Fair Hill has been named as one of the potential sites for a new 2019 CCI4* eventing competition in the United States. The other possible location is Great Meadow in neighboring Virginia. Both sites currently host FEI-level eventing competitions.

This past summer, the board of directors of Fair Hill International submitted a bid to the United States Equestrian Federation to become only the second 4-Star event in the United States (and the seventh in the world). It was originally expected that this new Olympic-caliber event would be held in the autumn of 2018. Following extensive review and analysis of each proposal by the CCI4* Task Force, the Eventing Committee, the International Disciplines Council, and the Board of Directors, it was concluded that, due to changes in location and date related to the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games, the inaugural CCI4* event will be held in the autumn of 2019.

FHI currently hosts a 3-star and 2-star event in October each year. The only 4-Star currently in the U.S. is The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event held each April. If Fair Hill were to become a 4-Star event, Maryland then would equal Kentucky as having a Triple Crown race (the Preakness) and a 4-Star event, Fair Hill International.

In order to secure the bid, Trish Gilbert (FHI chairman) and Carla Geiersbach (FHI executive director) are working closely with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Horse Industry Board in developing the bid. The team included the following:

  • Facility Designer Todd Gralla from Populous (designer of the equestrian venue for the 2012 London Olympics)
  • Course Designer Derek DeGrazia (Fair Hill course designer and course designer for 2020 Tokyo Olympics)
  • Maryland Director of Sports Terry Hasseltine (also vice president of the MD Stadium Authority)

What horse people know as “Fair Hill” is formally known as the Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area; its 5,000 acres are under the umbrella of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Various parts of the property are leased out for a variety of private uses, from individuals leasing barns and paddocks to organizations leasing office space (such as the National Steeplechase Association). A variety of activity organizations lease different parts of the grounds for events, ranging from equine-related (Fair Hill Races, Fair Hill International) to agricultural (the Cecil County Fair) to biking and hiking groups – and even demolition derbies. The property includes a nature center, hiking, biking, bridle and carriage trails, pavilions, grandstands, barns, arenas, steeplechase courses, cross-country courses and more.

What has been lacking is an overall vision and plan for the property, particularly to protect, preserve and perpetuate the initial equine-focused vision of founder William du Pont, and which remained as part of its mission once it was acquired by the State of Maryland in the 1980s.

In order to rectify this, the Fair Hill Foundation was recently established to help to direct such a vision, will assist in brokering the relationships between the various government agencies and nonprofit organizations, and will assist in raising funds. To that end, the Foundation is looking to raise $250,000 for improvements to the site.

These private funds will be used to match a $250,000 bond bill, which will be submitted by Senator Wayne Norman of Cecil County.

The combined $500,000 will be used for studies, tests and design work to start work on racecourse improvements, including reconfiguration of racetrack turns, irrigation of the course, a new grandstand and a tunnel under Route 273.

International Import/Export Facility for the Mid-Atlantic?

Meanwhile, in a move that will be beneficial for both sites, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is exploring establishing an animal import quarantine center at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. If this sounds familiar to you, it should. Approximately ten years ago, the State of Maryland considered doing the same at Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Despite a 2008 feasibility study that indicated that there was a need for Mid-Atlantic facility, the Maryland concept stalled in 2009.

Now Virginia is running with it.

As the need for a Mid-Atlantic facility still exists, if the powers that be in Virginia can pull it off, an animal import/export facility at Dulles will still benefit Maryland (just not quite as much as it would have located at BWI).

Being used as a conceptual model for a Dulles Airport facility is the The ARK at JFK , the new $50 million animal import/export center opening this month in New York. The privately-owned animal cargo terminal contains a USDA licensed, full service 24-hour airport-based quarantine facility for all large and small animals, livestock and pets, domesticated and wild. Read more in The New York Post!