USA Grand Prix & Intermediate 1 Championships Canceled for 2016

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Laura Graves and Verdades completing the Grand Prix Freestyle that clinched the 2015 USA Grand Prix Championship. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves and Verdades completing the Grand Prix Freestyle that clinched the 2015 USA Grand Prix Championship. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Sept. 9, 2016–The United States Grand Prix and Intermediate 1 championships known as the Festival of Champions has been canceled for 2016 in a move announced Friday by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

The cancelation of the Grand Prix and Intermediate divisions for the first time since it became the dressage Festival of Champions in 1991 came after a year in which the high performance focus was on the U.S. dressage team that won bronze at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last month, returning to the medals podium for the first time since 2004.

“As the sponsor of the U.S. Dressage Team, the Dutta Corp. has been proud to support the efforts by riders, coaches, supporters, grooms and officials to return the United States to the Olympic medals podium,” said Tim Dutta. “I believe in the dream of Robert Dover that became a reality at the Pan American Games in 2015 and the Olympics this year. We join in celebrating that success.

“Although the Dutta Corp. is also the title sponsor of the U.S. Grand Prix and Intermediate 1 Championships, we understand the circumstances that have led to this decision and look forward to its return next year.”

The USEF said in its statement announcing the cancelation: “In 2016, U.S. dressage marked numerous international successes including winning the team bronze medal at the Rio Olympic Games and clinching the inaugural FEI Nations Cup Dressage series title. Athlete-and-horse combinations involved in these achievements will be enjoying some much deserved down time this fall.

“As a result, there would not be an adequate number of qualified combinations to make a championship level competition at the Festival of Champions. Additionally, a change in venue earlier this summer resulted in a significant increase in financial obligations for the USEF that had not originally been budgeted for.”

The USEF is seeking bids to host the festival Grand Prix and Intermediate 1 championships for the next three years with a competition date in early summer, the more traditional date for the event that has typically been used as a selection competition for Olympic, world and continental championship teams. The youth divisions are intended to be kept separate, but the dates and location are under review as they occur about a month after the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships and after resumption of school following the summer vacation.

The festival underwent a major change in 2015 when youth divisions were broken off to be competed at Wayne, Illinois alongside the national young horse championships in summer while the Grand Prix and Intermediate divisions were staged at the Global Dressage Festival grounds in Wellington, Florida in late fall. This year, the youth divisions were also held at Wayne.

The Grand Prix and Intermediate 1 had been awarded to Epona Farm in Thousand, Oaks, California for November.

However, the possibility of traffic and event limitations by the homeowners body in the community in which Epona is located brought the festival into doubt last February. The organizers said they informed the federation of the concerns but were asked not to withdraw until final decisions were made and that did not occur until July.

The event was then awarded to another group to stage the event at the Pacific Coast community of Paso Robles midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco for Oct. 12-16, but the short time frame was not enough to enlist sponsors to cover costs.