The Ocala Jockey Club and Equiventures have announced that $100,000 in prize money will be awarded at the inaugural Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event to be held over Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 24-27, 2016, in Reddick, Florida.
The pressing need to inject more prize money into the sport has long been lamented by professional event riders around the world, and Ocala Jockey Club owners Erik and Pavla Nygaard are committed not only to hosting a world class event at their facility, but also to offering a prize pot that will attract the sport’s top riders.
“The Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event has generated a great buzz in the U.S. eventing community and with international riders,” Erik Nygaard said. “We are excited about bringing top-level eventing to Ocala. This level of prize money fits with our desire to attract top eventing riders and will position the competition as one of the sport’s premier destination events for years to come.”
The event, organized by Equiventures and featuring 2012 London Olympics Eventing Manager Alec Lochore as Event Director, will host a CIC3*, CCI2* and CCI* at the inaugural Thanksgiving event, which will unveil brand new cross country courses from world-renowned designer Mike Etherington-Smith and Olympian Clayton Fredericks.
Equiventures CEO Richard Trayford believes professional event riders should be afforded the same opportunity to compete for a substantial amount of prize money like athletes in any other top sport.
“Event riders need the opportunity to earn enough at a competition to make a living out of being a competitor,” Trayford said. “We want to contribute to the goal of having professional riders be focused on competing.”
As Thoroughbred racehorse owners and breeders, the Nygaards have also earmarked a portion of the $100,000 in prize money to reward the top-placing Thoroughbreds competing in the Thanksgiving event.
“We want to 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.”
About 200 acres of the 950-acre Ocala Jockey Club property serve as a Thoroughbred training farm, and 400 acres have been set aside to build a cross country course and arenas to host a competition of this magnitude. The facility also includes a 9,700 square-foot clubhouse and rental townhouses.
It was when four-star event rider Jennie Brannigan rented one of the townhouses during the winter season two years ago that the Nygaards were first introduced to the idea of developing part of the property to host a prestigious eventing competition.
Construction is well underway on the new eventing facility, with Tyson Rementer and Levi Ryckewaert building the cross country courses. Four-star show jumping designer Richard Jeffery is designing the stadium courses and also developed the facility’s site plan. CIC3* cross country course designer Mike Etherington-Smith is also consulting with the overall event planning.