Lexington now one of just three places weighing a bid for 2018 World Equestrian Games

jpatton1@herald-leader.comOctober 28, 2013 

WEGSS-Jumping

Aleksandra Lusina, Poland, rode Ekwador over a Calumet Farm jump during the Individual Jumping qualification and Final Team competition at the Rolex Stadium, part of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, October, 05, 2010. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

CHARLES BERTRAM — ALL

The chances of Kentucky hosting the World Equestrian Games again in 2018 just got a little better: Great Britain, one of four sites that had expressed interest in bidding, has pulled out.

The British Equestrian Federation notified the Féd ération Équestre Internationale, the governing body of horse sports, that there was not enough time to secure the necessary funding and identify a host venue by Nov. 15, the deadline for formal bid applications. Britain had been considered a strong potential bidder because of last year's Summer Olympics and the country's strong equestrian tradition.

Kentucky is mulling whether to move forward, said John Nicholson, director of the Kentucky Horse Park, which hosted the Games in 2010.

"The bid is still under active consideration and discussion. I think that's where we're at," Nicholson said.

Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear, said his office "continues to discuss the possibility of hosting the World Equestrian Games in 2018 with various state and local officials. The tremendous success of the 2010 WEG and our belief that the Kentucky Horse Park is the finest equestrian facility in the world make Kentucky a strong contender."

The 2010 Games went off with few hitches and garnered the state international acclaim, but there were financial difficulties, in part because of the 2008 global economic downturn that dried up expected sponsorships.

FEI Secretary General Ingmar De Vos said in a news release Monday, "While it is of course disappointing that the British Equestrian Federation has decided not to go ahead with a bid for the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018, we still have three strong candidates in the mix from Wellington (Fla.), Kentucky and Bromont/Montreal, and look forward to receiving their formal bid applications by 15 November."

Host city candidates will be announced Dec. 2. Formal presentations will be made by the candidates in the spring, before the 2014 Games, which are to be Aug. 23 to Sept. 7 in Normandy, France. Nicholasville-based animal nutrition company Alltech is the title sponsor of the 2014 Normandy Games, as it was in 2010.

The 2018 Games were scheduled for Canada but, according to the FEI, the Bromont/Montreal area could not get sufficient public-sector funding, and bidding was reopened this month. Canadian officials are attempting to secure the financing to keep the bid alive.

The Games comprise seven disciplines of equestrian competition — jumping; dressage, including para-equestrian; eventing; driving; endurance; vaulting; and reining — and are held in the same years as the Winter Olympics.

Wellington, which is near Palm Beach in South Florida, hosts major show jumping and dressage events in the winter but does not have cross-country facilities for endurance or eventing.

Michael Stone, executive director of Equestrian Sport Productions, which runs many of Wellington's events, said this month that the city was serious about moving ahead with the bid. "We're very lucky in that we don't need a huge amount of financial support," because so much infrastructure is in place, said Stone, a former secretary general of the FEI.

Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl.

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