Wellington Gets Six CDIs, Dressage Derby Remains at Loxahatchee, None at Brandon Center in Major Realignment of Florida Winter Circuit

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Palm Beach International Equestrian Center's Stadium complex that hosts the Global Dressage Festival and Winter Equstrian Festival grass derby field events. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium complex that hosts the Global Dressage Festival and Winter Equstrian Festival grass derby field events. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com


The Global Dressage Festival in Wellington will stage six CDIs while the Palm Beach Dressage Derby will remain in neighboring Loxahatchee and no international events will be held at the Jim Brandon Center in a major realignment of Florida’s winter circuit approved by the U.S. Equestrian Federation.

The Village of Wellington that governs the community on Tuesday night approved the six-month Global Dressage Festival winter circuit of the six CDIs and a slew of national competitions that confirms Wellington as the center of dressage competition in the Americas.

Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions that organizes competitions at the GDF grounds as part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, told the village council that shows that had been held at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach will move to the Global Dressage Festival to be held from Nov. 1, 2013 through April 30, 2014.

The U.S. Equestrian Federation, he said, had approved acquisition by Equestrian Sport Production of the show dates assigned to Wellington Classic Dressage and will be moved to the GDF grounds which has become one of the world’s leading dressage circuits in the community of about 60,000 residents about 15 miles (24km) west of storied Palm Beach.

The five members of the council were unanimous in voting to approve the winter circuit on the 59-acre (24Ha) site on which a handful of jumping events are also held on a grass derby field.

The GDF circuit with almost US$300,000 (€235,000) in prize money has become the centerpiece of dressage in all the Americas–Canada, the United States and many other nations depend on the shows to qualify for Olympic and world championship teams, the World Cup Final and development of dressage at the critically important Pan American Games–the second largest multisport event in the world.

The new Global Dressage Festival schedule matches the calendar of the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center of 12 weeks from early January to the end of March. Both WEF and GDF showgrounds are all part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

The schedule was revised from a timetable announced by the USEF in March and came after four months of negotiations between the USEF, Wellington Classic Dressage and Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) to streamline the schedule that led to ESP acquiring 18 dates for shows that had previously been held at the Brandon Center.

Negotiations on the show dates were held simultaneously with efforts by ESP and the Village of Wellington on use of the GDF show grounds.

The new winter schedule of CDI international events that was distributed at the council meeting is:

– Jan. 9-12–CDI-W World Cup at GDF;
– Jan. 22-26–CDI-W World Cup at GDF;
– Feb. 6-9–CDI5* at GDF;
– Feb. 19-24–CDIO3* Nations Cup at GDF;
– Feb. 27-Mar. 2–Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W World Cup at Equestrian Estates, Loxahatchee;
– Mar. 13-16–CDI-W World Cup at GDF, and
– Mar. 27-30–CDI5* at GDF.

Another CDI may be held at Equestrian Estates in Loxahatchee in April, but that is not yet confirmed. The Palm Beach Dressage Derby is 30 years old and one of the founding competitions of the Florida winter circuit.

The €100,000 (US$130,000) World Dressage Masters CDI5* that was staged for two years by ESP at the Palm Beach facility then moved to the Brandon Center for three years is expected to be discontinued as it has been overtaken by the ambitious GDF program.

However, the CDIO3* Nations Cup has been scheduled within the same time frame as the jumping Nations Cup and Nations Cups for junior and young riders that were inaugurated last winter.

If the USEF and International Equestrian Federation (FEI) approve the Nations Cups in dressage and jumping being held as part of the same show, it would mean the first CHIO outside Western Europe. The two CHIOs currently held are Rotterdam and the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, the world’s foremost horse show and both are in summer.

Tentative plans for an inaugural CIC event in Wellington to create a schedule of the three Olympic disciplines similar to the Aachen CHIO are reported by sources within the USEF to have met with opposition because of a possible conflict of dates.

National competitions will be interspersed with the CDIs, with several staged by ESP at Wellington, as many as four at Equestrian Estates, several at White Fences and some by the non-profit Gold Coast Dressage Association of which at least one is likely to be held at the GDF grounds.

The GDF facility that is part of Palm Beach Internatiional Equestrian Center has held shows for the past two winters after millions of dollars were spent constructing six Olympic quality dressage arenas–three competition and three warmups–200 permanent stalls and a covered arena large enough to hold at least three full size dressage arenas.

A campaign launched by one family, the Jacobs, owners of a nearby equestrian estate, the Boston Bruins National Hockey League team and one of the world’s largest food service companies, operators of both dog and horse race tracks and gambling casinos, funded the election of members of the council that controls the government of the Village of Wellington. One of the first actions of the new council was to cancel permits to build a condominium hotel, retail plaza and complete construction of facilities at GDF facility.

The council has approved only temporary permits to hold the winter shows but refused to allow use of the grounds for six months of the year, including the covered arena in hot and humid tropical summers.

Anne Huber, an attorney for the Jacobs, told the council that the family is “generallly supportive” of issuing the so-called Special Use Permit for six months while negotiations will continue to enable year-round use of the show grounds that once was the main polo grounds and staged matchs where Britain’s Prince Charles played while his then wife, Princess Di, looked on.

However, the attorney, then proceeded to raise a long list of objections and listed additional conditions she said should be required before the special use permit was issued.

The Jacobs family has been a bitter foe of ownership group that took over the Winter Equestrian Festival at the end of 2007 and, along with development of the Global Dressage Festival in the past two years, has spent tens of millions of dollars making Palm Beach one of the world’s premier equestrian destinations.

The calendar of at least seven CDIs at top facilities in winter is attracting riders from around the world, as it has to WEF, the world’s largest and longest running jumping show with more than $6 million (€4.7 million) in prize money over 12 weeks.

The role of Palm Beach and events that are designated CDI3* or greater, the level for team qualification as well as earning world ranking points, accounts for one-third the total number of such events in all of the United States.

California has a total of six in widely separated venues spread over the entire year, New York has two in the fall, while Texas, New Jersey, Kentucky, Colorado and Pennsylvania each have one.