Take an unusual route to a regular destination and you might happen upon the gem that is Thoroughbred Country, South Carolina, encompassing the town of Aiken, where horses are the prize. Driving along I-20, between Atlanta and Charleston and just east of Augusta, travel by US 78 or 278 through Thoroughbred Country’s charming small towns including Williston, Blackville, Denmark and Bamberg on your next trip to Charleston or Hilton Head.
Aiken is home to National Champion horses like Palace Malice–a Belmont Stakes winner with career earnings of $2,676,235, including the rare combination of wins in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile. He’s just one of the champs who train at Aiken’s Dogwood Stable, which touts 80 stakes winners, seven trips to the Kentucky Derby, both a Preakness and a Belmont winner, seven millionaires, two Eclipse Awards and a Breeders’ Cup victory among their accolades.
As cool weather closes in, run for the roses at Thoroughbred Country’s autumn and winter events, like the Katydid Combined Driving Event, November 3-5, a three-phase driving competition including both horses and ponies driven as singles and in pairs by some of the top carriage drivers in the country.
On Thanksgiving Day, the annual Bloodies and Bagels, held on the lawn of the Aiken County Historical Museum, is the ideal way to kick-off the Blessing of the Hounds. Donations are accepted for the free event, featuring bagels, cream cheese, coffee and Bloody Mary’s. Afterwards, walk into Hitchcock Woods for the Blessing of the Hounds, a beloved and time-honored tradition at Memorial Gate in the Woods that precedes the Aiken Hounds’ Opening Meet.
Don’t miss Christmas in the Backcountry, November 25, at The Living History Park, and the City of Aiken’s 47th annual Christmas Craft Show, featuring over 100 local artisans, December 1-2, at the H. Odell Weeks Center.
Save the date: On December 9, the Aiken Training Track and Aiken Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame are partnering to offer the Backstretch Tour, going behind the scenes of Aiken Training Track to experience what it’s like on the backstretch while also getting an inside look at the magic of training Thoroughbred racehorses. For more information, 803-643-2121 or 803-642-7631. Rain date is December 16.
For a complete listing of special events, including the 26th Annual Christmas in Hopelands light exhibit at Hopelands Gardens in Aiken, December 9-10, 14-23 and 26, featuring the famous gardens illuminated with over 100,000 lights, visit www.TBredCountry.org.