “financial gain,” and offers an alternative, stating, “I like how the community can come together for horse races, but there are other options like polo matches, where it’s healthier for the horses, as there are lots of breaks.”

While the Foxfield races celebrate a historical sporting event and offer a fun and exciting environment, it is pertinent to acknowledge the potentially detrimental effects, such as its somewhat exclusive culture and impact on animals.