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Exquis World Dressage Masters Kicks Off in Cannes Wellington to Launch 2009 Circuit with $115,000 Purse

CANNES, France, June 13--A bold new four-nation, three-year transatlantic dressage series, the Exquis World Dressage Masters, to be launched in 2009 with total prize money of at least $460,000 a year was announced Friday at this French Riviera resort.

Wellington, Florida, will be the first city to host the 2009 series with prize money of at least $115,000 during Equestrian Sport Productions' Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center from Jan. 7 through Mar. 29, 2009. ESP is working with the U.S. Equestrian Federation and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) to determine the specific format and dates.

The schedule for the three years of WDM is Wellington during WEF, Munich, Germany in May, Cannes in June and Arezzo, Italy in September. The initiative for the series came from equestrian innovator Exquis, international sports marketing agency SportBizz of The Netherlands and Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) of Wellington.

"Our vision in creating one of the world's finest facilities for horse shows was to be a stage for premier international events," ESP Chief Executive Officer Mark Bellissimo said in a statement released at a news conference.

"The World Dressage Masters event is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the highest quality dressage to stimulate the popularity of this Olympic sport in the USA and around the world.

"We welcome the World Dressage Masters event and are happy to make it the success it deserves."

The concept for WDM was developed jointly with the FEI and is being tested at the $154,000 CDI 5* in Cannes this week. Among the competitors committed to the series is the world's top dressage rider, Anky van Grunsven of The Netherlands who rode IPS Painted Black to victory in the Grand Prix Thursday and will compete in the Musical Freestyle under lights on the Cannes waterfront Saturday night.

"The WDM concept tries to be an answer to the problems dressage is faced with nowadays," the organizers said in a statement. "Key issues are sport, media and marketing. Initiator Anthony M. Kies strongly believes that for the future success of dressage it is imperative that one should focus on innovation and cooperation."

Kies, CEO of WDM, Michael Stone, ESP Executive Vice President, Dr. Erich Herrgen, president of Pferd International, François Bourey, president of SEPA and Ita Marzotto, president of Jump Italia, signed a cooperation agreement Friday.

"For WDM to be successful you have to innovate and work together with parties that share the same vision," Kies said. "Together with Mark Bellissimo, who has been a big promoter of the WDM concept from the start, sports marketing agency SportBizz and four wonderful events we will try to make a difference."

Anky van Grunsven told the news conference: "WDM has all the ingredients to be successful. This new concept really caters to the needs of the riders. I will definitely schedule all the WDM events in 2009."

Details of the series are still being worked on, Stone said, but the aim is to invite the top 10 dressage riders in the world as well as a number of other riders to make up a Grand Prix field of 16 to 18 riders. Half the number will advance to the Grand Prix Special and the other half to the Musical Freestyle.

Photo: ESP Executive Vice President Michael Stone (center) with the world's top dressage rider Anky van Grunsven and her husband and coach Sjef Janssen at the announcement of the World Dressage Masters series in Cannes, France on Friday.


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