2015 Winter Equestrian Festival and Adequan® Global Dressage Festival Host Opening Press Conference
For Immediate Release
Wellington, FL – January 6, 2015 – Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) hosted an opening press conference on Tuesday afternoon at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, to kick off the start of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF). The WEF circuit will host thousands of the world’s best horses and riders competing in the hunter, jumper and equitation disciplines starting January 7 and running through March 29. The AGDF features the best of dressage through from January 8 through March 28.
Tuesday’s press conference panel for the Winter Equestrian Festival included Equestrian Sport Productions’ CEO Mark Bellissimo, international show jumpers Kent Farrington (USA), Eric Lamaze (CAN), and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER), and top hunter rider Liza Boyd (USA).
Bellissimo began by welcoming everyone to the 2015 WEF circuit and spoke of the incredible growth of the competition, which this year will host four 5* weeks of show jumping and over $8.2 million in total prize money.
“We are very excited about this edition of the Winter Equestrian Festival,” Bellissimo stated. “We are moving forward with a fantastic relationship with Rolex, and they have been a great sponsor. This year does mark a great year for us as we have gone to four five-star events this year spread out across the circuit as requested by the riders. Within that schedule we also have various hunter activities, including the big WCHR week six. We have record prize money this year and record stabling that has come in for the festival. We expect this to be the largest festival with a growth rate in excess of 12-15% from last year.”
With renewed support from the Village of Wellington, Bellissimo and his team have made several improvements to the showgrounds this year, including added parking, extra rings for athletes to practice in, and daily video clips.
“Before the season started, we decided to make as much headway on the infrastructure as we could,” Bellissimo detailed. “The Village of Wellington, led by Mayor Bob Margolis and others, was very supportive to help us. We spent a lot of time working on the existing infrastructure so that it was a good experience for riders not only at the front of house but the back of house as well. We have added some extra riding rings. We have also added video clips this year, which was a request from riders.”
In terms of economic impact, Bellissimo discussed that a new study sponsored by the Tourist Development Commission of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach Sports Commission shows that the Winter Equestrian Festival alone contributes nearly $200 million to the economy each year.
“One of the key indicators of the economic impact is bed nights that are generated by WEF,” Bellissimo explained. “In terms of scale, the impact of the WEF is fantastic. They have updated the numbers, and just for WEF, we are now generating 122,000 bed nights. That is a very significant factor and just amazing growth. It has doubled or tripled over our 10-year ownership.”
Bellissimo looks forward to welcoming riders from 50 states and 33 countries to this year’s Winter Equestrian Festival. “We are very excited about this year’s competition. We have some great competitors, some great new barns here, and riders from all over the world. We think it is going to be a spectacular year,” he said.
Also on the panel for Tuesday’s press conference was Kent Farrington, who is currently the number five ranked rider in the world and helped the U.S. Show Jumping Team earn a bronze medal at this summer’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in France.
Farrington spoke to the fact that this year’s WEF circuit will hold 48 FEI World Ranking classes, stating, “I think more important than the number of classes is the quality of classes. When you look at the list of riders that you have here, they are the top riders in the sport. Rolex as a partner, raising the prestige of the sport and the quality of the competition here, is even more important than the number of classes. Four five-star events is huge for North America. It gives us a chance to compete with the rest of the world and also stay current in the sport with the rest of the world.”
The WEF circuit will also host its FEI Nations Cup during week eight, which will be an important event for international riders preparing for team competition at this year’s Pan American Games in Toronto. Canadian Olympic Gold Medalist, Eric Lamaze, spoke about how important the Nations Cup event will be to the riders this year.
“Most years when you have a championship year, already at the beginning of the season, we start putting a plan together and choosing a horse that we are going to aim towards that competition,” Lamaze explained. “For Canada, most of the horses are here. The Nations Cup here has always been a fantastic evening of show jumping, and it has been very good to us. It is a different Nations Cup in a sense that we see many around the world, but the atmosphere that we raise here at the Winter Equestrian Festival is very different than anywhere else in the world for a Nations Cup, as far as I’m concerned. It gives a chance for a lot of people to compete in a Nations Cup, and I think it summarizes what the Winter Equestrian Festival is all about.”
Three-time FEI World Cup Finals winner, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, discussed the great opportunity to bring along horses at every level during the circuit.
“I am very excited personally to have brought a nice string of horses over for myself.” Michaels-Beerbaum stated. “I brought eight horses here this year ranging from the old and mighty Checkmate at age 20 to young horses as well. Amongst those is last year’s big hope for the future, Fibonacci, and a number of very talented young prospects that I have actually never shown. It will be a great opportunity for me to get those young horses going here and that is one of the things that WEF is so good for is to bring along horses. Just as important as Saturday night grand prixs are also other classes during the week and the opportunity to bring along your horses and get a lot of experience.”
“On Saturday night, the competition here is as good as it gets,” Michaels-Beerbaum declared. “There is nothing lacking in horse or rider here to be able to compete on Saturday Night and to be one of the best. To win a grand prix here is extremely difficult and that is great because the level is so very high here. We have seen that Rolex has played a tremendous part in bringing a lot of good riders and good prize money. If we compare it to last year, we see that it has only increased. It has become bigger and better. As I speak for all the riders, we are delighted to see this growth and improvement.”
Along with the great show jumping competition, WEF features great classes for every level of hunter horse as well, including week six’s $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular and week 12’s $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby. Liza Boyd was 2013’s World Championship Hunter Rider Champion and won the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals this summer.
“The hunters are huge here,” Boyd proclaimed. “The quality is amazing. You really have to be at the top of your game here. An 85 (score out of 100) might be fifth place. The scores are in the high 90s class after class. You have to pick and choose the classes to do because we all aim for week six. That is our grand prix, that night class. I have been doing that class since 1997. I as a rider have grown with the class, and it is huge. It is one of our biggest classes of the year, right up there with derby finals. We also have the Pre-Green incentive, which is great for the young horses and the 3’3″ Performance Hunters for the young ones. There are a lot of opportunities to bring horses along and I think they all leave here better, with a lot of mileage.”
Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Communications and Media Relations