Wellington, FL - The 37th annual Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) will be held once again this winter at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. The 12 weeks of competition run January 13 to April 3, 2016. They will lead the way for the country's best show jumping with unmatched opportunities to compete for more than $7.4 million in total jumper payouts, with more than $5 million in elite jumper divisions alone. Prize money at WEF increases every year, and 2016 is no different with now more than $9 million on offer for the entire circuit.
The 52 FEI World Ranking classes are the best way for riders to gain valuable world ranking points, and the caliber of riders and horses improves annually at WEF. Riders from around the world come to Wellington to compete weekly and in the popular "Saturday Night Lights" grand prix competitions.
Riders such as the U.S. Pan American team of McLain Ward (individual Pan Am gold medalist, World #8), Kent Farrington (world #2), Lauren Hough (individual bronze medalist, World #31) and Georgina Bloomberg will be at WEF this year, along with other expected top 50 ranked riders in the world Beezie Madden (USA, #4), Harrie Smolders (NED, #21), Laura Kraut (USA, #22), Sergio Alvarez Moya (ESP, #27), Ben Maher (GBR, #30), Conor Swail (IRL, #37), Todd Minikus (USA, #40), Eric Lamaze (CAN, #49), Pan Am individual silver medalist Andres Rodriguez (VEN, #42), and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER, #51) (rankings as of 10/31/2015). These are just a handful of the riders that make the competition at WEF some of the best in the world.
"We look forward to another year of amazing show jumping," said Equestrian Sport Productions CEO Mark Bellissimo. "The level gets higher each year and the sport continues to provide exciting moments at WEF. We can't wait to see who rises to the top in 2016."
Highlights of the 2016 WEF include four weeks of CSI 5* competition and three weeks of CSI 4* competition. Week 12 concludes the circuit with the feature $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, but before that riders will contest three other top grand prix events, including: the $380,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, February 13; a $380,000 Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, February 27; and the $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, March 12.
The popular FEI Nations Cup returns on Friday, March 4, during week eight's CSIO 4* competition. This patriotic team competition brings horses and riders from around the globe to compete on Wellington's international stage in an impressive night of top sport. The Nations Cup prize money has increased once again this year to $150,000.
"The FEI Nations Cup is an important fixture on our calendar," said ESP President Michael Stone. "We raised the prize money again in 2016 to show our commitment to hosting this team event. It gives many countries an opportunity that they rarely get in North and South America, and we expect great competition this winter."
Featured classes will be held on the beautiful grass jumping field at The Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Some of the exciting events scheduled for this year include the $216,000 Ariat® Grand Prix CSI 4* on Sunday, February 7; the $25,000 Artisan Farms Under 25 Grand Prix Series Speed class presented by EnTrust Capital, $35,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series class, and the $50,000 Jumper Derby on Sunday, February 21; and the $50,000 Artisan Farms Under 25 Grand Prix Series Final and $86,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic on Sunday, March 27.
The Artisan Farms Under 25 Grand Prix Series, which features $170,000 in prize money in seven different classes throughout WEF, will be run under FEI rules in 2016 (excepting the Team event), giving young riders even more experience at competing and managing their horses at an international level.
Stone stated, "We feel that the Artisan Farms Under 25 Grand Prix Series is one of the most important events that we have at WEF. It offers an unparalleled experience for the up-and-coming riders in the sport, and with the new FEI status, the classes will provide even more value."
The Stadium at PBIEC will also once again host a $86,000 Grand Prix CSI 3* in the intimate setting of its International Ring on Friday, February 19, and open the week with the $35,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 on Thursday, February 18. Home to the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, the Stadium provides a nice change of venue for horses and riders throughout the circuit.
The Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series and WEF Challenge Cup Series each provide increased prize money and more opportunities for international riders to earn valuable world ranking points every week throughout the winter as well.
Please visit www.PBIEC.com for more information