Newly-crowned Olympic show jumping champions Nick Skelton of Great Britain and Big Star will headline international show jumping competition at the CSI4*-W Royal Horse Show, held November 4-13, 2016, as part of the 94th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, ON.
Skelton will be among the world’s best riders competing in the $130,500 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Toronto on Wednesday evening, November 9. The competition is a qualifying event for the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Omaha, Nebraska, next spring.
The 2016 Olympic gold medalist will face stiff competition from defending champion McLain Ward of the United States, who has won the World Cup qualifying event a total of seven times, including the past three years in a row.
“There have been a lot of very special moments at The Royal,” said Ward of Brewster, NY, who will contest this year’s event riding HH Carlos Z. “It’s a step back in time. It has a special environment that you don’t see any more in any sports arena. I really appreciate that they stick to their traditions and it’s a very special place to me.”
Ward won last year’s event riding HH Azur, who went on to be his partner at the 2016 Olympic Games where the United States won team silver.
“I’m not bringing Azur this year so that makes the job a little more difficult, but we always go and try to do the best we can every day,” continued Ward. “It’s a little bit of a busman’s holiday for me as well as my family will come up on the weekend. Toronto is a great city with beautiful hotels and restaurants, so we go and enjoy it.”
Joining Ward in flying the American flag are Kent Farrington, currently ranked the number three rider in the world, as well as Georgina Bloomberg, Audrey Coulter, Leslie Howard, Laura Kraut, Jessica Springsteen and Lauren Hough, who arrives in Toronto hot off her win on October 29 in the $130,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Washington riding Ohlala.
A total of nine nations will be represented in the international division with Harrie Smolders riding for The Netherlands; 2004 Athens Olympic champion Rodrigo Pessoa representing Brazil; Darragh Kenny and Shane Sweetnam riding for Ireland; Sharn Wordley of New Zealand; 20-year-old sensation, Jos Verlooy, representing Belgium, and Germany’s David Will making his first ever Royal appearance.
“I have only heard nothing but the best; everybody says that it is a great show with a really good crowd,” said Will, who will be competing on Canadian soil for the first time in his career. “It’s a new experience for me. I have never been to Toronto, but I like doing new things and it will be very exciting.”
The Canadians will put up a strong fight, with Canada’s number one female rider, Tiffany Foster of North Vancouver, BC, making her first appearance at The Royal in 15 years. She is joined by Erynn Ballard of Tottenham, ON; Vanessa Mannix of Calgary, AB; ten-time Olympian Ian Millar and his son, Jonathon; and Keean White of Rockwood, ON. An additional two Canadians will qualify for the international division based on their placings in the $100,000 Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships on opening weekend, November 4 and 5.
Bernardo Cabral of Portugal will set the tracks in the Ricoh Coliseum throughout the ten-day Royal Horse Show. Following opening weekend, international competition begins Tuesday, November 8, with the $35,000 International Power and Speed as well as the $35,000 Jolera International Jumper Welcome. Highlights also include Friday night’s historic $50,000 Weston Canadian Open and the grand finale, the $75,000 Big Ben International Challenge, on Saturday night, November 12.