It's official: Kentucky is going after the 2018 World Equestrian Games.
According to the Fédération Équestre Internationale, Kentucky and Wellington, Fla., submitted formal bid applications and questionnaires to host the Games.
"With our storied equine tradition and unmatched facilities, Lexington is a perfect host for the 2018 World Equestrian Games, and we are proud to submit our application for consideration to FEI," said Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear.
The U.S. bids join Canada, which had previously submitted a bid for the Bromont/Montreal area, which had been awarded the Games but ran into financial difficulties.
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The Swiss-based FEI, the governing body for horse sports, reopened the bidding process in September. Britain had been expected to submit a strong bid but withdrew last month, saying organizers there could not put one together in the time allowed.
If the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington wins the seven-discipline equestrian games, it will be the first time that the games have made a return visit to a city. Lexington hosted the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
"We're excited about the possibility of the Games returning to Lexington," said Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Gray. "Lexington has made no financial commitment so far. If Kentucky is awarded the 2018 Games we'll be working with organizers to identify ways we can support them."
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, expressed support for Kentucky's bid.
"The 2010 Games were an all-around success — for the sport, its fans and for the hosts," Barr said in a statement. The FEI "should have incredible confidence in the ability of the Kentucky Horse Park to repeat as a world-class venue. Despite a challenging economy, the support from the community and the tremendous commitment delivered by sponsor Alltech ensured that everything came together for equestrian's greatest event."
Barr pledged to assist the state and city in supporting the bid, citing the 2010 games economic impact.
"Hosting the games would be an honor for Lexington, bringing a substantial economic impact to the region. The 2010 Games generated more than $200 million in Kentucky, including more than $45 million in wages supporting over 3,000 jobs," Barr said. "Lexington youth benefited from the opportunity to meet competitors and fans from around the world."
Richardson said no local or state money will be guaranteed as part of the application process.
The FEI will announce candidate cities for 2018 on Dec. 2. Cities must submit host agreements, which outline the financial guarantees, by the end of March. The cities will present their final bid in person in June, and the FEI will announce a selection.
"We are delighted that we have Wellington, Kentucky and Bromont/Montreal in the bidding process for our flagship event," FEI Secretary General Ingmar de Vos said in a statement. "All three locations have strong equestrian traditions, so it will be fascinating to see which of the bid committees produces the most compelling reasons why they should be allocated the Games in 2018. It's going to be an interesting process."
The FEI World Equestrian Games are held every four years, in the same year as the Winter Olympics. The seven disciplines include jumping, dressage and para-equestrian dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, vaulting and reining.
The inaugural games in 1990 were hosted in Stockholm, Sweden. They were then staged in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1994; Rome in 1998; Jerez, Spain, in 2002; and Aachen, Germany, in 2006. The first Games to be organized outside Europe were in 2010 in Lexington.
The seventh edition of the FEI's flagship event will be in Normandy, France, from Aug. 23 to Sept. 7 next year.