History of Horse Racing in Georgia

If you love horse racing, Hawkinsville, Georgia is the place to be! The Ocmulgee River, flowing through Georgia's Magnolia Midlands and the heart of Pulaski County, has welcomed visitors, newcomers, and businesses since the days when passengers first disembarked from steamboats docked along her banks. Today, the river continues to invite prospective home buyers, weekend rafters, and future economic developers to the good life and charming hospitality available here. This scenic area has been distinguished in the South as Middle Georgia's Highway Hub and the State's Harness Horse Racing Capital.

The Origin of the Sport of Kings

Ancient drawings on stone and bones prove that horse racing is at least three thousand years old, but thoroughbred racing is a modern development. Practically every thoroughbred alive today traces its ancestry back to one of the three sires that arrived in England from Arabia about 1728. These sires became known by the names of their owners, as Byerly Turk, Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Arabian. These magnificent thoroughbreds arrived in America from England and then to the CSRA by way of Old Mill Farm in Cartersville, GA (current owner Billy Wright and Kathy Lewis, Administrator) and The Dogwood Stables in Aiken SC, as well as others in the area.

State of Georgia

There are significant economic benefits associated with horses and horse racing in Georgia. Horses represent almost thirty percent of the total livestock value in Georgia. In the 2004 Farm-Gate Value Report, horses ranked as the sixth largest agricultural commodity trailing only broilers, cotton, timber, beef, and eggs. According to the University of Georgia's Agriculture Business Department, Georgia is the third largest horse state. The good news is an Equine Commodity Commission Bill is now being considered. What benefits would the State of Georgia gain from horseracing? They include:

  • Enhancing agribusiness, breeding, and racing at Georgia's race tracks
  • Providing economic investment
  • Increasing revenues paid to city, county, and state government
  • Creation of jobs
  • Expanding area tourism
  • Providing property tax relief to Georgia citizens

CSRA

In the Central Savannah River area, there is a spirit of competition in Aiken County like you won't find just anywhere. The Aiken Triple Crown is the starting point for some of the nation's finest thoroughbreds. This event consists of the Aiken Trials, Polo, and Steeple Chase competitions. Respected horse owners, trainers, and spectators from all over descend on the CSRA in March for three successive weekends. The healthy competition helped the county earn its reputation as a renowned training ground for top thoroughbreds like Summer Squall, the 1990 Preakness Winner; Pleasant Colony, the 1981 Kentucky Derby winner; and Kelso, which was named Horse of the Year for five consecutive years in the 1960's. This reputation continues as Storm Song, Summer Squall's off-spring, won the Breeder's cup and went on to win the Eclipse Award for outstanding juvenile Filly in 1996. Many other Kentucky Derby hopefuls and major equestrian contenders are now being trained in Aiken County. In 1990, Jay Farrar, working in publicity at the Garden State Racetrack in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, developed his horse racing career by training trotters right here in Aiken.

Seventy-one stakes winners, six trips to the Kentucky Derby, a Preakness winner, six millionaires, two Eclipse Awards, and a Breeders’ Cup victory mark the immediate highlights of Dogwood Stable— the original racing partnership. Cothran "Cot" Campbell formulated the idea of partnerships in 1969 and has used the concept to strengthen his Dogwood Stable in Aiken, SC.

One of our gifted natives, Augusta, Georgia City Commissioner Joe Bowles, told Georgia Horseracing Committee his paternal grandfather, Dan Bowles, Jr., owned a huge tract of land in the current Hyde Park area. He built a horse-racetrack in 1927 and operated it until his death in 1940. His reputation as a mentor was noted by many racing fans throughout the CSRA.

Advocates of the Horseracing Industry

  • Mr. Westmoreland, Owner, Sweetwater Horse Track & Training Facilities, Glenwood, GA
  • Mr. Eddie Stevens, Manager, Sweetwater Horse Track & Training Facilities, Glenwood, GA
  • Ms. Jessica McGhee, Advocate, McGhee's 1-Mile Track, Aiken, SC
  • Sam Abbey
  • Bill Wright, Trainer and Owner of thoroughbreds, Cartersville GA
  • Vernon J. Neely, Consultant
  • Professor Wendy Davis - University of Arizona, Race Track Industry program Tucson, AZ
  • Arthur H. Anderson III, CEO,  Arthur Anderson and Associates, New Jersey
  • Cathy Lewis, Administrator, Old Mill Farm  Cartersville, GA
  • Marion Williams, former Mayor Pro Tem, Augusta, Georgia
  • John Fisher, USAF -Retired
  • Bruce Mcghee, Owner, Mcghees' Mile Track, Aiken SC
  • Larry Taylor, Lobbyist
  • George A. Sancken, Liaison
  • Joe Bowles, commisioner
  • Ms. Sara Feldman, Administrator, Daily Racing Form, Inc., New York, N.Y.
  • Ms. Nicole Craft, Director of Communication, United States Trotting Association, Columbus, Ohio
  • Ms. Kathy Conner, Education Dept., Trotting Horse Museum, Goshen, N.Y.
  • Ms. Ellen Taylor, Equine Educator, Harness Horse Youth Foundation, Westfield, IN
  • Mr. David Switzer, Director, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Louisville, KY
  • Ron Freeman, Olympic Gold Medalist
  • Mr. Lee Call
  • Mr. Eddie Ballard