Family Seeking to Tear Down Sport-Changing Global Dressage Grounds To Stage World Cup Jumping Event Next Door–Part 2 of 2
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 2, 2016–The family seeking to have the Global Dressage Festival show grounds torn down has been approved by the United States and International Equestrian Federations to stage a World Cup jumping event on their farm virtually next door the same month a local court has scheduled a procedural hearing on the lawsuit.
The Wellington Masters CSI3*/World Cup event on the Deeridge Farms estate of the Jacobs family is in both the USEF and FEI calendars for Feb. 4-7.
The World Cup qualifier is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7, with a Global national dressage show on one side and the week’s highlight game of an International Polo Club 20-goal tournament on the other. The Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) of jumpers and hunters is on the same road less than a mile (1.6km) away but with traffic–automobile, trucks and horses from nearby stables–converging on the same crossroads for access to the shows.
The plan specifies access to Deeridge Farms for horse trucks and trailers, riders, grooms and others that could amount to more than 300 vehicles for each of the four days on a private road owned by homeowners, including several dressage properties.
Wellington’s largest equestrian clinic and official veterinarian service for WEF is also located directly across from Deeridge Farms and some equestrian have expressed concerns about access in an emergency.
A community sports park of five soccer fields, four football fields, two hockey rinks and four baseball/softball fields popular with families throughout Palm Beach, especially on weekends, is also next door to the Jacobs’ farm.
Approval for the event that is required for management of more than 1,000 vehicles on the World Cup day as well as temporary stabling of horses has not yet been given by the Village of Wellington that has challenged aspects of the organizer’s plan of 16 pages of text supported by 15 diagrams.
However, Isla Carroll Farm that adjoins Deeridge signed an agreement to allow access to the event as well as temporary parking. Isla Carroll is owned by John Goodman, who created the International Polo Club and is serving a lengthy prison term after a conviction of being under the influence while driving a vehicle that slammed into another car and led to the death of a young man almost six years ago.
Approval for hosting the World Cup event was awarded to the Deeridge Farms’ group as the jumping World Cup series is sponsored by Longines while Rolex is a primary sponsor of WEF. Identical conflicts led to some of the world’s most prestigious shows–Aachen, Germany; Geneva and Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada–creating the Grand Slam of Jumping sponsored by Rolex.
Although dressage is in the spotlight for most of the Global winter circuit, the venue has become a favorite of jumpers competing in a derby event on the grass, Under-25 jumper riders in both the sand arenas as well as on grass, a hunter derby and in 2016 will host the Wellington Eventing Showcase for the second year.
The Van Kampen covered arena at Global is used year round by a local riding club, for national and international para equestrian events, 30 days a year of free use by charities and non profits as well as enabling horse shows during South Florida’s steamy tropical summer.
Jumper and hunter riders praise the Global grounds for its world quality footing and facilities that offer a change of environment from the main Palm Beach center.
The 30 or so top eventing combinations from several countries that have competed at Olympics, World and Pan American Games heap praise on the Mark Phillips-designed eventing showcase course and prize money that in 2016 will rise to $75,000 making it one of the richest events in the Western Hemisphere.
Boyd Martin, U.S. Olympic, World and Pan Am Games team rider, said after winning the inaugural event: “I’ve been lucky enough, I’m 35 and I’ve competed in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Holland, U.S., France, England, and this is by far the best competition I have ever been to. The organizers have put on something I have never seen before, and I am just so proud to be here.”
The Jacobs family owns one of America’s largest privately held corporations, Delaware North, that includes the Boston Bruins ice hockey team, casinos, dog tracks but primarily a foodservice and hospitality behemoth that services sports stadiums, airports and national parks, and operating on four continents.
A decade ago, the family launched a public campaign against Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) and its chief executive, Mark Bellissimo, after he succeeded in buying both the WEF show grounds and the USEF licenses to operate the events. ESP expanded WEF from six weeks to 12 weeks while a plan by the Jacobs to set up a competitive circuit in Wellington fizzled.
The campaign against ESP was re-ignited five years ago when Mark Bellissimo put together a group of prominent dressage horse owners to create the Global Dressage Festival at the Stadium complex. GDF has since grown to seven CDIs with almost $700,000 in prize money.
The Jacobs funded campaigns to successfully elect a majority to the local government that hobbled development of GDF, forcing scaled back permanent show facilities and cancellation of plans for a condominium hotel and an equestrian retail mall at the same time imposing restriction on use, many of which have since been eased.
The lawsuit by the Jacobs-owned Solar Sportsystems, Inc. was filed in Palm Beach Circuit Court.
The lawsuit was scheduled for a jury trial last month, at about the same time as the United States Dressage Grand Prix and Intermediate Championships were staged at Global for the first time.
At the request of Solar Sportsystems, the court continued the case and a status hearing has been scheduled for February.