Equestrian event to raise funds for student aid

September 25, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Equestrian enthusiasts can watch some of the nation's best riders and help college students at the same time at the seventh annual Columbia Classic Grand Prix today at Howard Community College.

"This is the premier fund-raiser for the college," said Randy Bengfort, the college's public information director.

Proceeds from the benefit provide student financial aid through the Howard Community College Educational Foundation. Last year, the event netted about $200,000 for student aid, helping bring the endowment fund to more than $1 million.

Organizers hope to raise $200,000 again this year. More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the event.

Most will attend to see the Grand Prix-level riders, the most advanced riders in show jumping. In the Columbia Classic Grand Prix, 25 riders will compete for a portion of a $30,000 purse on a challenging course of obstacles, water jumps, twists and turns.

Competitors must jump a series of 16 to 17 obstacles with heights ranging to 5 1/2 feet. The rider with the fastest time and fewest mistakes wins.

The program also features a Junior/Amateur Classic in which 22 riders will tackle 12 to 15 jumps for a portion of a $7,500 purse.

Since the Columbia Classic began in 1987, it has attracted increasing attention. This year, riders have come from as far as California and Canada, organizers said.

"It's one of the premier show jumping competitions in the country," said Oliver Kennedy, event manager. "It's one at the beginning of the year that [riders] pencil in their books."

The event is one of 15 competitions in the National Grand Prix League Eastern Conference, which includes the Pepsico Grand Prix in New York, the Rolex Grand Prix in Virginia and the President's Cup in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in the show's history, PRIME cable sports network will broadcast the show on all its subsidiaries, including Home Team Sports. The event will be shown Nov. 16, 22, 27 and 28 and may reach as many as 40 million homes, Mr. Bengfort said.

Besides the jumping contests, the daylong event will include pony rides, miniature horses, horse breeds such as appaloosas and draft horses, an exhibit featuring a farrier who shoes horses, coaches and food.

This year's grand marshals are Gary Collins, former host of the syndicated program "Hour Magazine," and his wife, Mary Ann Mobley, Miss America of 1959.

The event starts at noon. Lawn seating is $5 for adults, free for children 12 and younger. Bleacher seating is $8 for adults, $5 for children 12 and younger. Reserved tailgate spaces are $100.

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