Mell Boucher has been coming to Callaway Gardens since she was a little girl. If you're an annual ticket holder to Columbus' Race for the Arts, there's a great chance you've seen her racing ponies for years. Now, with more than 77 races under her belt and over $100,000 in career prizes won, she's jockeying some of the biggest horses on the circuit, and has already placed in races 9 times this season. (Source)
This weekend, she'll be riding in the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens and is one of our top jockeys to watch this year.
Photo via Mell Boucher by Douglas Lee.
"I’ve been going to Callaway since I was little," said Boucher. "I grew up pony racing and junior field master chasing there." Boucher's father is also a jockey and her mother is a trainer, so she's been raised around horses her entire life.
When asked about what makes Steeplechase an annual race for her, she explained she's thrilled to be returning to ride in the bigger races this year, and that it's extra special to be at Steeplechase again. "Places like Steeplechase are so special," she explained. "These annual races give us the stepping stones we need as young riders to develop into jockeys."
Boucher said she has a special relationship with Mason Lampton and his family. Her mother is Lampton's horse trainer, and has been for years. Needless to say, both families have known each other a long time.
Lampton's family founded Steeplechase as a race for the arts in 1984, and are huge champions for the sport – especially for young jockeys coming up through the circuit.
"Mason has been a huge support to me," said Boucher. "Especially since he has always let me ride some of the horses he owns! He's allowed me to do that ever since I was young and still junior racing. But now, he's also letting me jockey his larger horses in the bigger races this season."
Lampton said continuing to provide a race where young jockeys can hone their skills is intentional. "My dad and I are both amateur jockeys and love racing," said Lampton. "It’s really important for us to have an event where our young people can develop."
As for Boucher? "Mell is obviously a big part of my life as my trainers daughter," said Lampton, "I can’t wait to see her ride again this year!"
More on the History of Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens (Source)
Steeped in tradition, Mason Lampton is carrying on a family legacy through the Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens. His grandfather, Mason Houghland, an avid foxhunter, founded the Hillsboro Foxhounds in 1932. Being competitive led him to steeplechasing which is a competition that grew out of the hunting field.
Not only did Houghland take part in steeplechasing as a jockey, in 1941, he inaugurated the Iroquois Memorial Steeplechase which is held in Nashville, TN. The first winning jockey and horse combination of the Iroquois Steeplechase was none other than the father of Mason Lampton, Dinwiddie Lampton, Jr. and
Mason Lampton and his father Dinwiddie Lampton founded the Hardscuffle Steeplechase in 1974. Often referred to as the “Kentucky Derby of Steeplechasing,” this has been called “glamorous, picturesque, and prestigious.”
Fortunately, for Columbus, GA and the surrounding area, Mason Houghland Lampton married a Columbus native, Mary Lu Hardaway. Mary Lu brought Mason back to our area where he took a vested interest in supporting our community. Since joining the Hardaway family, Lampton has had the honor of learning from a foxhunting legend, Mr. Ben Hardaway. Mr. Hardaway is well known around the world for his famous cross-bred hound. Lampton has taken over the reins from Mr. Hardaway and is currently the Master of the Midland Foxhounds.
Starting Steeplechase events is in his blood – growing the community is his passion. These traits led him to host the first horseracing event in the area, The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens. A strong believer in the arts, Mason has generously donated the event’s profits to the local arts community. He believes that a strong cultural community improves quality of life. It has been proven that communities that invest in the arts reap the benefits of more job availability; economic growth and a diverse group of talented people are drawn to the area. The arts play a vital role in the community, and the Hardaway/Lampton families are proud to support that effort 110%.
Another jockey to watch!
Freddie Procter, a jockey from Ireland, will also return to Steeplechase this year. Just last season, Proctor won all but one race at Steeplechase at Callaway, so he's absolutely another jockey to watch. He'll also be hard to miss, because he's racing in every single race on Race Day this Saturday. He's also one to beat. His career races amount to 85, and he's won more than half of them. Total career earnings? More than half a million. So don't miss your chance to watch these two jockeys battle it out on the track this weekend.
Still need tickets? Click here. Don't forget that all proceeds from Steeplechase at Callaway benefit the following six arts organizations in our community: River Center for the Performing Arts, Springer Opera House, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, The Columbus Museum, Historic Columbus, and Callaway Gardens.◼️
If You Go:
What: Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens When: November 4, 2023
Still need tickets? Click here.