First of all, it’s not a church. The Temple Gwathmey is a steeplechase horse race with a big trophy and a history dating back almost 90 years. Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Pennsylvania’s famed Rolling Rock meet hosted runnings. Middleburg now plays host, with a field of 11 signed on for today’s running.
The race takes its name from two men with long pasts in American racing. James Temple Gwathmey Sr. was an owner and amateur jockey in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He raced in a partnership called Mr. Cotton, named for Gwathmey's business interests in the cotton industry. Gwathmey became president of the New York Cotton Exchange.
First run in 1924, the race was created as a memorial to Gwathmey, but it took on special meaning eight years later. Gwathmey's son James Temple Jr. also became a jockey and died in a fall at the 1932 Monmouth County Hunt Races in New Jersey. He was just 23.
The historic race counts such winners as Flatterer, Zaccio, Warm Spell, Lonesome Glory, Rowdy Irishman and others on its honor roll. Further back in history, Fairmount, Neji, Benguala, Bon Nouvel and Amber Diver appear on the trophy.