New Belton replacement fixture welcomed by eventers

The eventing community has welcomed the announcement of a new venue to replace the lost Belton fixture from 2020.

Thoresby Park in Nottinghamshire will host the spring CCI2*-S, CCI3*-S and CCI4*-S after the National Trust pulled the plug on Belton, which had been home to a horse trials for more than 30 years.

It will be organised by BEDE Ltd, which ran Belton for many years.

Just south of Worksop, the new venue is 35 miles from Belton and close to both the A1 and M1, with the event held in the 450-acre country park.

Eventing Riders Association chairman Bruce Haskell, who was on the British Eventing (BE) assessment panel with Paul Graham and Yogi Briesner, told H&H Thorseby Park is “an incredible venue”.

“Stuart [Buntine, BEDE director] has run an incredible event over a number of years and we have full confidence in him running a new event there,” said Bruce.

He was also highly complimentary of all venues in the final four, the other three being Weston Park, Bicton and Frickley Park.

“We went round and independently assessed the four venues so I believe BE is changing the way it operates to do so with a high degree of transparency and a little more outcome focused,” he said.

“All four venues need to be encouraged for the work they have done and need to be put forward for taking more on as they are great, especially the attitude they had towards change and possibility.”

The loss of Belton was a worry for many reasons — not only was it a sad loss of a popular well-established event, the horse trials was a crucial prep run ahead of major spring internationals and was also one of the biggest draws of outside visitors to the market town of Grantham.

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Thoresby Park’s outdoor events manager Helen Eshelby and Stuart both said they are “thrilled” , with Stuart adding the BEDE team is “well into planning” the new event.

Midlands-based CCI5* eventer Imogen Murray told H&H she is pleased a replacement venue has been found in a similar area.

“I’m glad it has stayed with BEDE running it — Belton was always such a nice event, and I’ve always loved going there,” she said, adding it served well as both a “measuring point” for up-and-coming horses and as a good preparation run for those aiming for major events.

“We have always used it as a last run before Badminton as the courses really suit that, without having to travel miles, and it is the first one we have in the spring with that kind of atmosphere in the dressage and showjumping.”

BE chief executive Jude Matthews said: “There were four incredibly good presentations on Wednesday from four very different venues, and the stakeholder panel had a very hard decision to make.

“The key focus has been to ensure the sport selected the best possible venue to deliver such an important early season international. All of the final four applicants could have delivered this, but we are delighted to award this fixture to Thoresby Park and the BEDE team.

“It was a very difficult decision and we fully appreciate that Bicton, Weston Park and Frickley Park will be disappointed. As a sport we, and our members, are incredibly lucky to have such fabulous venues that host affiliated competition and I’d like to thank all the organisers who applied for this fixture.”

Belton will run in week five of the 2020 eventing calendar, which starts in March.

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