After 41 years in Tampa, American Invitational moves to Miami…

Reed Kessler competing at the 2013 American Invitational in Tampa FL
Reed Kessler competing at the 2013 American Invitational in Tampa FL
Reed Kessler competing at the 2013 American Invitational in Tampa FL

The $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational will be moving to the Sun Life Stadium in Miami this April, after 41 years in Tampa.

The $200,000 Gene Mische American Invitational, a fixture in Tampa for 41 years, will be making what is practically a last-minute move across Florida to the Sun Life stadium in Miami this April, Equisearch confirmed exclusively today.

The event billed as “The Super Bowl of Show Jumping” will be held April 5 in Sun Life Stadium, where the Miami Dolphins NFL team plays, rather than Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Michael Morrissey, head of Stadium Jumping Inc., which puts on the class, explained to Equisearch the move to a more prosperous area is an effort to increase backing and crowds. The stadium is approximately an hour’s drive south of Wellington, home of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.

For decades, the Invitational was the crown jewel of the Winter Equestrian Festival, held in Wellington and Tampa. The top money winning jumper riders qualified for the Invitational, and the affluent circuit put on the no-entry fee class as a thank you to its stars.

The Invitational is the only U.S. grand prix in a major football stadium, which adds to its drama and allure. Its winners include legends of the sport, from Rodney Jenkins, who took the inaugural Invitational on Idle Dice in 1973, to U.S. show jumping coach Robert Ridland (Southside), Melanie Smith (Calypso), Greg Best and Gem Twist, Beezie Madden (Authentic), Michael Matz (Rhum IV) Ian Millar (Big Ben), and 2013 victor McLain Ward (Rothchild) who earned the title three times.

The move became a possibility after Michael was approached by a sponsor who said “they didn’t want to spend their marketing dollars in Tampa, but if it were in a different market, like Miami,” they’d be interested, Michael recalled. As he started looking at venues, what was uppermost in his mind was “the integrity of the American Invitational.” He was helped in securing the stadium by former Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese and his wife, Shay, a member of the group that owns Margie Engle’s mount, Indigo. Michael didn’t want to reveal the name of the title sponsor until the contract is signed, but he noted presenting sponsor G&C Farm is “more than doubling” its contribution and getting entertainment for the intermission show and the post-show party in the stadium.

Read complete article at Equisearch