The Story Behind Show Jumping’s First-Ever $1 Million Prize Check
Scott Brash was awarded the first-ever $1 million prize for 1st place in Sunday’s CP International.
When riders came through the famous Spruce Meadows clock tower on Sunday, September 11th, they were well aware that they were entering one of the most intense environments in the sport: a multi-million dollar prize purse, a difficult course, the highest CSI rating and FEI world ranking points available. Could the stakes be any higher?
The answer is yes, they could. Although no riders or members of the audience were aware of it during the class, a surprise prize money increase upped the ante by a cool $1 million dollars.
It wasn’t until after the grand prix was complete and the winner Scott Brash was standing in center ring for the prizegiving ceremony that the unprecedented prize money increase was announced. Imagine winning a $2 million dollar class only to discover when the check was placed in your hands. . . that you had just won a $3 million dollar class. That is exactly what happened on Sunday, so smoothly and so quickly that it went right over the heads of many people watching in person and online.
“The increase would mean that the winner of the CP International would receive the sport’s first-ever $1 million prize check for 1st place.”
To find out just how Spruce Meadows pulled this off, we went back to the show organizers. The prize money itself came from CP International, a long-running (and deep pocketed) sponsor of the sport of show jumping. First and foremost, it was their enthusiasm and support that enabled the existence of the prize money at all. They were willing to step up their support to unprecedented levels, and from there, the team at Spruce Meadows began planning. Ian Allison, Senior Vice President of Spruce Meadows shared that his team had a discussion in months leading up to the grand prix about the possibility of increasing the prize money to $3 million. The increase would mean that the winner of the CP International would receive the sport’s first-ever $1 million prize check for 1st place.
“In our Draft Schedule, however, we submitted a $2 million purse,” Allison explained. “Any possible or contemplated increase to that would not have affected our existing 5* rating, nor would it have affected the FEI World Ranking status as these already stood at 5* and AA respectively.”
But, the final call from the sponsor to add another $1 million to the already record-breaking $2 million prize money didn’t come until shortly before the class began. The decision to raise prize money must be approved by the FEI, and Spruce Meadows, in keeping with FEI policies in place regarding such matters, presented the prize money increase to the FEI Ground Jury who were in attendance at the show.
The FEI approved the prize money increase before the class began. So why not announce it the morning of, to draw even more attention to the class that the world would already be watching?
“The decision to not announce the increase until the prize giving ceremony was simply to provide a pleasant (very pleasant) surprise to all of the athletes (and everyone else in attendance or watching) that had performed at the very top of our sport that day,” Allison said. “Each had already qualified for the day knowing that every round would be a tremendous test and for the 12 that advanced to Round II the prize money would be world leading.
“Their respective efforts and performances were recognized and rewarded, much to their surprise and delight, in a manner never before seen in our sport and at a level not contemplated by them.”
McLain Ward rode HH Azur to 2nd place, and was rewarded with $660,000, rather than the $440,000 he expected to receive. Eduardo Menezes, who placed 12th with Quintol, received $20,000. Surprise and delight, indeed!
Read more about how Scott Brash won the historic $3 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, at this link.