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Crowdfunding to save 2021 Kentucky five-star as riders and fans raise questions

Crowdfunding is under way in a last-minute attempt to allow the five-star at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event to run in 2021 after the event’s cancellation was announced on Tuesday this week (2 February).

Organisers say they need to raise $750,000 (approx £550,000) by 11.59pm on Sunday, 7 February for the top-level class to go ahead on 22-25 April.

“While not covering all expenses, these funds will provide EEI [Equestrian Events, Inc, the event’s organisers] with enough resources to begin making plans for the CCI5* at the ‘Best Weekend All Year!’,” states the crowdfunding page.

“Those that donate will be recognised by EEI in some fashion, with those donating in excess of $500 being provided an early ticket purchase opportunity for the 2022 event!”

EEI executive director Lee Carter told Horse Sport that the company was supporting the fundraising drive, but letting the fans drive it. The crowdfunding movement was started by Brian Murphy, husband of US eventer Sara Kozumplik Murphy.

In mid-January, Lee told H&H that Kentucky could not afford to run without spectators.

In its announcement on Tuesday, EEI said there was still the possibility of the invitational showjumping grand prix and some eventing classes, including a CCI4*-S, running at Kentucky during the week when the five-star would usually take place. These competitions would run behind closed doors, without spectators.

This led to riders and fans questioning on social media why a four-star could be held, but not the five-star.

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Top US event rider Phillip Dutton said on his Facebook page yesterday (4 February) that “the Kentucky organisers’ argument in favour of cancelling doesn’t seem to hold water. They will run a four-star short but cannot afford to run a five-star long, while the difference is roughly the cost of 25 cross-country fences and a bit of prize money. I’m sure event supporters could raise that money!”

He added: “It has been nearly a year since the 2020 Land Rover Kentucky was cancelled. It seems dubious to me that, in all that time, the organisers couldn’t find a way to keep such an important event on the schedule.”

In a Q&A released on social media after the cancellation but before the crowdfunding started, the event organisers stated: “The financial commitments that come with organising a CCI5* are significant. As well, we are committed to providing a refund to anyone who rolled their funds over from 2020, thereby greatly reducing the available funds to undertake a CCI5*. Running a CCI4*-S has fewer financial requirements (prize money, closed circuit TV, medical support, hospitality, security, etc.).

“Losing multiple years of income is difficult for any non-profit, especially one that runs events. We reduced expenses and made many other difficult expenses. We were sustained in 2020 by those who rolled their purchases over, and disaster relief funds. Our hope was that 2021 would have provided the organisation with a better source of income. Running lower-level events will allow EEI to continue to operate, meet any refund requests, and continue to operate as we look forward to 2022.”

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