May 21—The construction of a new venue for the Aiken Steeplechase Association received a big boost recently when the family of the late Bruce Duchossois donated $271,000 to the organization.
A check presentation ceremony was held May 15 during Aiken Charity Horse Show II at the Aiken Horse Park Foundation's Bruce's Field.
The participants included President Jack Wetzel, Vice President and Treasurer Tara Bostwick and board of directors member Bob Hottensen of the Horse Park Foundation.
Hottensen is the chairman of the foundation's capital campaign.
Accepting the check on behalf of the Steeplechase Association were President Paul Sauerborn, Vice President Jim Geddes and Treasurer Mike Hosang.
"We are very, very pleased and happy," Sauerborn said. "It is wonderful that the Duchossois family thought enough of us to honor us in Bruce's memory. They were familiar with our relationship (with the Horse Park Foundation) over the years, and I think it was a great thing that they did."
Sauerborn described the donation as "a tribute to Bruce and his character" and also said that the gift would "go a long way towards helping" the Steeplechase Association's members "realize their vision."
Duchossois, who died in 2014, was the driving force in the acquisition of the land where Bruce's Field is located and the establishment of the Horse Park Foundation.
His dream was to develop a major equestrian center on the property, and Wetzel, Bostwick and others carried out that plan. Hunter/jumper and dressage shows are held at Bruce's Field, and it also is the home of the $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing showcase.
In addition, the Special Olympics South Carolina State Equestrian Show has been held at the facility in the past.
Bruce's Field, which was named in Duchossois' honor, formerly was the home of the Steeplechase Association's two events, the Aiken Spring Steeplechase and Aiken Fall Steeplechase.
Enough work on the association's new venue is scheduled to be completed in time for the Fall Steeplechase to be conducted there in October.
The site is in an area where Old Wagener Road and Richland Avenue East intersect with Rudy Mason Parkway.
There has been no steeplechase racing in Aiken since the fall of 2019. The 2020 and 2021 editions of the Spring Steeplechase and the 2020 edition of the Fall Steeplechase were canceled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Sauerborn didn't know what the $271,000 gift from the Duchossois family would be used for yet
"We will think it through and figure out how to apply those dollars," Sauerborn said. "With all that's gone on with COVID-19, construction costs and labor costs, it's very, very nice to have this money."
The donation amount represented nearly all the proceeds from the sale of land on Wheat Road that Duchossois owned.
"I think what's really neat is that Bruce bought this land (where Bruce's Field is located) in 2000 to save it from (residential) development and to allow steeplechasing to continue here," Bostwick said. "Then, after the Steeplechase Association decided to move (its venue) long after Bruce's passing, he is still continuing to give."