British-based Australian Stuart Buntine, a former top level eventer and current horse trials organiser, has been working on the concept of Express Eventing on and off for nearly a decade.
“We expect people to drive in a car and walk five miles in the rain to enjoy the sport,” he said at a press conference today in London. “That’s one of pluses of eventing — the fact we have great locations — but it’s also a downside.
“I wanted to organise something which would draw people together where they could see the whole thing in one afternoon. And I wanted it to be a serious competition.”
Stuart’s aim is very much to publicise traditional eventing through this new format, not to take anything away from the existing sport.
“I want to promote the sport to a new audience,” he said, going on to talk about the new competition’s huge prize-fund, £250,000. “Tim Henman retired a millionaire without ever winning a major, while these guys risk their lives on a daily basis for a pittance.”
The company formed to run The Express Eventing International Cup is called Tricorn Events Limited and Stuart is the chief executive. The company’s chairman is John Peace, a businessman and event horse owner.
There are some 42,000 seats available for spectators in the Millennium Stadium for Express Eventing. Only the top two of the three tiers of seating are to be used.
Stuart explained: “From that height you see the whole sport from a different angle because you are above it all. Every time I go up there the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“If we used the bottom tier of seats it would be just like watching a normal horse competition. Also, not using the closest seats to the arena releases some pressure from the horses and riders and makes the bowl seem bigger.”
Stuart hopes to roll out Express Eventing into a worldwide series next year.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from venues around the world — especially in the States and the Far East — but nothing is finalised yet,” he said.