A new-style show jumping event hopes to recreate the razzmatazz of continental horse shows this summer and lure racegoers to jumping.

The British Show Jumping Association (BSJA) is introducing a new idea at the inaugural British Masters Invitational (31 July-1 August) where two classes will have a betting-friendly format with a £50,000 prize pot.

The BSJA’s Maria Clayton explained: “In the jump-off class, 40 riders can jump in groups of 10. That way, you can bet on each group and then bet again on the 10 in the jump-off. There will be a break between each group to give spectators time to place a bet.”

If successful, the BSJA hopes to extend the format to nine more shows next year.

Negotiations are underway to finalise the bookmaker from those who have tendered.

The format is similar to that used at popular betting shows on the Continent.

“I’ve jumped at European shows in the morning before the betting has started and there’ve been 200 people there, but once the betting opens, that number can go up to 14,000,” says Olympic team hopeful Tim Stockdale.

“I think anything that can create interest and a commercial slant on the sport can only be a good thing.”

Riders will ditch traditional jackets in favour of bright polo shirts, each competitor will have a signature theme tune and dancers will encourage spectators to shout and cheer.

Sports management consultant Jason Harborow, who has worked on some of the world’s most high profile (non-equestrian) sporting events, is involved and confident it will work.

“I’ve worked with people from all sports and have been impressed how the BSJA is taking these changes on board,” he said. “I think this will help re-enthuse those who already watch show jumping and give something different to those who don’t.”

Richard Thomas, chief executive of Chester Racecourse, added: “The event will introduce a series of new elements into the sport such as live interviews, music, riders wearing polo shirts and betting opportunities which we believe will broaden the appeal of this exciting sport.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (17 April, ’08)