The Baltimore Jumping Classic, which drew some of the nation's top riders including Olympic gold medalists to the Baltimore Arena, is expected to be canceled this year because of low revenues and increasing costs.
At least, that is the scenario painted yesterday by a local official instrumental in staging the two-day horse show jumping extravaganza. The Jumping Classic is scheduled for its 11th renewal on Oct. 5.
But Baltimore's loss might be Columbia's gain.
Concurrent with the apparent demise of the Baltimore event, the little-known Columbia Classic Grand Prix, which takes place on the grounds of Howard County Community College, is adding prize money and has gained a berth on a national horse jumping circuit, officials of the event announced yesterday.
The Columbia show, which has lined up American Cafe as its major sponsor, will be held Sept. 22 and will offer a $25,000 purse, a $5,000 increase from a year ago. This will be the fourth year that the Grand Prix has been held, but the first time it is one of the stops on a 30-city tour sponsored by the National Grand Prix League.
Although officials of the Baltimore Arena, the American Grandprix Association and Stadium Jumping Inc., which sponsored the event, would not say conclusively that the Baltimore Jumping Classic is defunct, the local contact for the show said yesterday it will not be held this year.
"The costs were just too prohibitive," said Holly van der Whal, a local official who helped manage the show. van der Whal said the Arena raised its rental fee for the show from $10,000 to $40,000 and the financially strapped city government, which, in the past, paid for the cost of providing dirt for the floor of the arena, decided not to provide it this year.
"That meant we would have had to come up with $36,000 just for the dirt as well as the increased rental fees," van der Whal said. "That makes an additional $66,000 in expenses. We just couldn't swing it."
A former board member of the show, who did want to be named, said the decision to cancel the show didn't surprise her. "The Jumping Classic never drew the attendance we had hoped for," she said.
Leonard King, president of the American Grandprix Association, and Gene Mische, president of Stadium Jumping Inc., could not be reached for comment. Donna Patterson, general manager of the Baltimore Arena, is away for a two-day seminar, and also could not be reached, said a secretary at the Arena.
The Columbia Classic Grand Prix hopes to raise $75,000 for the scholarship fund of Howard County Community College. Sandy Harriman, a spokeswoman for the college, said the event raised $15,000 last year. But increased sponsorship and visibility should help the event raise substantially more this year.
A 25-horse field, including some of the top riders and horses that would have competed in Baltimore, is expected for the one-day Columbia show.
Harriman pointed out that the Columbia show has lower overhead than the Baltimore Jumping Classic.
"For instance, the show is held on the front lawn of the college, which means we don't have to rent an arena or pay for dirt," she said. "It really is quite a magnificent event. We hope it is so successful that it becomes our major source of revenue for the scholarship fund."