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Georgia Steeplechase organizers committed to rejuvenating annual races

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Steeplechase

All alone on the way to the finish line, a horse and jockey sail to victory in the 2016 Atlanta Steeplechase at Kingston Downs. (Doug Walker, RN-T)

Organizers say plans for the inaugural Georgia Steeplechase on April 7 at Kingston Downs are coming together.

They’re pitching the event as the successor to the Atlanta Steeplechase, a well-known event in the area which featured horse racing along with a heavy emphasis on socializing.

The Atlanta Steeplechase folded last spring after years of operation.

Anthony-Scott Hobbs, co-chairman of the event, will be in Baltimore, Maryland, later this week for meetings with other steeplechase executives from across the nation. The National Steeplechase Association will conduct its annual awards banquet Thursday night at the Maryland Club in Baltimore.

The April races, held on the turf in a bend of the Etowah River between Rome and Cartersville, will not have any other competition on the steeplechase circuit that day. Last year, the final Atlanta Steeplechase was competing with two other events for top horses and riders.

“The last couple of years there was some scratching going on with some of the best horses and that was why. They’re going to go where they can get their biggest purses,” Hobbs said.

They’re still deciding whether the upcoming Georgia Steeplechase will feature five or six races.

“We’ve had our challenges,” Hobbs said.

Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Lisa Smith said the continuation of racing at Kingston Downs would be positive for some local businesses.

“It’s a great way to show locals, as well as out-of-town visitors, one of the many varied options for activities to be a part of,” Smith said.

One of the big topics of discussion at the NSA meetings in Maryland will involve finding ways to introduce more people to steeplechase history and equestrian culture.

“We don’t want it to be just another big party,” Hobbs said.

One of the new festivities on race day will be a brunch on the backstretch.

“They can meet some of the people from national Steeplechase, some of the jockeys will be there. That’s before the races even start and will be the launch to highlight what's happening — not just here in Georgia, but across the country — when it comes to steeplechase racing,” Hobbs said. “At the end of the day what we’re trying to do is introduce different types of events that highlight Georgia and equine sports.”

A focus for Hobbs is the ability to raise a significant amount of money for charities. The Boys and Girls Clubs across North Georgia, including units in both Rome and Cartersville, will be benefactors. The Must Ministry Summer Lunch feeding program, held across several north metro counties, will also be a beneficiary, as will Trinity Rescue, Save the Horses and Sunkissed Acres Equine Rescue.

People can get additional information, and tickets, at www.georgiasteeplechase.org.