World's best riders line up for HK Masters
Olympic champion Eric Lamaze and European star Kevin Staut will be among the world's top 25 riders to compete in the Hong Kong Masters - Asia's first international five-star showjumping event in March.
The world's best riders and their horses will battle for prize money of US$1 million in an extravaganza at the AsiaWorld-Expo from March 1-3 that organisers say will be the biggest social-cum-sporting event to be staged in the region.
'The Hong Kong Masters is where sports meet the social scene and it will be the best in Asia. We have not only secured the top 25 riders in the world, we have also got the best 50 horses coming to Hong Kong and the biggest prize money. We want to cement Hong Kong as the equestrian capital of Asia,' Juan Dedeu, president of the Hong Kong Masters, said.
The event, which will be held annually until 2016, has received the backing of the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation, the government and the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It is understood that it will cost organisers US$8 million to put on the show.
'This is not just a horse show but a huge social event,' Simon Ip Sik-on, president of the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation, said.
'This will be the biggest equestrian event in Hong Kong since the Olympics in 2008, but it promises to have something extra.'
Competitors will have to be ranked in the world's top 25 to be able to take part. Apart from the prize money, they will also compete for world ranking points. As host, Hong Kong will field riders, with Samantha Lam a leading prospect.
'It will be highly competitive and being a five-star event, it will mean riders and horses will be jumping at an Olympic level of 1.6 metres. It is not going to be easy and spectators can expect to see world-class performances,' Matthieu Gheysen, Hong Kong Masters vice-president, said.
Organisers have yet to set ticket prices - the arena at the AsiaWorld-Expo will have a capacity of around 5,000 with 800 of these being VIPs seated at tables, with catering from Michelin-star chefs - but Dedeu promised a large number would be given away to students and charities.
'We want to create a legacy. We want people to learn and understand about equestrian sport and what better way to do this than to bring the best in the world to Hong Kong,' Dedeu, whose company also holds similar events in Paris and New York, said.
'Hong Kong was the obvious choice when we looked for a city in Asia. It is the capital of Asia and it has an equine culture. And we also believe Hong Kong society will support a good product.'