If everything falls into place, Kingston Downs will conduct a steeplechase event on June 6 to help jump start the sport which has been out of action all spring.
Anthony-Scott Hobbs, who organizes the event, said the track at Kingston Downs is in excellent shape and he’s optimistic that the scaled down event will help trainers and horses get ready for the rest of the season.
“They’s spent a lot of time and money — the owners, trainers and exercise riders. They’ve trained these horses and they haven’t been able to race,” Hobbs said. “They’re using the Georgia Steeplechase to prep for the much bigger races, like the Virginia Gold Cup which has a $450,000 purse. I’m excited that they believe in us and are coming back, especially after last year’s cancellation.”
The event will be very unique in that Hobbs will only be offering $15,000 in prize money.
“We will never, ever have this low a purse, ever,” Hobbs said. “If they come, we’re paying them a $250 transfer bonus (per horse).”
Most of the steeplechase horses are trained in the mid-Atlantic states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and some in the Carolinas.
Hobbs said he’s been in contact with the Governor’s office and Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor and anticipates that most of the crowd issues will be eased come June 1.
“Obviously social distancing will be in play. If people want to wear masks, that’s in place,” Hobbs said. “We’ll be following all CDC and state guidelines for the coronavirus.”
Kathy Nielson, president of the Steeplechase Owners and Trainers Association, said she hopes the event can build back some of the momentum it had years ago.
“They are using natural hurdles, replicating an Irish natural hurdle,” Nielson said. “The logistics of coming from Pennsylvania to Rome, Georgia are going to be challenging. If I do come I’m going to bring three horses.”
“If he gets Brook Boyer as the race director to set up the course, set up the jumps and make sure everything is safe, I think the horsemen will come,” Nielson said. “This is one time that Anthony really has a shot at getting all of us there.”
Hobbs said that Boyer will be directing the event with three primary areas of responsibility. He will play liaison to the horsemen.
“As far as the set up of the track, the jumps, the cones, the flags, everything, he’ll ensure safety for the horse,” Hobbs said. “His main goal on race day is the efficiency and timeliness of the races going off logistically.”
Additional information is available at www.georgiasteeplechase.org.