The Ocala Jockey Club announced last night that its inaugural international event held over Thanksgiving weekend on Nov. 24-27, 2016, will offer $100,000 in prize money across the CIC3*, CCI2* and CCI* divisions, making it the richest purse awarded at a recognized horse trials below the four-star level in North America.
Richard Trayford, Equiventures CEO and organizer of the competition, believes it’s long overdue to offer more prize money at prestigious events and said it’s encouraging to see more competitions trending in that direction. The Wellington Eventing Showcase offered $75,000 last month, and Carolina International has committed $75,000 next week across the CIC divisions.
“I don’t see why top athletes in eventing should be treated any differently from professional athletes in other sports,” Richard said. “They need the opportunity to earn enough at a competition to make a living out of solely being a competitor. We want to contribute to the goal of having professional riders be focused solely on competing and to offer enough prize money so that they have a chance of covering their costs.”
The recent launch of the Event Rider Master series in Great Britain has also been hailed a major step forward for eventing. The series links six CIC3* events at Chatsworth, Bramham, Barbury, Gatcombe Park, Blair Castle and Blenheim, with £50,000 awarded at each event and an additional £50,000 given to the leading riders at the end of the series. Each event will be live streamed and specifically packaged for television, and the series hopes to ultimately expand to the U.S and other countries.
“In a similar sense, we want to create a cycle of prosperity, and it will happen when we build an audience for this sport,” Richard said. “It’s not about about how generous we are; it’s about a properly thought-out plan to improve the future of eventing by bringing in a bigger audience. The way forward is to modernize the sport and address the commercial aspect and demands.”
Equiventures announced last August that a large portion of the 950-acre Ocala Jockey Club property would be developed as an eventing facility. The bid to host a CIC3*, CCI2* and CCI* over Thanksgiving weekend was officially approved in October. Mike Etherington-Smith is designing the CIC3* course, with Clayton Fredericks designing the CCI2* and CCI* courses. Richard Jeffery is designing the show jumping courses, with Alec Lochore as event manager.
There’s also more exciting news for the Ocala Jockey Club, as the venue received a request for proposal yesterday from the United States Equestrian Federation to apply to host a CCI4* beginning in 2018. Joanie Morris, USEF Managing Director of Eventing, confirmed to EN that every event that hosts a CIC3* and above in the U.S. received a request for proposal to host a CCI4*.
Thank you to Equiventures and the Ocala Jockey Club for committing to bettering eventing for North America and beyond. Between the launch of Event Rider Masters and this $100,000 prize money announcement, it’s a very exciting time for our sport. Go Eventing.