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The Game Plan

Gold Standard

Posted by Carten Cordell / Friday, May 4th, 2012

The Virginia Gold Cup is more than just socializing.

by Colleen Callery

Neil Roy Johnson/Shutterstock


The first Saturday in May marks an iconic event known for its sundresses, giant sun hats and maybe even a little horse racing: Virginia Gold Cup.  

One of the premier horse races in the country for the last 90 years, thousands visit Fauquier County every year to watch exceptionally trained animals run the four-mile course at Great Meadow in The Plains. But former jockey, trainer and horse racing professional Don Yovanovich knows what goes on “inside the green,” as they say.

Yovanovich won the 1978 Gold Cup, has served as co-chairman since 1984, and is currently the race director. These days it’s Yovanovich who is the seasoned professional. He has seen Virginia Gold Cup grow to host over 50,000 guests, and can speak to the year-round planning it requires—securing sponsors, purse money (prize money), and coordinating changes for future races. 

The hard work pays off, though. Virginia Gold Cup has become the model for other race meets around the country, establishing many of the medical protocols and safety regulations in place today. 

“If we stand to make a decision that we believe will better the game, it will trickle down to the other race meets,” Yovanovich says. So, whether you attend as a horse enthusiast or socialite, there is no question that Virginia Gold Cup is one of NoVA’s most highly anticipated spring events. 


The key to training is tailoring the routine to fit the horse’s strengths, weaknesses. A typical training timeline:

Late November/Early December Spend time jogging on the road, over hills or through the woods.

January Start galloping routines. Some horses may gallop four or five times a week.

Early March More intense training begins. Horses will train with “hard works” or “breezes” to build up lung capacity.

Late March/Early April Compete in one or two point-to-point races or steeplechase meets.

May Gold Cup race is the first Saturday in May.


May 2012

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