We are expecting great weather, an enthusiastic crowd and an incredible day of racing," Bouckaert, CEO of Dalton-based carpet company Beaulieau of America, said of today's steeplechase.
The race track at Kingston Downs, located in a bend in the Etowah River midway between Rome and Cartersville, is in excellent shape, Bouckaert said Friday during a cocktail buffet held by the board of stewards at Barnsley Gardens in Adairsville, the official resort of the Atlanta Steeplechase.
Roman Dee Yancey, president of State Mutual Insurance Co., said Rome has embraced the annual steeplechase, which moved to Kingston Downs from Forsyth County in 1997.
State Mutual is sponsoring a flat race during today's steeplechase along with Cable Advertising of Metro Atlanta.
"We had planned to sponsor one of the steeplechase races, but they were all taken," Yancey said. "When the flat race came along, we seized the opportunity."
Jim Wayt, a member of the board of stewards, said restoring the flat race after several year's absence adds another dimension to the annual steeplechase.
"It's great that a Rome company can get involved in the steeplechase in this way," Wayt said.
Friday night's gathering at Barnsley Gardens was the culmination of a full day of activities for steeplechase board members, organizers, sponsors, horse owners and trainers.
Earlier in the day, there was a golf outing at the Barnsley Gardens golf course.
Today's races will be held as scheduled ¯ rain or shine.
But in the end, it appears that even the weather has bent to the will of Jean Bird, executive director of the steeplechase.
"I'm only allowing good weather," Bird said earlier. "It will be sunny and in the 80s."
While the National Weather Service earlier this week forecast scattered showers, today it is saying that while the sky will be cloudy, the highs will be in the 80s and the rain will hold off until tonight.
Race organizers are expecting close to 30,000 spectators at the 36th running of the Atlanta Steeplechase. Proceeds from the annual race benefit the Atlanta Speech School