After more than two decades of steeplechase racing in a bend of the Etowah River near Kingston, the Georgia Steeplechase is moving an exhibition racing event closer to metro Atlanta.
According to its website, spring races are scheduled for May 22 at the Foxhall Resort near Douglasville.
The equestrian event has been held at Kingston Downs, right on the Floyd-Bartow county line, since 1993. The Atlanta Steeplechase was run for 52 years before the organizing committee called it quits after the 2017 races.
It was renamed the Georgia Steeplechase by the new organizers.
Ellen Archer, director of the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Tuesday that she wishes them luck in their new location.
“Maybe he’ll have better success there,” Archer said.
Georgia Steeplechase organizer Anthony-Scott Hobbs said he decided about a year ago to create a new entity called the United States Jump Racing Association and, hopefully, have multiple events in the area.
Hobbs said the USJRA would serve as a mini-circuit with race meets in Ocala, Florida, and Lexington, Kentucky, as well as the Atlanta area.
“At the end of the day it’s all about growing the sport,” Hobbs said. He said approximately 1,600 people attended an October race meet at Kingston Downs.
Hobbs and his wife, Phoebe Hobbs, have been using the Kingston site to train jumping horses for the past year or so.
He said the May 22 event at Foxhall would likely bring in a new crowd but he anticipates that some of the patrons that have stayed with the event would remain involved.
“One of the things we learned is that there are a lot of amateurs that want to get involved,” Hobbs said. “We realized that, down here in the South, we really needed to become the epicenter of steeplechase racing in the South.”
The Georgia Steeplechase had been a fringe market event for the National Steeplechase Association, which has most of its meets in the Carolinas, Maryland, Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania.
In its heyday — for several years after the move to Kingston — Archer said the event was probably a pretty big economic shot in the arm for the community.
Interest began to wane six to eight years ago and several of the major race sponsors had pulled out, hastening the decision by the original organizers to scrap the event in 2017.
Archer said that, during the last several years, the cost to bring someone in to run the event would probably have outweighed the economic impact.
“We got a few groups that came from out of town and spent the night. I’m sure it had at least a million-dollar impact,” Archer said of the peak years for the steeplechase. “Probably the biggest economic impact (in more recent years) was in the course maintenance.”
Hobbs would not rule out a return event at Kingston Downs but said it;s not in the immediate plans.
“The God-honest truth is that we have decided to find our own location and are searching for property of about 150 to 200 acres where we could have our own steeplechase course,” he said.
A new site would also give him the opportunity to create multiple streams of revenue, he said, with the potential to be used as a venue for events such as weddings.