Steeplechase Continuing Georgia Tradition

Baker Owens

Friday, March 15th, 2019

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Year two of the “Steeplechase Under New Ownership” era is coming up on April 6. Anthony-Scott and Phoebe Hobbs are the current owners of the Georgia Steeplechase, the spiritual successor to the famed Atlanta Steeplechase that ran for 52 years – same venue, same great racing… same great beverages if you’re into that kind of thing.

Last year’s event was the first under the new owners – see the aforementioned year two – but it went off without a hitch.

Extremely chilly temperatures may have kept the crowds down but for the most part, it’s exactly as you remember it. A bonus opportunity for this year’s event that could increase attendance, it comes on a different weekend than another Georgia April event, famed for a green playing field, the Masters.

The Georgia Steeplechase is somewhat limited on the flexibility of its scheduling as other, larger steeplechases are scheduled around the same time, and for the Georgia version to get the best horses available, must accommodate those schedules.

The Hobbs’ had been a fixture at the Steeplechase for many years and when the previous edition announced an ending, they didn’t take very long to decide that something had to be done to ensure the event would keep going. “This is an event for all of Georgia,” said Anthony-Scott Hobbs. “It is the premier Georgia outdoor social and sporting event each spring.”

The Hobbs’ made their careers as owners of Magnum Contact, a software and marketing company serving an array of industries. After 12 years of attending the Atlanta Steeplechase, bringing friends and family and beginning the Steeplechase Turf Club, which morphed into the huge Brunch on the Backstretch, they saw an opportunity. It is a truly unique event and something that connects much of the region together and they are excited to be in the thick of it and are even branching into other areas of the industry – like owning a horse.

The Steeplechase will likely occur right after the end of the 2019 legislative session. It is looking less likely that any proposals to legalize pari-mutuel betting, including horse racing, will pass the legislature this year. Last year, Hobbs told InsiderAdvantage that he did not believe the betting would make a big difference for the Steeplechase – perhaps a political answer or just staying optimistic. This year, Hobbs is in full favor for passage of a legalizing betting bill. There is so much that gets pulled off the table without betting options that for Hobbs, it’s too much to ignore.

Reached just after the Senate decided to not bring up the pari-mutuel bill for Crossover Day, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Brandon Beach (R-21 Alpharetta), said he was disappointed with the outcome but remained optimistic about this year or for the future. SB 45 – called the “Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act” – has bipartisan backing and Governor Brian Kemp has said he is open to the will of the voters on the issue.

“Even Vice President Pence when he was governor of Indiana realized the possibilities of this type of legislation,” said Beach. “He signed a bill allowing pari-mutuel betting and now there are 500 farms outside Anderson, Indiana – a rural part of Indiana that had not been doing that well – that are a part of the industry. There are barns and hay farms. There is much more to it than just the racing.”

“Just like 12 or 13 years, when we set out to establish the filming tax credits, no one knew how big it would become and now we are the number one place to film in the country. I’m hoping to encourage that kind of activity with this industry.”

Beach noted that although the bill has lagged in the Senate and missed the crossover deadline, it ain’t over till it’s over.