One of the most expansive Winter Equestrian Festival seasons yet will get underway Wednesday, Jan. 10 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The 2018 WEF will feature 12 consecutive weeks of elite equestrian competition, hosting 11 FEI weeks and four CSI 5* competitions.
The Winter Equestrian Festival has been the pinnacle of equine competition in South Florida for more than four decades, welcoming enthusiasts and athletes annually to one of the most competitive shows in the world. This year’s circuit will offer more than $9 million in prize money throughout the duration of the season and will feature many of the world’s top internationally ranked riders.
“We look forward to delivering another amazing season in 2018, with bigger classes, more prize money and incredible sponsors, as we host the most talented riders in the world,” said Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions and managing partner of the Wellington Equestrian Partners. “We are proud to continue organizing the sport’s largest equestrian competition and look forward to making this year one of the best WEF seasons yet.”
The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is open to the public and offers free general admission throughout the season to all events. Competition each week begins on Wednesday morning and continues through Sunday afternoon. The highlight Saturday Night Lights competitions, featuring major international Grand Prix competition under the lights in the iconic International Ring, will begin at 7 p.m. each Saturday of the circuit. Gates open at 6 p.m.
The four CSI 5* Grand Prix classes, the highest designation of international show jumping in the sport, will take place on Feb. 10 (WEF 5), Feb. 24 (WEF 7), March 10 (WEF 9) and March 31 (WEF 12) in the International Ring at PBIEC. These competitions feature the top horse and rider combinations in the world, and include four FEI World Ranking classes during each week.
The final CSI 5* competition of the circuit (WEF 12) will be the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, the most prestigious international class of the 2018 season, taking place on the final Saturday of the season.
Following the success of the 2017 season, WEF will again offer concurrent CSI 2* competitions running in conjunction with CSI 5* weeks in an effort to offer exhibitors additional opportunities to compete at the FEI level. The CSI 2* division will feature a $50,000 Grand Prix on Sundays and include FEI World Ranking classes, along with two additional classes during the week. Each week of the WEF circuit also hosts Premier AA hunter competition for children, juniors, amateurs and professionals.
WEF welcomes Equinimity LLC as the new title sponsor of the popular WEF Challenge Cup classes, Thursday’s weekly highlight of competition. The classes will begin Thursday, Jan. 11 and continue through Thursday, March 29, ranging from $35,000 up to $132,000 in prize money.
The 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic classes also welcome a new sponsor, Hollow Creek Farm. The Hollow Creek Farm Championship Classic competitions are set to take place throughout the circuit at both PBIEC, Equestrian Village and on the Derby Field, culminating with a final class under the lights on Saturday, March 24 with the $132,000 Hollow Creek Farm 1.50m Championship Classic Final.
The season will also see a return of the prestigious Under 25 Grand Prix Series, this year presented by Hermès, showcasing the next generation of talent for five editions of competition. The Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series is sure to impress once again with many of the world’s top riders under the age of 25.
In an effort to continue expanding innovative competition opportunities at WEF each season, the management team is excited to present a new collection of classes on the Derby Field at Equestrian Village for exhibitors wishing to compete on the iconic grass footing.
The $75,000 Battle of the Sexes, presented by Wellington Regional Medical Center, will kick off the Saturday Night Lights season on Saturday, Jan. 13, pitting males against female in a battle to see which gender will come out on top. Always a crowd favorite, the 2018 Battle of the Sexes will begin at 7 p.m., and spectators are encouraged to support their favorite team.
In total, the WEF circuit will host more than 7,000 horses over the duration of the 12 weeks and offer classes for an array of riders, from top international show jumpers to young beginners in leadline classes.
To learn more about WEF, visit www.pbiec.com.