The Fair Hill, Maryland, facility that hosts the 2- and 3-star fall national championship events and a variety of other equestrian competitions, is looking for an upgrade as it seeks to stage the USA’s second 4-star event.
Stakeholders have begun discussions with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources about the 2015 Maryland Horse Park System Study, which recommended Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area as an ideal equestrian field event venue.
The interest was prompted by new information about the economic value of Maryland’s horse industry as well as an invitation to submit a proposal to host the 4-star, which will be held in 2018 or, more likely, 2019, since the World Equestrian Games will take center stage in September 2018.
“New economic data shows that the state’s equine industry has grown 23 percent in the last five years and contributes $1.15 billion in annual economic activity,” said Jim Steele, chair of the Maryland Horse Industry Board.
“Improving equine facilities at Fair Hill is a vital part of this industry-wide renaissance. We have to stay current and make sure our competition venues meet the needs of the equestrian community.”
Implementation of the study includes enhancement of existing facilities and infrastructure that would support improved conditions for a broad spectrum of activities and programming, including steeplechasing, timber racing, polo, 4-H, the Cecil County Fair and more.
As the partners in the implementation of the recommendations, Fair Hill International was given the opportunity to respond to a request from the U.S. Equestrian Federation to host the new 4-star. Rolex Kentucky, at this point the country’s only 4-star, is held in the spring at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
“Regardless of the outcome of the 4-star proposal, there remains tremendous interest and support to upgrade Fair Hill’s infrastructure for a variety of recreational uses,” said Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton.
“A community-led foundation is now being developed to begin identifying potential funding for critical enhancements and improvements at the racetrack and fairgrounds.”
Work continues with stakeholders, park users, and the community to develop and refine the proposed enhancements in the coming months. There will be opportunity for public comment and engagement. If the site is selected, Maryland would then join Kentucky as the only state to host both a Triple Crown race and a 4-star event.
Other contenders for the 4-star are Great Meadow and Morven Park, both in Virginia; the Ocala Jockey Club in Florida and the Tryon International Equestrian Center in Tryon, N.C., where the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games will be held.