This year's edition of the $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational is making a last-minute and big move.
The American Invitational, the only show jumping class in North America held in a football stadium, was scheduled to take place on April 5 in its former home, the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
But on Feb. 8, Stadium Jumping Inc., the management company that runs the Invitational, announced that it will instead take place in Sun Life Stadium in Miami, home of the Miami Dolphins NFL team.
"Miami is going to be a great home for this event," said McLain Ward, who won the Invitational in 2013 on Rothchild, in 2008 with Sapphire and in 1998 on Twist du Valon. "It seems like the right move at the right time and it matches how the horse world has evolved. While I'm going to miss the few days in Tampa, I think the move to Miami is a good one and I hope the event is successful for many years to come."
The Invitational has been held in Tampa for 41 years and is an event held in high esteem by top riders. It used to be the crown jewel of the Winter Equestrian Festival when Stadium Jumping ran WEF. Grand prix riders qualified for the class by virtue of the prize money they won during the weeks of showing at WEF. But after Equestrian Sport Productions took over the management of WEF in 2008, the Invitational lost a bit of momentum.
"After 40 years in Tampa, we are thrilled to be moving to Florida's East Coast," said Michael Morrissey, President of Stadium Jumping. "South Florida is really the hotbed of show jumping in America at this time of year, so moving the Invitational closer to the action is something all of us are very excited about."
Morrissey is hopeful the move will inspire new sponsorship support and an expanded spectator base. G&C Farm, a presenting sponsor of the Invitational in recent years, has supported the move of venue. "I really want to commend Gustavo Mirabal for his continued support. G&C Farms' commitment to improving the sport of show jumping in America is unwavering. They have long realized the importance of the American Invitational and have stepped up for us each year," Morrissey said.
Ward, as the 2013 Invitational winner, will be automatically qualified for the event, four invitations will be extended to riders at the organizing committee's discretion, and 15 invitations will be offered to riders from the Invitational qualifying standings. A possible additional 10 invitations will be issued based on the Rolex/USEF Ranking List as of March 28.