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And they're off

And they're off

My most memorable Steeplechase was in the Hamptons when I was about 7 years old. Sadly, I had the misfortune of witnessing a botched jump that ended badly for the jockey and tragically for the horse. I still cringe whenever the horses go over a jump. Luckily, at the annual Iroquois Steeplechase I can get all the pomp and circumstance of derby day without actually seeing a horse race.

Saturday's bright sun was a sharp contrast to last week's downpour. The heat at the 63rd running of the Iroquois Steeplechase tested the stamina of horses and patrons alike. By 11 a.m., the infield was stocked with tents, cars and jaunty tailgaters while most of the high-priced boxes remained empty. Seasoned tailgaters had already set out virtual bistros, and an ingenious few were filling small kiddie pools with water and plenty of ice. Believe it or not, some posh tents boasted a wait staff to serve the guests.

The expanse of infield offered hundreds of parties, thousands of potential new friends and a dazzling variety of food and drink. Many girls wore classic knee-length sundresses and fancy hats while others dismissed tradition in favor of casual skirts and cowgirl hats. Guys wore everything from seersucker suits and bow ties to T-shirts, visors and shorts. On the infield, anything goes. It's tradition to wear a hat, though it's certainly not required.

Even in the box seats, the dress code was flexible. Plenty of women looked lovely hatless. Supposedly, a blue wrist band (for blue bloods?) was needed to get into the boxes while yet another band granted entrance to the club tents. But more than one plucky party-crasher breezed through wearing no wrist bands at all....

The bulk of the box royalty and their pampered guests had crowded into the club tents to escape the unforgiving heat. People power-schmoozed while working hard to stay hydrated. The Paddock Club and Iroquois Society tents were the epitome of civility. The tables and chairs were covered in fresh white linens and decorated with flowers. Even the children behaved like perfect little adults. The races were difficult to see even from the grandstand. Of course, there were a few tumbles, though thankfully no one was hurt.

Besides the obvious box holder/tailgater segregation, there are subtle divisions among the infielders. Experienced (i.e. late twenty- to fortysomething) tailgaters arrive early and buy multiple spaces to keep the rowdy college kids and train-wrecked teens at arms length. Beyond the grills and lavish spreads is an area that looks and smells like an MTV Spring Break special. Nashville's array of higher education means oodles of embroidered white caps, beer bongs and underage mayhem. Round about 4 p.m., some excitement broke out near one of the cars. In a hilarious case of rebellion gone wrong, a drunk MBA lad had peed on a host's luxury SUV. Four well-known Nashville lawyers caught the boy mid-sprinkle. They had taken his ID and called security when the host actually recognized the culprit as the same wanton pisser who'd showered their area the year before. The boy was led away, but eventually came back to apologize. Then he calmly inquired, "Will you all be here next year?" If there are any safe bets for Iroquois Steeplechase 2005, the return of the pee guy is probably one.

Party Here are some wagers for this week.... One of Nashville's favorite bands, The Bee's, are having their CD release party for Starry Gazey Pie at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday at 12th & Porter. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of Johnny Jackson's Soul Satisfaction party. Friday night, Johnny parties at Springwater with cold 40s and free chicken wings. Saturday, he'll be found at the Bar Car. Finally, pick up the May Condé Nast Traveler to see Bar Twenty3 featured in its 2004 Hot List.

—By Amy Waddell

E-mail Amy at awaddell@nashvillescene.com.

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