Thanks in large part to an obstacle known as the Mississippi Queen, the Alltech National Horse Show Grand Prix wowed spectators Saturday night.
The show has been at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington since Tuesday, bringing with it about 2,000 people who work in the industry. Saturday's Grand Prix, a show-jumping event, had a $75,000 first-place prize and featured Olympic-quality riders from eight countries.
"You really have a star-studded field," said Marty Bauman, a spokesman for the show.
Though the crowd was a bit sparse, event organizers say there's every reason to think future events will be better attended.
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The winner, Richard Spooner, traveled from California to compete. Second-place finisher Nick Skelton, a World Cup-winning show jumper, came from Great Britain. Third place went to Jessica Springsteen, the 19-year-old daughter of singer Bruce Springsteen, who also came from California.
Other noteworthy riders were defeated by a pesky fence nicknamed "unlucky number 13." The 13th and final obstacle was named Mississippi Queen, and it had a steamboat theme. The Mississippi Queen ruined many an otherwise perfect ride, dropping several riders; Charlie Jayne, for example, went from a chance at first place to a tie for ninth.
The anxiety was palpable as riders approached an obstacle, especially the Mississippi Queen. The crowd, typically silent while a rider is jumping, groaned and gasped as the riders approached the 13th fence.
The National Horse Show was held in Madison Square Garden in New York City for a century. But New York City is not the best place for horses, Bauman said, so the show started jumping from place to place. But the new plan is to have it settle in Lexington
"The last 10 years it's been a little nomadic, but it's found a new home here," Bauman said.
As the show enters its last day on Sunday, the organizers say they're very pleased with how things have gone except for one aspect — attendance.
"The attendance has not been what it will be in upcoming years," Bauman said. "In every other aspect it has met at least our expectations and beyond."
Bauman said the show didn't choose Lexington as the venue for its 128th year until March. Now, he has a whole year to promote the next one.
"We've gotten rave reviews from the horse show. Nothing is as important as word of mouth," Bauman said.
Spooner, the Grand Prix champion, said he decided to come largely because of the event's location.
"I heard that the facility was phenomenal and the management was great," he said.