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Highlights Of Upcoming 34th Annual Winter Equestrian Festival
WELLINGTON, FL – January 2004 – The 34th annual Winter Equestrian Festival will keep the excitement level turned up from January 28 through April 3, 2004, with eight weeks in Wellington and two weeks in Tampa, Florida, highlighted by world-class competition and special events throughout the 10-week circuit.
GRAND PRIX SUNDAYS – The anticipation builds in the $1.42 million Grand Prix series as each week, for 10 consecutive weeks, the purse increases, starting with a $35,000 event and culminating with a $200,000 capper. From January 28 through March 14, Sunday Grand Prix events are held in the Internationale Arena at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club show grounds in Wellington, starting at 1pm. In Tampa, the Sunday Grand Prix events continue with a $75,000 class at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center on March 28, topped off by the season finale – the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational in the Raymond James Stadium on April 3. The world’s top show jumpers compete including Margie Engle, Lauren Hough, Laura Kraut, Chris Kappler, McLain Ward, Molly Ashe, Todd Minikus and Norman Dello Joio.
GRAND PRIX THURSDAYS – Every Thursday in Wellington, from January 28 through March 14, show jumpers head for the Internationale Arena to participate in the WEF Challenge Cup Series, which offers a $25,000 purse each week. In Tampa, the stakes peak with the $30,000 Ariat International WEF Challenge Cup Series Final on Wednesday, March 31.
FEBRUARY 5-8, WELLINGTON DRESSAGE – The first of two United States Equestrian Team Federation Qualifying Competitions for the Olympic Games Selection Trials will showcase stars of the dressage world, entered and ready for the rigorous route to Athens, Greece, including Robert Dover, Shelly Francis, Ruth Hogan-Poulsen, Arlene Page, James Armstrong, and Monica Sinks. Featured classes are the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special, and Grand Prix Freestyle.
FEBRUARY 7, $25,000 WINDSOME WEF DRESSAGE/JUMPER SPECTACULAR – Dressage and jumper riders pair up and switch disciplines – the jumpers ride a Third Level dressage test and the dressage riders go for broke over a Gambler’s Choice course in the Internationale Arena. They rack up points to determine the winning team. It’s a fun event and always draws a crowd.
FEBRUARY 14 - MARCH 1, CITY SLICKERS – The City Slickers riding program services Connecticut children aged 11 to 17 who have economic, cultural, academic, social and emotional needs. Seven City Slickers selected out of 100 children by the group’s founder and director Ruth Fried will compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival. For the fifth consecutive year, Stadium Jumping will supply the group with complimentary stalls, bedding, feed, and all class entry fees.
FEBRUARY 15, DENIM & DIAMONDS – Starting at 6:30 pm at the South Florida Fairgrounds to benefit the United States Equestrian Team and its efforts at the upcoming 2004 Athens Olympic Games, this gala features dinner, dancing, auctions, and live entertainment with headliner Chaka Kahn. For tickets and tables, contact Phelps Wilkes at (561) 753-3389.
FEBRUARY 21, AHJF HUNTER CLASSIC SPECTACULAR OF PALM BEACH – It’s hunter week at WEF, February 18-22, highlighted by ‘The Classic’ on Saturday, February 21. Up to 26 qualified riders will compete at night under the lights in the Internationale Arena. Contact Michele Perla (508) 835-8813.
MARCH 8, EQUUS MEDAL – The $25,000 Equus Medal returns to WEF for the second year, and is uniquely featured on a Monday evening, under the lights in the Internationale Arena. Open to all competitors from any nation who have represented their country in a Nations’ Cup, it’s an exciting and fun class for riders and spectators alike. Expect to see topnotch Grand Prix riders focusing on their equitation as they go up against their peers from around the world. Contact Phelps Media Group, Inc. (561) 753-3389.
MARCH 12, NATIONS CUP AND DRESSAGE QUADRILLE – The $50,000 Samsung Nations’ Cup, presented by CN, will be held under the lights in the Internationale Arena with eight nations confirmed to compete – The United States, Canada, Australia, Colombia, England, Ireland, France and Mexico. Adding to the night’s electric atmosphere will be a special six-horse Grand Prix dressage exhibition between Rounds 1 and 2, entitled The Third Annual Rock & Roll Musical Quadrille presented by Play For T.I.M.E. to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
MARCH 13 – WEF EQUITATION CHAMPIONSHIP FOR THE R.W. ‘RONNIE’ MUTCH TROPHY – Open to the winners of the top equitation classes at WEF, these riders will jump a course of fences, judged by a panel of two hunter and two jumper judges, with a fifth judge observing the schooling area. A select few will be chosen to jump a second round. A third round may be required, which could include further tests, oral questioning and an exchange of horses. Unique to the class, the students are on their own from course walk to schooling warm-up through the competition, and may not receive help from their trainers. Awards also go to the Best Equitation Horse and Best Turned Out Horse.
MARCH 18-21, ZADA ENTERPRISES, LLC WEF DRESSAGE CLASSIC CDI – When the hunters and jumpers depart for Tampa, the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club show grounds are devoted to dressage. This is the second United States Equestrian Team Federation Qualifying Competition for the Olympic Games Selection Trials at the WEF and promises to be a major highlight of the Florida dressage circuit.
BLUE RIBBON WEDNESDAYS – Every Wednesday in Wellington, from January 28 through March 10, Palm Beach County school students participate in a field trip to the WEF as part of the activities in the Blue Ribbon Student Program established by the Equestrian Activities Department of the Business Development Board. More than 400 children visited the horse show last year. The educational forum gives the students insight into the opportunities available to them in the equestrian industry. Contact Linda Wirtz (561) 373-2070.
CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS, DAILY – The population at the WEF show grounds soars to 6,000 each week. Among the crowds can be spotted celebrities from TV, movies, music, and the top echelons of business and society. Parents like Bruce Springsteen, Glenn Close, John Cleese, Dan Marino, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Lou Dobbs are ringside whenever their children compete. Others don boots and britches and saddle up for the hunter and jumper rings, including Her Royal Highness Zara Phillips, Georgina Bloomberg, Mark Badgely and Kelly Klein. And some come with friends to enjoy the sport such as Johnny Cochran and Roxanne Stein. Plus, fans know the professional riders who have become celebrities in their own right – Norman Dello Joio, Joe Fargis, Lauren Hough, Margie Engle, Robert Dover, Sue Blinks, Jane Savoie, and Carol Lavell are all Olympians and ‘regulars’ at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
2004 WINTER EQUESTRIAN FESTIVAL TICKET INFORMATION: Show days for the 2004 Winter Equestrian Festival are Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 8:00 am. Ticket Prices: Wednesdays are free to everyone; Children 12 and under are admitted free every day; Young Adults 13 to 18 and Seniors are $5 on Thursday through Sunday; Adults are $5 on Thursday and Friday, $10 on Saturday, and $15 on Sunday. The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club is located on Pierson Road off South Shore Boulevard. For additional information, call 561-793-5867.