The South Carolina town of Aiken occupies a unique position among American sporting centers in that even the advances of the mechanical age have hardly changed its concept of sport since it was established as a winter community in the 1890s. From the beginning, when northern residents followed the example of the late sports-loving Thomas Hitchcock by wintering there, Aiken life has revolved around the horse. The Hitchcocks found the South Carolina climate ideally suitable for training race horses, and from the challenging steeplechase course in the Hitchcock Woods many great U.S. champions went on to far-reaching fame. Today, in addition to jumpers, Aiken boasts some 250 flat racers and some 80 harness horses who learn their winter lessons on two first-class training tracks. Aikenites also may follow a drag hunt or turn out to watch high-goal polo on the same turf which in the past produced not only the one and only Tommy Hitchcock Jr., but also such stars as the Bostwicks, Knoxes, Igleharts, Gerrys and Milburns. Many Aiken families still send their sons to the Aiken Preparatory School, which appropriately enough includes golf, riding, skeet shooting and bicycle polo in an athletic curriculum designed to keep future generations of Aiken sportsmen active for many years to come.
A SUNDAY-MORNING SHOW
One of the most serene and also interesting aspects of Aiken is the tradition of viewing and studying Thoroughbreds belonging to some of the top U.S. stables. Here a showing at the barn of William H. Perry brings out a relaxed audience to discuss each race horse and the campaigns ahead.
BEAUTY IN THE WOODS
Winter visitors to Aiken never cease to marvel at its natural beauty. The Palmetto Golf Club course (above) is cut out of a pine forest and is surprisingly difficult as it meanders over the natural contours of the land. Long before golf, however, dawn risers ride out to the one-mile training track where young horses of the big stables demonstrate their friskiness (right) before any of the serious racing starts.