After a year absence at Kingston Downs, Georgia Steeplechase Inc. will present two race meets, with the first one kicking off in less than two weeks.
“The June 6 Race Meet we are pulling off in a three-week period since COVID interrupted original plans,” said Anthony-Scott Hobbs, who co-chairs the Georgia Steeplechase with his wife, Phoebe. “All Americans are essential, and unfortunately, government determined those families in horse racing — trainers, groomers, jockeys, exercise riders, etc. — were not essential workers. Our entire steeplechase spring season was canceled and the industry needs to get going.”
Heading into this year’s schedule, Hobbs described his emotions as “resilient, resolute” and “optimistic.”
“Trainers and horses are chomping at the bit to come to Bartow County to the Georgia Steeplechase at Kingston Downs,” he said. “It's a unique opportunity during these unprecedented times. We have a turf track that is ready and the owners of the property are amazing people when working on dates.
“We are a unique facility. Of course, all safety and CDC and state guidelines for patrons’ health, social distancing, face masks, etc. will be adhered to. We will be racing in the morning as it is cooler for the horses.”
Tickets for the June 6 meet can be purchased at the organization’s website, https://georgiasteeplechase.org, and range from $35 per person for general admission to $300 for a tailgating package. However, members of 2020’s graduating class will be admitted free of charge.
“Nonprofits and charities are hurting,” he said. “We are donating ticket packages to nonprofits/charities so that they can use the proceeds as needed. We all want to get back to the ‘new normal’ and Georgia has been patient over the past couple of months under the superb leadership of Gov. Brian Kemp and locally, Commissioner Steve Taylor.
“If you are a 2020 graduating class member, you have a complimentary ticket to our general admission. We appreciate you as you start your journey into your careers and universities. Use this experience as a positive, not a negative. You are unique. You are 2020.”
Following the upcoming event, Georgia Steeplechase will present a new Fall Race Meet Oct. 24.
“We are excited as many of the race horses that we have stabled at Catalyst Stables at Kingston Downs will also be racing at our fall meet,” Hobbs said. “We have scheduled it one-week prior to Aiken's steeplechase. It's easier on transportation costs for the horsemen coming from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania to keep horses week-to-week on what we call the Southern circuit.”
Georgia Steeplechase continued offering the sport of steeplechase racing at the Kingston Downs complex on the Bartow-Floyd county line when the Atlanta Steeplechase folded.
The first running of the Georgia Steeplechase, which featured temperatures in the 40s and wind, drew about 3,000 people in 2018. Due to a lack of funding and timing difficulties, the organization canceled its meet last year.
Kingston Downs was home to the Atlanta Steeplechase for 20 years before running its final race April 22, 2017. Started in 1966, the event relocated to the venue in 1997, where it was known to annually attract between 20,000 and 25,000 patrons. “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.
“My wife, Phoebe, and I have a vision and passion of making Kingston Downs in Bartow County the epicenter of steeplechaseracing.com,” he said. “… Catalyst Stables was formed to allow us to bring race horses to Kingston Downs to train and breed. We are currently hiring trainers, groomers, exercise riders, farriers, vets, etc. from the area. Georgia has an incredible amount of riding talent.”
Hobbs shared Steeplechaseracing.com is the site where people can obtain percentages of a racing horse, beginning at $500.
“Owners of horses are allowed to come up to the property and watch their horse train and breeze on occasion,” he said. “Just like steeplechase in Ireland and England, the ability for the owners to come and visit their horse at ‘the Yard’ is crucial in that relationship.
“A thank you to Stan and Marie Bouckaert, the owners of Kingston Downs, for having an incredible vision for this 5,000-acre property and for recognizing and preserving the natural beauty of Kingston Downs.”