Almost five months have passed since the Las Vegas World Invitational, but winner Rodrigo Pessoa and the other riders aren’t much closer to receiving their prize money.
Billed as the richest show jumping weekend ever (it was surpassed by the Al Maktoum Memorial Challenge in January), the Las Vegas World Invitational was supposed to be a showcase for the best show jumpers in the world, complete with the prize money to draw them.
But then the checks started to bounce. At first David Shriner, chairman of the show for Equus Entertainment, promised that the money would be on the way, but now that promise has fallen by the wayside.
Whether it was the lack of ticket revenues (the show only sold 4,000 tickets over two nights for stadium that can hold 20,000) or just poor planning is unclear, but the money doesn’t appear to be forthcoming.
The organizers had a letter of credit from Icon International promising $1,050,000, and it was that letter of credit that convinced U.S. Equestrian Federation officials to sanction the first-time, big-money show. But it turns out that the funds from Icon would only be provided if matching funds were deposited in an escrow account by Equus Entertainment, which never happened.
In an effort to track down his cash, Pessoa (who\’s looking for his $250,000 prize) contacted the Las Vegas district attorney’s office, and that\’s where the matter stands for now.
Pessoa, who is competing in Wellington, Fla., this winter, is representing the riders and has acquired an American lawyer to take legal action.
“For the moment the major riders [seeking payment] are myself, Nick Skelton, Meredith [Michaels-Beerbaum] and Jessica Kurten, because we were the ones who collected the biggest amounts of money,” said Pessoa. “I guess that later other ones will chip in as well to try and get their money back.”
While USEF officials can’t force Equus Entertainment to pay up, USEF CEO John Long offered the assistance of the USEF legal team to aid Pessoa. “The USEF is working with the riders, filing the appropriate paperwork with the Clarke County attorney’s office,” said Long.
Long confirmed that neither Equus Entertainment, nor any other organization, has applied for dates for another Las Vegas show in 2006. A completely different organization stages the FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas, where it will return in April 2007.