About the Event
The Atlanta Steeplechase, the region's premier spring social event, combines unmistakable style, entertainment and fellowship with the thunderous and exhilarating sport of steeplechasing at Kingston Downs each year. The quiet Northwest Georgia countryside comes alive with jockeys in colorful silks, powerful thoroughbreds and carefree spectators gracing the majestic course during an unforgettable day of racing and fun.
This year's event is especially exciting, as the Atlanta Steeplechase announces two new beneficiaries, Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Join the celebration that started in 1966 with fewer than 100 Guarantors enjoying the first Tent Party while picnickers and tailgaters established a custom of gourmet food as part of Atlanta's unique ‘Chase day. Today, the 435 acre Kingston Downs hosts fun-loving spectators - whether at lavish private corporate parties "on the hill" or up close to the action in the general admission infield - for a great day of springtime racing. And, whether you have been a devoted spectator since the beginning, or you are new to the Steeplechase tradition, come experience the rite of spring that celebrates championship racing with food, fashion, fun and friendship.
About the Event :: History
1966 - 1970
Our first five years in a bend of the river
"Good for cotton and good for racing" described the late John Wayt Sr.'s sandy bottom land at Horseshoe Bend on the Chattahoochee River, once farmed by pioneers. It was there on a hot Sunday in March, 1966, that the first NSA-sanctioned Atlanta Hunt Meeting and Steeplechase was run.
About 9,000 spectators came to watch 'chasers vie over timber and hand-stuffed brush hurdles for the benefit of the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Fewer than 100 Guarantors underwrote the $7,000 in purse money and enjoyed the first Tent Party. Picnickers and tailgaters experienced the usual vagaries of Atlanta springtime weather while establishing the gourmet food and eclectic dress traditions which are all part of Atlanta's unique 'Chase Day.
The Atlanta Hunt Meeting and Steeplechase was held for five years at Horseshoe Bend. Both brush and timber races were run "backwards" or clockwise to deal with a sharp turn which sloped the wrong way, but the whole level track was visible to spectators watching the races.
1971 - 1980
Our new home
Seven Branches Farm
In 1971, the Steeplechase moved 40 miles north to Seven Branches, yet again a Wayt property. In 1979, the Board of Stewards changed the Hunt Meeting date from March to early April. Horses had more time for race conditioning and spectators had a chance for better weather. Hollywood celebrities, Polly Bergen and Hugh O'Brien, each attended a race during these years. By 1980, the race purse had climbed to $34,000. Attendance had nearly doubled from the approximately 9,000 at Horseshoe Bend to 18,000 at Cumming. With the goal of having the Steeplechase benefit a local rather than national institution, in 1976 the Atlanta Speech School became the new beneficiary.
The hilly and challenging mile and one-sixteenth Cumming, Georgia track originally required tons of fill dirt before opening in 1971. It was not wide enough to accommodate timber as well as brush hurdles. It could, however, be run in the traditional counter-clockwise direction, contrary to its predecessor. A new grandstand was completed in 1972 and artificial but National brush hurdles replaced the arduously hand-stuffed evergreen jumps of previous years.
1981 - 1987
Atlanta gains a reputation as the testing ground of champions
With the change of date to later in the spring, owners, trainers and riders considered Atlanta the testing ground of the '80's for their horses. Flatterer, a four-time Eclipse Award winner, broke his maiden in a 1983 Atlanta race by eight lengths. Atlanta-owned, Census, another remarkable competitor, won the inaugural running of the Breeder's Cup Steeplechase. He was the leading steeplechase money-winner in '84 and '86. By 1987, the Atlanta purse had increased to $135,000. Corporate-sponsored and private parties gained in popularity during this era, and the landscape was dotted with colorful tents.
1988 - 1992
We come of age with the support of many friends
Atlanta's premier spring fling was named Best Charity Event by readers of Inside Buckhead and other metro publications in 1988. That same year, Mickey Free, ridden by Chuck Lawrence, was winner of the feature race that, for the first time, paid $100,000. In 1991, the Atlanta Journal Constitution highlighted a front-page photograph of the Atlanta Steeplechase in its Sunday edition for the first time. Members of Roswell Boy Scout Troop 87 sold programs and helped with pre-event preparations and cleanup after the races. Through all kinds of weather, the Forsyth County Sheriff's Department directed traffic and provided security. Torrential rains mired the course and grounds in 1989 when scores of cars had to be towed from the muck. 1992 brought a new competition to the infield, a tailgate contest, with a prize for the most creative presentation.
1993 - Present
Time to move on again - to the bend in another river
In 1994, Atlanta prize money totaled $197,500, tying Iroquois in Nashville, for the richest race meet in the country at that time. Word from the Georgia Department of Transportation of plans for a road expansion through Seven Branches Farm forced yet another move, this time to Kingston Downs located between Rome and Cartersville, Georgia. After researching more than 200 possible sites, members of the Board of Stewards held a groundbreaking ceremony in November 1993, for the new Steeplechase course. Located on 435 acres on the Bartow-Floyd County line, Kingston Downs closely resembles the original course as it, too, is nestled in a bend of a river, this time, the Etowah River. Set in a bowl-shaped valley, the entire track is visible to all spectators. The property, under a long-term lease to the Atlanta Steeplechase, is owned by De Clerck Hannsens
In 2007, the Atlanta Steeplechase announced two new primary beneficiaries, Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation of Atlanta and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. Additionally, the Steeplechase will benefit the Chastain Horse Park Therapeutic Riding Program and the American Red Cross Coosa Valley Chapter.
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