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The Stage is Set for the Return of the 31st Annual Winter Equestrian Festival

The 31st annual Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), the nationís premier equestrian competition, will return to the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington and the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL, beginning in January 2003.

Attracting world-class hunter, jumper, and dressage horses and riders, and offering over $3 million in prize money, the WEF hosts 11 weeks of non-stop equestrian competition, January 22 through April 6, 2003.

Many Olympic and world championship veterans, such as Margie Goldstein-Engle, Laura Kraut, Lauren Hough, Nona Garson, Leslie Howard, Peter Leone, Anne Kursinski, Norman Dello Joio and Joe Fargis, are expected to compete. But the Festival is also a showcase for young riders who are beginning their show ring careers, each with dreams of Olympic stardom ahead. The Winter Equestrian Festival is an opportunity for them to test their skills and that of their horses against more experienced riders.

The Winter Equestrian Festival is presented by Stadium Jumping, Inc., the nationís premier producer of hunter, jumper and dressage shows. Stadium Jumping President Eugene R. Mische, inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame last year, is known for his innovative, professional approach to horse show management, bringing together the finest equestrian facilities, judges, and support staff for an unforgettable series of shows that delight spectators from across the country.

Mische, a horseman and owner of Imperial Farms in Palmetto, FL, was inspired to begin the Festival when he attended a show jumping competition, the American Gold Cup, in Cleveland, OH, more than 30 years ago. Mische saw opportunities to put some sizzle into show jumping, and he moved the event to sunny Florida, attracting television coverage, and generating large monetary prizes. Today, the WEF attracts more than 4,000 competitors while giving the Florida economy a boost by generating more than $250 million each year.

During the 11-week Festival, competition takes place from Wednesday through Sunday beginning at 8:00 a.m. daily. But savvy spectators know that the WEF offers more than just great equestrian action in the arena. Dozens of boutiques offer unique gifts and clothing for horse lovers, and riders can find the latest trends in training and grooming equipment as well. The Festival is also unique in that it ďmovesĒ among several Florida venues: The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, and Raymond James Stadium also in Tampa.

This year, the WEF kicks off on January 22 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club with the following hunter and jumper shows:

Nutrena/Western Hay Wellington Classic, January 22-27
Bayer Gold Coast Jumper Classic, January 29 Ė February 2
Kilkenny/ICH Internationale, February 5-9
Florida Classic/WCHR Spectacular, February 12-16
Zada Enterprises, LLC Wellington Masters, February 19-23
Tommy Bahama Palm Beach Open, February 26 Ė March 2
Cosequin Wellington Finale, March 5-9

Beginning March 12, WEF action moves to the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa for three major events:

Suncoast Internationale, March 12-16
∑Tampa Bay Classic, March 19-23
∑Tournament of Champions, March 26-30

Only the best of the top competitors during the WEF will be invited to take part in the 31st annual $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational on Saturday evening, March 29, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. A total of 30 competitors will be invited, with each rider competing aboard only one horse. Invitations will be issued to the 2002 Budweiser American Invitational winner, the top four riders in the 2002/2003 American Grandprix Association (AGA) Rider of the Year standings, and the 25 top money-earners in the $230,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series.

The final show of the 2003 Winter Equestrian Festival, the $200,000 AGA Championship, presented by Budweiser, will be held April 2-6 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, FL.

In addition to exciting hunter and jumper action, WEF also offers excellent dressage competition, including selection trials to determine the U.S. Dressage Team for the Pan-American Games to be held in the summer of 2003 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Dressage events at the Winter Equestrian Festival will be held at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club and include:

Wellington Dressage, January 30 Ė February 2 (Pan-American Games Selection Trial)
Florida Dressage Classic, February 13-16
Zada Enterprises, LLC WEF Dressage Classic, March 13-16 (Pan-American Games Selection Trial)

The WEF will host a variety of competitions during its 10-week run, with classes for riders of varying skill levels. The Festivalís $1,000,000 Grand Prix Series features the following:

Farr Legacy/Western Hay Grand Prix of Palm Beach
Bayer/USET Wellington Cup, presented by Fleet Financial
Kilkenny/ICH Internationale Cup
Idle Dice Classic
Zada Enterprises, LLC Masters Cup
Tommy Bahama Florida Open, presented by RV Sales of Broward
Samsung Nationsí Cup, presented by CN
Cosequin U.S. Open Jumper Championship, presented by CN
Grand Prix of Tampa
Budweiser American Invitational, presented by The Tampa Tribune

The $25,000 Wellington Equus Medal class will bring a unique and exciting new twist to this yearís Winter Equestrian Festival. A USA Equestrian Medal Class, the Wellington Equus Medal competition will take place on Tuesday evening, February 25, and is open only to U.S. riders who have competed internationally for the United States Equestrian Team in a CSIO event. Eligible riders, including such well-known competitors as Molly Ashe, Margie Goldstein-Engle, Leslie Burr Howard, McLain Ward, and Anne Kursinski, are expected to compete in the class, which has no rider entry fee and is run in accordance with USA Equestrian Hunt Seat Medal rules. Riders will be judged on their equitation abilities and must display correct form on the flat and over fences in addition to a mastery of their horsesí movements.

The Zada Enterprises, LLC Wellington Masters, Tommy Bahama Palm Beach Open, Cosequin Wellington Finale, Suncoast Internationale, and Tampa Bay Classic are member events of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Jumper Classic Series.

Other classes offered at the 2003 Winter Equestrian Festival include:

$350,000 USA Equestrian ĎAAí Hunter Series
$25,000 Windsome WEF Dressage/Jumper Spectacular
$15,000 Solaray Junior Jumper Gamblerís Choice
$15,000 Solaray Amateur-Owner Jumper Gamblerís Choice
$10,000 WEF Young Rider Invitational Team Competition
R.W. Mutch Equitation Championship
AHJF Hunter Classic Spectacular of Palm Beach
Suncoast Hunter Classics
BET on Jazz Junior Jumper Classics
FEI Childrenís World Jumping Qualifier
WEF Pony Jumper Classic

For more information on the Winter Equestrian Festival and all its exciting events and activities, please call Stadium Jumping, Inc. at (813) 253-2782 or in Wellington at (561) 793-JUMP or visit www.stadiumjumping.com.

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