Steeplechase racing lives on at Kingston Downs
Thanks to Georgia Steeplechase Inc., the Kingston Downs complex will continue showcasing the steeplechase racing sport. Set for April 7, 2018, the Georgia Steeplechase Race Meeting and Festival: The Tradition Lives On! will be presented on the more than 430-acre property situated on the Bartow-Floyd county line.
“As you know, the Atlanta Steeplechase closed its doors in May 2017 after 52 years of tradition,” said Acworth resident Anthony-Scott Hobbs, chairman for the upcoming event. “For the past 12 years, [my wife and I] have been attending the steeplechase with friends and family and started hosting an event called the Steeplechase Turf Club. Born out of the Hobbs’ Steeplechase Turf Club was Brunch on the Backstretch for enjoying the horses, horse culture, race meet and activities, and above all else, the bonds formed with friends and community. It became an annual family tradition with friends. The steeplechase tradition means something to us.
“At the end of July 2017, we contacted the National Steeplechase Association to obtain a sanction to hold a race meet in 2018. The official sanction was granted in September 2017. The Kingston Downs property is one of the best locations in beauty and scale and quality track in the country. Steeplechase horse jockeys look forward to racing on the track due to seeded Kentucky bluegrass, irrigation and overall quality and scope of the track near the Etowah River. An agreement has been made with the owners of the property.”
Along with watching thoroughbreds compete, event attendees will be treated to a host of activities, similar to those found at the Atlanta Steeplechase. The offering also will serve as a fundraiser, with area Boys & Girls Clubs and Trinity Rescue already announced as beneficiaries.
“Of course, the main attraction will continue to be the sport of steeplechase racing, and with the sanction of the Georgia Steeplechase by the National Steeplechase Association, only the best thoroughbreds and their jockeys will join the event,” Hobbs said. “For those unfamiliar with the sport, the steeplechase is [a] race where thoroughbreds compete on a flat grass track while hurdling over jump fences at a high rate of speed.
“As previous attendees of the [Atlanta] Steeplechase know, this is far more than just an equestrian event. Live music, parties and shopping abound, as well as, of course, the Parade of Hats. … The new event will expand venues for guests’ enjoyment, with the planned addition of the Food Truck Furlong to delight even the most discerning palate, the elegant Brunch on the Backstretch and Vineyard Row, featuring unique wine tastings from Georgia’s own local wineries, to name a few.”
As Hobbs noted, Kingston Downs was home to the Atlanta Steeplechase for 20 years before running its final race April 22. Started in 1966, the event relocated to the venue in 1997. “Numerous trends in the sporting industry” and diminishing ticket sales were cited by organizers as some of the reasons for the Atlanta Steeplechase’s closure.
“At the Chamber of Commerce Eggs & Issues Breakfast in Adairsville [Thursday] morning, I learned that the steeplechase would return to Kingston Downs next year,” said Cindy Williams, CEO of the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce. “Having attended the Atlanta Steeplechase the last two years, I am, first of all, personally excited about this news. It is a fun and enjoyable social event. From an economic standpoint, this announcement is equally as exciting. The amount of tourism dollars and media attention brought to Bartow County through this prestigious event is extensive and is a benefit to our local businesses.
“Over the years, the chamber’s involvement in the Atlanta Steeplechase ranged from ticket sales to a full-fledged Bartow Village, which showcased a variety of local businesses as part of the Buy Bartow, Work Bartow campaign. While the event day activities may have evolved over the years, our commitment to promotion and partnership have not wavered. After the announcement of the event’s return, I am confident that partnership will continue.”
She continued, “The Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau is to be commended for their diligence and professionalism in bringing events like the steeplechase to Bartow County for residents and visitors to enjoy. These events require a tremendous amount of time and passion, and our local CVB does an incredible job.”
Previously serving as a member of the Atlanta Steeplechase’s board of stewards, Ellen Archer — executive director of the local CVB — also is pleased with this new development.
“I’m always excited to see new tourism attractors come into the Bartow County community,” Archer said. “That’s what’s led us to a 55 percent growth in economic impact through tourism since 2010 — new and improved product. We just received the economic impact study for 2016, which shows Bartow’s tourism expenditures at $193 million.
“On another note, I really like the brand ‘Georgia Steeplechase.’ It’s more far-reaching and inclusive, and I think will have broader appeal than the Atlanta Steeplechase brand. I want us all to welcome the Georgia Steeplechase to Bartow and start planning for April 2018.”