This year’s entry list is once again an impressive representation of the top riders throughout the USA and Canada. Local Ocala favorites are joined by multiple Olympians and WEG hopefuls in all international divisions including; Liz Halliday-Sharp, Jennie Brannigan, Buck Davidson, Joe Meyer, Clayton Fredericks, Leslie Law, Lauren Kieffer, Hannah Sue Burnett, Phillip Dutton, Clark Montgomery, Will Coleman, Doug Payne, Marilyn Little and many others.
Marion County is embracing the return of this year’s event with support from Kent Guinn, the Mayor of Ocala. “The 2016 event was a great showcase of eventing and of Ocala in the event’s inaugural year. This year, riders will be back on their way to qualify for the 2018 World Equestrian Games. An event of this caliber is yet another example of why we call Ocala, Marion County, ‘The Horse Capital of the World”.
Ocala Jockey Club Honors The Thoroughbred
There’s $100K in prize money offered at this year’s event, of which $25K is allocated to the Thoroughbred Eventing Championship division, a reflection of the region’s dedication to the Thoroughbred breed. The Thoroughbred industry is quite robust in the Ocala region, with many large breeding and training facilities in Marion County.
The original Ocala Jockey Club was developed in the 1980‘s as a community-oriented Thoroughbred training facility with a centralized clubhouse and state of the art amenities. Purchased in 2005 by current owners, Erik and Pavla Nygaard, the OJC continues to honor the history of the Thoroughbred at this vast facility.
Pavla & Erik Nygaard at the 2017 Breeders Cup, Photo courtesy of OJC. Lynn Symansky and Donner, photo Credit Shannon Brinkman.
The Nygaards became actively involved in the racing industry as owners after purchasing the Jockey Club in 2005, with several Grade 1 stakes winners over the past decade. In fact, just this month their dedication to the thoroughbred industry paid off with a big win at the 2017 Breeders Cup Dirt Mile, with their homebred Battle of Midway!
The Nygaard’s vision for the Ocala Jockey Club is to become “an acclaimed international destination resort and club for those who love horses, equestrian events and the beautiful scenery in Florida.”
This year the Nygaards continue to honor the thoroughbred horse during the OJC3DE, through their donation of the $25K in prize money and by showcasing the diversity of these beautiful animals. The Retired Racehorse Project, in partnership with the Florida Breeders Association, will be on site presenting demos with off-the-track-thoroughbreds to raise awareness of the diversity of the breed in an effort to see OTTBs sold into successful second careers.
In speaking with Pavla Nygaard, she expressed the reasons why they champion efforts to place horses in second careers, which actually begins during their breeding process. When selecting mares and stallions for their breeding program, they look at a 25-year span and breed for a lengthy career on and off the track. Placing horses in second careers is why they are champions of the $25k award this year at the OJC3DE.
“There’s a natural connection within the racing and eventing industry, and by adding significant prize money to incent eventing owners, we hope they’ll look at a Thoroughbred as their next horse. The RRP and TIP have done a great job giving people the incentive at the lower levels. My hope is that the added incentive at an FEI level event, it’s a service to both the Thoroughbred and eventing industries.”
Lynn Symansky and Donner finished 6th last year in the competitive CIC 3* division. Donner is one of the top-ranked American Thoroughbreds currently competing at the highest international level of the sport.
World-Class Spectating for the Entire Ocala Community
Not only is this a spectacular international event, but with the vast expanse of the 900+ acre OJC facility, the views for spectating are unprecedented in the region. It is also a wonderful family-friendly event, with vendors from our local community and activities for all ages. Throughout the weekend there will be a Kid Zone featuring horse games, an air bounce, an Equicizer and other activities. For the adults, Friday is ladies day, with luncheon at noon, featuring keynote speaker Karen O’Connor, in celebration of women in equestrian sports. Saturday is Hat Day, with prizes for top entries!
The first jog/horse inspection for the CCI divisions kicks off today at 2 PM, with our own Courtney Varney who will be the official FEI treating vet for the weekend. We’re looking forward to a successful and safe weekend at the Ocala Jockey Club, so take advantage of the beautiful fall climate to come out and experience the world-class event that is open to the public. The team at Ocala Horse Properties will be there to cheer on all the competitors!
This weekend’s schedule, list of entries and competition details can be found on the OJC website.
For those who can’t make it to the event, Eqsports.net will be on site covering the event throughout the weekend with live streaming of the 2* and 3* jumping phases.