Smith said local ticket sales for the annual steeplechase, which will be held at Kingston Downs off U.S. 411, are up this year over previous years.
“This is the best year that we have had for ticket sales,” Smith said Wednesday.
The Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau is one of two locations outside of metro Atlanta where horse racing fans can buy tickets.
The other is Homestead Properties, 324 E. Main St., Cartersville.
“Sometimes it takes a few years to build up local interest in an event like the steeplechase,” Smith said.
“I am amazed at how interest has grown.”
But, Smith said, Romans who want to go to the steeplechase will have to buy tickets today or Friday.
No tickets will be available the day of the event.
Racing Member tickets, which give general admission to the race course and the infield, are $25 per person. Racing Member parking is $20 per vehicle.
Jean Bird, the Atlanta Steeplechase’s media coordinator, said she expects more than 20,000 race fans to show up at Kingston Downs Saturday.
“We are seeing a lot of people buying tickets,” Bird said. “As long as the weather holds up, it should be a big crowd.
Kingston Downs, located in a bend in the Etowah River between Rome and Cartersville, has given the steeplechase much needed room to grow since it moved from Forsyth County in 1997.
“We were selling out in Cumming with 17,000 to 18,000,” Bird said.
“Now, we’re over 20,000 and trying to work our way up to 35,000.”
The Atlanta Steeplechase Board of Stewards said Kingston Downs could accommodate more than 50,000 spectators as the race grows in popularity.
Bird said race-day attendance will depend on the weather.
Last year, rain threatened all week leading up to the steeplechase, which is held on the second Saturday in April. (The date is set by the National Steeplechase Association, the sport’s governing body.)
“Race day last year was beautiful, but some people may have worried about the weather,” Bird said.
“Also, it was Easter weekend, which may have held down attendance.”
This year, race day falls two weeks after Easter, so Bird says there is a possibility of setting a new attendance record.
Locally, Atlanta Steeplechase fans may purchase tickets at the Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, 706-295-5576, or at Homestead Properties, 770-382-5544.
All payments are non-refundable, and there is no rain date.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Atlanta Speech School, a center for children and adults with speech, language, hearing and learning disabilities