Rider: Daisy Trayford. Photography By: Liz Crawley Photography
Rider: Jennie Brannigan. Horse: Cambalda. Photography: Stephen Berkowitz
The Ocala Jockey Club is earning its buzz in the eventing community, with high-profile happenings:
4* level riders made the Ocala Jockey Club townhomes their winter home in the past few winter seasons, with two of them also boarding their string of horses at the facility for the winter. Jennie Brannigan has been coming back for four years straight.
Jennie Brannigan has made use of the Ocala Jockey Club gallops for two years in a row, crediting the facility with being able to get her Rolex horse Cambalda ready for Rolex in 2015 while staying in Florida through April.
The 2016 Thanksgiving weekend, November 24-27, marked the inaugural Ocala Jockey Club International CIC3* 3-Day event, organized by Equiventures LLC, with a star-studded team of course designers and event officials.
The organizer of the 2016 Event was invited to submit a 4* bid application with the intention to host a 4* level 3-day event at the Ocala Jockey Club in November 2018. Currently, the Rolex CCI4* event is the only 4* level event in North America. While the Ocala Jockey Club did not go on as one of the finalists for the 4* bid in the USEF process, the Ocala Jockey Club was an overwhelming fan favorite for the 4* process, recognizing the importance and prestige of Marion County as a leader in equestrian sports during the winter season and year-round.
The 2016 inaugural event had a total $100,000 prize money pool for the November 2016 3-day event, making it the richest CIC3* event in North America.
Continuing with the farm's Thoroughbred tradition, the prize money pool included a $15,000 incentive prize pool for participating Thoroughbred entries. The 3* Thoroughbred winner was Eddie Martin with Steady Eddie. As many Thoroughbreds are prized as eventing competition mounts and genetic sources of stamina needed for the cross country component of eventing, greater collaboration between the two industries promises to benefit participants, breeders and owners of both disciplines.
Michael Pollard, 2011 Pan Am Games team gold medal winner, presented a 2015 New Year's Eve Party for the eventing community at the Ocala Jockey Club Restaurant.
USEA held the classroom portion of its Young Eventing Horse/Developing Eventing Horse Symposium at the Ocala Jockey Club Restaurant in February 2016 and February 2017.
There are plans under way to develop maintained gallops on the 950-acre Ocala Jockey Club farm.
The Ocala area has seen a steady influx of eventers discovering the advantages of the area for the winter. Its mild winter climate and world-class footing is a logical choice over the cold and snow of summer eventing hotspots such as Virginia. While Wellington remains the luxury hotbed of Florida's equestrian shows, the South Florida land is very flat and lacks the space for exciting cross country options. Ocala's Florida Horse Park events, spearheaded by Equiventures LLC, along with Red Hills in Tallahassee and other Florida events have proven to be popular destinations for eventing competitions, producing demand for top-class eventing competition and training opportunities in Marion County.
Even in an area rich with history of top-level training and competition for all disciplines, the farm offers unique terrain with its rolling hills unparalleled in the largely level ground of Marion County. With elevations up to 200' above sea level, the Ocala Jockey Club farm boasts some of the highest elevations in Florida. Its park-like, old-growth oak-studded terrain resembles Kentucky and Virginia more than what most people expect of Florida landscapes. For cardiovascular fitness, hind-end power in a horse, mental fitness and proprioceptive conditioning, not much compares to being able to use hills as part of an equine conditioning program.
Thoroughbred and Eventing Training Center, Special Event and Wedding Venue and Townhome Village
EVENTING AT THE OCALA JOCKEY CLUB