Equine and human stars alike will take to the sands of Miami Beach later this week for a competition of Olympic proportions.
The Longines Global Champions Tour show jumping competition kicks off on the beach for the second year Thursday, attracting high-profile names from around the world for the first leg of the 15-city tour.
Among the riders competing for the more than $1 million in prize money will be Athina Onassis De Miranda, granddaughter of Aristotle Onassis; Bruce Springsteen’s daughter, Jessica; and Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani, a member of Qatar’s ruling family, will also be competing, along with equestrian royalty that includes Olympic gold medalist Scott Brash and American champion Kent Farrington.
The show is a practice field for the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and an opportunity for Miamians to dip their toes in the elite world of show jumping. About 12,000 people are expected to attend.
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In an effort to draw new fans to the sport, the Miami event will be free to the public. Beachgoers are encouraged to gather around the arena on the beach behind The Setai hotel at 2001 Collins Avenue — or on their nearest lifeguard stand.
“The policy is to promote our sport and show the best of our sport,” said Marco Danese, sporting director of the show. “We are looking for new people, we are looking for television.”
A competition venue will be built atop the existing sand to provide better footing for the horses, who are also getting the elite treatment.
About 240 horses and their riders are coming to Miami for the competition, which will run daily through Sunday.
The goal of the tour is to go with our sport to iconic places and Miami is perfect for that.
Marco Danese, sporting director of the Longines Global Champions Tour.
On Monday, 75 horses arrived — traveling with their own passports — in charted flights with Emirates Airline from Liege, Belgium to Miami International Airport. Show jumping horses fly first class, with their grooms and vets on board. They were then police escorted to the beach to their — what else — seaside stables. Clearing nearly six-foot obstacles isn’t easy work.
Miami is the only U.S. stop in a tour that includes stops in Paris, Rome, Shanghai and Monaco. The show’s new team format, which unites riders from different countries for team events on Sunday, will debut in Miami and run through the rest of the tour.
This is the 11th year of the show that began with only six stops, and the second year it comes to Miami Beach.
“The goal of the tour is to go with our sport to iconic places and Miami is perfect for that,” Danese said.
Miami’s other annual April equestrian event, the La Martina Miami Beach Polo World Cup, has been postponed for the second year. The event, which usually takes place at the end of the month, had to be rescheduled due to conflicts with this year’s polo season.
The polo season was extended, bumping the Polo World Cup into May — and into turtle nesting season. The polo event also takes place on the beach.
Bruce Orosz, CEO of The Polo Life, which owns the tournament, and ACT Productions, which produces it, said the show was postponed to next year to avoid disrupting nesting sea turtles. In 2015, the cup was postponed due to the Miami Beach Centennial celebrations.
IF YOU GO
What: Longines Global Champions Tour/ Global Champions League
Where: Collins Park, 2100 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. (On the beach between 21st and 22nd Streets, behind The Setai hotel).
When: April 7, 8 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.; April 8, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; April 9, 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.; April 10, 11:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.