Central Park Horse Show Makes History With Fantastic Inaugural Event

Photo © Kit Houghton/Rolex
Photo © Kit Houghton/Rolex

New York, NY  - The Central Park Horse Show (CPHS), presented by Rolex and produced by The Chronicle of the Horse, hosted its inaugural event in New York City's Central Park at Trump Rink on September 18-21, 2014, featuring four days of incredible equestrian competition and special exhibitions.

With a fantastic first event in the books, Mark Bellissimo of International Equestrian Group, LLC (IEG) thanked supporters such as Mr. Donald J. Trump of the event's venue, Trump Rink, and title sponsor, Rolex, for their help in making his dream of a Central Park Horse Show a reality.

"We are elated about the success of our inaugural Central Park Horse Show," Bellissimo stated. "Our vision was to elevate and increase the exposure of horse sport in the United States. The media coverage was very broad and very deep. I cannot think of a more heavily covered weekend equestrian event in U.S. history. I have to thank Rolex, who was a tremendous supporter of this event. Putting their brand and reputation on an inaugural event is rare for them, and it was greatly appreciated. We have a great partnership with Rolex, and I think that was a testament to their belief in our vision. We would like to thank USEF for their support for our event."

Photo © David Handschuh
Photo © David Handschuh

He continued, "I would also like to thank Donald J. Trump, who worked collaboratively with me over the last year to make this happen. Without Donald's passion for the event, the Trump Rink, and the support of the Trump Organization, this event would not have happened. We are very thankful and look forward to many years of working together."

The Central Park Horse Show came together in mere weeks thanks to the spectacular team at IEG, led by Michael Stone, Vaneli Bojkova, Paul Regal, and Mike Belisle. "I'm not sure anyone could have come in here and done it with the level of precision that our team did," Bellissimo said. "We only had five days to transform Trump Rink into something that I think is one of the most spectacular show jumping destinations in the world."

Bellissimo also noted that it was with the help and guidance of several local groups that the Central Park Horse Show was a success, including the New York City Parks and Recreation, Central Park Conservancy, The Office of the Mayor of New York City, Elliot Winick of Winick Productions, and the Trump Rink Operations Staff, including Director of Special Events Gwen Weinstock and General Manager Dale Klied.

Photo © David Handschuh
Photo © David Handschuh

"The success of the Central Park Horse Show came from a group of people who wanted to produce the finest event possible in this historic setting," said Michael Stone. "It took a huge, collaborative effort, and we look forward to producing and improving the Central Park Horse Show every year."

Sponsorship Director Jim Wolf stated, "This was an enormous undertaking and great pride comes from accomplishing difficult tasks. I believe this event will be remembered as a transformative moment in our sport. We were able to put our sport on center stage in one of the greatest cities in the world. Our team created a unique showcase for our sport in one of the busiest public parks in the world, with all of its unique challenges, on an incredibly tight timeframe. They were truly amazing, as were our sponsors, who took a blind leap of faith in our ability to pull this off. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude."

The 2014 Central Park Horse Show began on Thursday night with show jumping wins for hometown riders Georgina Bloomberg and Lucy Deslauriers. Twenty-three of the world's best horses and riders jumped in the inaugural $210,000 Central Park Grand Prix CSI 3*, presented by Rolex, with an exciting victory for New York's own Georgina Bloomberg riding Juvina. The class was televised live on NBC Sports Network as the first live primetime broadcast of equestrian sport on a major sports network.

Georgina Bloomberg. Photo © David Handschuh
Georgina Bloomberg. Photo © David Handschuh

Charlie Jayne, of Elgin, IL, was the only rider to clear the first round course without fault aboard Pony Lane Farm's Valeska while Bloomberg and Gotham Enterprizes' Juvina returned for round two carrying four faults in a class format where the top six returned for the second round. When Bloomberg jumped the second round course clear and Jayne had four faults with a slower time, Bloomberg took the momentous victory in front of a sold-out hometown crowd.

For her victory, Bloomberg was presented with a specially engraved, stainless steel Oyster Perpetual Datejust timepiece with a Rhodium Flowers Arabic dial. Bloomberg also celebrated with GH Mumm champagne following her victory.

"This is obviously my hometown and the most special place on the planet to me," Bloomberg acknowledged. "I competed at the National Horse Show when it was here in Madison Square Garden its final year, and I remember walking into the arena for the last time there and knowing that it was the most amazing feeling in the world to be able to compete in this city. To have it come back here - I really did take a minute to enjoy the moment and look around. To win is absolutely amazing to me."

Also completing two great rounds over the course of the evening were Paige Johnson of The Plains, VA, and Salamander Farm's Dakota. The pair had one rail and a time fault in round one, but returned to jump clear in round two and finished third overall.

A $20,000 Under 25 Grand Prix, presented by PwC, followed on Thursday evening featuring some of the nation's top riders under the age of 25 with a win for 15-year-old Lucy Deslauriers of New York, NY, riding Lisa Deslauriers' Hester. Katherine Strauss and All In finished second, while Sydney Shulman and Back Country Farm's Quidam 13 placed third.

Georgina Bloomberg and Kent Farrington. Photo © David Handschuh
Georgina Bloomberg and Kent Farrington. Photo © David Handschuh

Trump Rink was alight with excitement Friday night as the CPHS continued with its second day of show jumping competition under the beautiful New York City skyline. The evening featured a $50,000 "NYC vs. The World" Team Speed Challenge, presented by Donald J. Trump, with a win for Suncast® Corporation's World Team, led by captain Kent Farrington, over the NYC Team, which was sponsored by Land Rover.

The world team was the winner overall, topping 10 of the 15 match-ups while the team for Land Rover NYC, captained by Georgina Bloomberg, settled for second. In addition to team prizes, the top eight individual riders shared in a $50,000 purse with a win for Ireland's Conor Swail riding Susan and Ariel Grange's Lansdowne. Jessica Springsteen (USA) was second individually riding Stone Hill Farm's Davendy S and Shane Sweetnam rode to third place for his home nation of Ireland on Cyklon 1083.

Farrington commented on the event following another great evening of competition representing his winning team. "I think this is one of the best venues we can have to showcase our sport," he stated. "It is really exciting to be here and be a part of this event, getting it off the ground. A special thank you to everybody that has put big efforts into making this happen - Mark Bellissimo, Donald Trump, Rolex being our sponsor here, all the staff of the park, and everybody that has helped. I think for the first year, it's a success, and I know there will be big efforts into making it better. I think that this could turn into a major stop on our tour and turn into a world-class event."

A $5,000 Junior/Amateur Speed Challenge was held later in the evening with a win for 22-year-old New York City-based rider Hilary McNerney and Amy Carr's Oscar. For her victory, McNerney was presented with a VertuoLine Chrome Nespresso machine. Brianne Link and E-Bay placed second, and Yasmin Rizvi and Peacock Ridge Farm LLC's Delilah jumped clear for third place.

The third day of the CPHS hosted its third day of competition in New York City's iconic Central Park on Saturday featuring an evening of beautiful dressage competition and special performances from some of the world's best horses and riders.

Isabell Werth. Photo © Kit Houghton/Rolex
Isabell Werth. Photo © Kit Houghton/Rolex

Five-time Olympic Gold Medalist Isabell Werth of Germany won the inaugural $40,000 Central Park Dressage Challenge, presented by The Axel Johnson Group, riding El Santo NRW. The United States' Steffen Peters brought his superstar mount Ravel for a special freestyle performance, and Jan Ebeling retired his famous mare Rafalca after the duo had their final performance together. It was an incredible night celebrating the beauty, grace, and power of dressage.

Performing their freestyle in Trump Rink with an incredible backdrop of skyscrapers in the New York City skyline, Isabell Werth and El Santo NRW received a score of 82.042% from the judges to take top honors in the dressage challenge. Dutch rider Hans Peter Minderhoud showed his mount Glock's Flirt to a score of 78.833% to finish second, and Canada's Karen Pavicic and Don Daiquiri scored a 73.500% to place third.

"I have to say thank you in the name of all riders for the great idea for this event," Werth stated. "If you are in the ring and you look around, this is really unbelievable, especially when you come from Germany! It's a completely different arena or event or atmosphere to a normal show. It is something special because you are in the middle of New York. We have no other show where it's in the middle of skylines and atmosphere like this. This is really unique and special."

Peters brought Ravel, owned by Four Winds Farm and Akiko Yamazaki, for a special performance. "I am so proud of Ravel. To get to ride him once more in a freestyle is so extremely special," Peters related. It's really hard to put in words what Ravel really does for us. To compete and to show him, in what I like to call the center of the world, is really special. Central Park is just amazing. What a special feeling tonight."

Following the dressage competition, a moving retirement ceremony was held for Jan Ebeling's FEI World Cup and 2012 London Olympic Games mount Rafalca, as the mare concludes her successful show career. At 17 years of age, the Oldenburg mare owned by Beth Meyer, Ann Romney and Amy Ebeling will now enjoy her time at Ebeling's farm The Acres in California.

Ebeling stated, "This horse show is unbelievable. Thanks to the organizer. I know you really have to stick your neck way out to do these events. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to retire my horse here. I'd like to also say thank you to my family, friends, and sponsors that have made this journey for me possible. I hope I come back with another horse. I was familiar with Central Park, but I never thought I would ever ride here!"

In addition to the winning prize money, Wellington Equestrian Realty LLC presented a special Owner's Award to the winning owners of El Santo NRW, Madeline Winter-Schulze and Werth, for the Central Park Dressage Challenge. A $5,000 donation to charity in their honor will be made.

Photo © David Handschuh
Photo © David Handschuh

The U.S. Polo Assn. Central Park Polo Challenge served as the weekend's finale competition on Sunday with a win for the U.S. Trust Team made up of players Kris Kampsen, Marc Ganzi and Wesley Finlayson. The FlexJet team of Melissa Ganzi, Charlie Muldoon, and Juan Bollini finished second, and the U.S. Polo Assn.'s team of Nic Roldan, Juancito Bollini, and Grant Ganzi earned a third place finish. All of the players rode horses generously provided by the Ganzi Family and Grand Champions Polo Club. Kampsen was named MVP, and Open Quarzo was Best Playing Pony.

Leading his U.S. Trust team to victory, top player Kris Kampsen had fun competing in the wonderful location with close friends. "The event, the venue, the organization that it took to get this done was bar none," Kampsen stated. "When you are out there playing you zone everything out and then all of a sudden there is a stoppage of play and you look up and you are like, 'Wow, look at the venue that we are in!' It is unbelievable."

Melissa Ganzi enjoyed her experience playing in the momentous game and thanked the organizers for their vision in making everything happen. "I want to thank Mark and Katherine Bellissimo for having the dream and making all of this possible and setting up this amazing venue," Ganzi acknowledged.

As part of the United States Polo Association's ongoing program to expose sports fans nationwide to the sport of polo, the match will be telecast on the NBC Sports Network (NBC SN) on October 4 at 3:30 p.m. EST. It will be the first ever nationwide telecast of an arena polo match.

Saturday and Sunday also featured two matinee performances each day with various exhibitions representing different disciplines of equestrian sport. The United States Pony Club Games highlighted New York's top young Pony Club riders in a series of entertaining and competitive games. The inaugural Central Park Grand National Shetland Pony Steeplechase races, part of the WIHS Shetland Pony Steeplechase Series presented by Charles Owen, saw jockeys age seven to 16 riding atop one of the world's most adorable pony breeds. Following their final race, the riders were presented with awards by Allyn Mann of Adequan, the first sponsor partner of the Central Park Horse Show, presented by Rolex.

Guy McLean. Photo © David Handschuh
Guy McLean. Photo © David Handschuh

Young dressage phenom Barbara "Bebe" Davis represented the next generation of dressage stars. The 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games' U.S. Vaulting Team showcased their world-class horseback gymnastics thanks to sponsor Akiko Yamazaki and were the opening performance before Saturday night's dressage competition. Polo's rising stars took to the ring thanks to support from Wellington's Grand Champions Polo Club.One-of-a-kind inspirational equestrian entertainment concluded the matinees as Australian Horseman Guy McLean and his equine partners demonstrated the strong bond between horses and humans.

The beautiful VIP tent overlooking the arena was a large undertaking as well, with the main structure constructed by EventStar and the décor direction and vision from Cheryl Gaydas-Eng. With Gaydas-Eng's beautiful decorations, guests did not know where the park ended and the tent began. VERANDA magazine sponsored part of the interior design, including crystal chandeliers from Troy Lighting and carpets from New Moon. Footing in the arena provided by Equestrian Services International was praised across the board by riders and trainers.

IEG was proud to work with and support five local charities through the Central Park Horse Show. Donations were made in a special presentation on Friday, with $25,000 going to the Police Athletic League NYC, $25,000 to the City Parks Foundation, $10,000 to GallopNYC, $10,000 to the New York City Parks Mounted Auxiliary, and $10,000 to the New York City Police Foundation, to be used for the NYPD Mounted Unit. Thanks to sponsor PwC, the Central Park Horse Show gave free tickets to local public school children who benefit from PwC's unique financial literacy programs.

The Central Park Horse Show would like to thank its wonderful sponsors, competitors, staff, and spectators for making the event's debut an incredible success.

Bellissimo and his team now know the logistics and capability of the event and are already working on how to improve and enhance the Central Park Horse Show for 2015. For more information, please go to www.centralparkhorseshow.com.




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