Maryland could soon become home to a major international equestrian event that would draw tens of thousands of people and millions of dollars’ worth of economic benefits to the state each fall.
The board of directors for the U.S. Equestrian Federation, our country’s governing body for most horse-sports events, on Monday recommended Fair Hill International in Cecil County to host a so-called four-star global equestrian event starting in 2019. Such competitions are regarded as the best of the best when it comes to “eventing,” the name given to a horsey trifecta of events: dressage, cross-country racing and show jumping.
The federation notably recommended the Elkton facility over Great Meadow International in The Plains, Va., to host the upcoming event. Before Fair Hill gets the green light, however, it’ll need approval from the Federation Equestre Internationale, the premier body for international equestrian events.
“Our team has worked really hard to bring the 4* to Fair Hill,” said Trish Gilbert, co-president of the Cecil County facility, in a statement. “It is an honor to be selected to put on an event of this caliber – to showcase Maryland and the beautiful Fair Hill terrain on a world stage.”
Beyond some international bragging rights – Fair Hill would be only the second U.S. location (joining Lexington, Ky.) for a four-star equestrian event in the world – the competition would bring an estimated 80,000 people to Cecil County over a four-day period every fall. Over time, that could equate to up to $30 million in economic benefits every year, according to officials at Fair Hill.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan expressed his excitement in a statement, calling the nomination “a reflection of our rich equestrian tradition.”
Fair Hill already hosts two-star and three-star equestrian competitions each fall, according to its website. It’s undergoing renovations to add an irrigated turf racecourse, a new cross country course, rings and a graded grass field on the infield and a grandstand overlooking the turf track and rings, all of which are being funded by public and private money.
“This news paves the path necessary for our Fair Hill team and partners to move forward in delivering a world class venue and a world class event to achieve the economic threshold we believe this event can have on Maryland, Cecil County and the entire region,” said Terry Hasseltine, executive director of Maryland’s Sports Commission, in a statement.
The new competition would be rather different from ingrained equestrian events in the area — for instance, the Hunt Cup in Baltimore County or the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. Then again, it certainly can’t hurt to further the state’s legacy as a top “eventing” destination by drawing a global crowd.
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