World Dressage Masters Back On in Palm Beach, at Brandon Center mid-March

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Jim Brandon Equestrian Center

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The World Dressage Masters and its €100,000 (US$130,000) in prize money is back on in Palm Beach, scheduled for the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center on the outskirts of Wellington Mar. 9-13.

The sole CDI5* in the Western hemisphere was resurrected by sponsorship from Akiko Yamazaki, the owner of Ravel, the top U.S. dressage horse, and International Polo Club Palm Beach which hosts one of the largest polo circuits in the world.

Wellington Classic Dressage took over trying to stage the event after it was canceled by Equestrian Sport Productions because of lukewarm support from elite European riders after two years at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the centerpiece of horse shows in Wellington.

Agreement between Wellington Classic Dressage and the World Dressage Masters based at Oisterwijk, Netherlands, was concluded Friday and provides for three years of the WDM Palm Beach organized by Wellington Classic Dressage.

No commitments from top-ranked European riders were announced, though Wellington Classic Dressage said they were assured by WDM of “expressions of interest from riders.”

Top North American riders Steffen Peters of the U.S. and Ashley Holzer of Canada built their winter competition calendar around the Masters that was originally scheduled for the first week of February and said they will compete on the new dates.

Swedish Olympian Tinne Wilhelmson-Silfvén, the world’s highest ranked Swede with Favourit, also has based herself and a barn full of horses in Wellington this winter. Her primary sponsor is Antonia Ax:son Johnson, head of the family that owns the international conglomerate Axel Johnson Gruppe that has extensive interests in the United States and is the primary sponsor of the World Dressage Masters at Falsterbo, Sweden.

Noreen O’Sullivan and John Flanagan who own and operate Wellington Classic Dressage said they received approval for a CDI5*, upgraded from a CDI1* scheduled for March, thus allowing them to stage WDM with the bulk of the prize money provided by Exquis and Moorlands Stables of the Netherlands.

The new Palm Beach WDM will be part of the circuit that includes Munich, Germany June 2-5, Falsterbo, Sweden July 8-11 and Hickstead, England July 25-31 in the richest series of dressage competitions in history–each with €100,000 in prize money.

The prize money breakdown is €10,000 ($13,000) for the Grand Prix, €30,000 ($39,000) for the Grand Prix Special and €60,0000 ($78,000) for the Freestyle.

“The Exquis World Dressage Masters would not be complete without a show in the U.S. We belong here,” said Anthony M. Kies, WDM Chief Executive Officer. “We are very proud that Wellington Classic Dressage, which has an excellent reputation, has offered to stage WDM in Palm Beach for the next three years, starting with this year.”

“It is very important for our riders and audiences to have the first-hand exposure to world-class dressage, which the World Dressage Masters shows provide,” Akiko Yamazaki said. “I am very grateful for WDM’s commitment to keep the show in the U.S. and for Wellington Classic Dressage and the other sponsors who have stepped in to make a 2011 show a reality. Quick actions and decisions were necessary and it all came through thanks to great efforts by all involved.”

Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, owners of Ravel, with US jumping Chef d'Equipe George Morris watching Ravel compete at Aachen. Germany in 2009. © Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Steffen Peters said he was “very excited about the successful rescue efforts for the World Dressage Masters. A tremendous team effort will assure the momentum for dressage in the United States. I would like to thank the entire WDM team and I’m looking forward to another world class competition in America.”

“This prestigious event belongs in the Wellington area now and in the future,” said John Wash, president of IPCPB Club Operations. “Many of the best equestrians and performance horses in the world descend on our region each winter for world-class competition in dressage, polo and show jumping. International Polo Club is pleased to be a part of this and we look forward to our continued working relationship with the equestrian world.”

Competitions licensed to Wellington Classic Dressage, the Gold Coast Dressage Association at the Brandon Center and International Horse Sport Palm Beach that includes the Palm Beach Dressage Derby at Equestrian Estates in Loxahatchee, near Wellington are most of the 15 competitions, including three CDI-W World Cup qualifiers and two other CDIs, now one of them a 5*, that are held in Palm Beach over four months of the winter circuit.

A casualty of the new WDM schedule may be one of only two World Cup qualifiers in California that were organized this year following 2010 when there were no qualifiers. The event at Del Mar near San Diego is the same weekend as the WDM.

Although the Brandon Center does not have the glamor, the quality of footing or spectator seating of the Palm Beach Equestrian Center, Noreen O’Sullivan and John Flanagan made it clear they will pull out all the stops to make the event exciting and crowd-pleasing as possible.

The 110-acre (44.5Ha) Brandon facility that was built with millions of dollars of taxpayer funds includes a 135 by 300 foot (41 x 91m) covered arena, two outdoor arenas, all with warmup rings, and 128 permanent stalls. Spectator and VIP seating will have to be installed for WDM.

International Polo Club Palm Beach with a large complex of polo fields, permanent spectator seating and a full service club is second only to Palm Beach International Equestrian Center as a producer of a high performance horse sports in Wellington. Eleven 26-goal teams and 10 20-goal teams compete in IPC staged tournaments from the beginning of January to mid-April with the final of the U.S. Polo Association Cup. IPC also hosts one of the biggest dressage entertainment extravaganzas, the Challenge of the Americas that raises more than $200,000 each year to support breast cancer research.

Horse sports in Wellington were initially established by polo tournaments and jumping and hunter competitions that followed were held initially on polo grounds.