FEI Nations Cup has been held since 1909, and had several different names since then as its sponsorship changed.
Today, there are seven groups from Europe, North and Central America, South America, Near East, Asia and Australia, and Africa that participate. The best 18 teams compete in Barcelona, Spain for the final event and top prize of $1 million.
This year, the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup prize is $400,000.
Chris Pack, president and operations director at Thunderbird Show Park (tbird), said it’s “awesome” to host this year because many countries compete in the finals.
“This is the opportunity for Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. to qualify within their zone, but then we’re fortunate enough that we also have Ireland and Australia coming this year,” he said.
This marks the sixth year tbird will have hosted the Nations Cup, and it just renewed the contract to host for another three years.
“It’s great. They give you a report card at the end of the event and the FEI audits everything you do from washrooms to prize money to food — everything.”
Tbird received its highest grade, of 84 per cent, last year.
For future cups, the format has changed so there are only five stops instead of 14, Pack said. Which means the bidding process to host will be tougher.
“They’re guaranteeing, of those five spots, that three are in Europe, so essentially we are bidding for two spots for the rest of the world,” Pack explained.
This season marks tbird’s 50th year of hosting event interments, and to celebrate, a draw will be done every Friday and the person drawn will receive a free competition valued up to $1,000.
Tbird hosts 10 tournaments, each five days long, so each day this year during a tournament, they will draw a name and allow that person to compete for free at that tournament, he said. The draw is called “tbird pays your tab.”
“It’s such an honour to host the Nations Cup, and Canada is putting in its best team — its top riders — not only because they want to qualify for the finals in Barcelona… but they also want to win on home soil,” Pack said.
The Nations Cup is on Sunday, June 4, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other upcoming events include tbird’s Grand Prix 1.40 metre on Sunday, July 2, and Odlum Brown Limited Grand Prix 1.40 metre on Sunday, July 9.
In August, tbird is hosting the Winning Round 1.45 metre, ONNI Group Grand Prix, Kubota Canada Winning Round 1.45 metre, and ATCO Cup 1.50 metre, all with various prizes.
“We see around 7,500 horses a year over the summer,” Pack said.
The Nations Cup is happening on Sunday, June 4, with activities from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at tbird.
On Friday, June 2, competitions run 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Saturday schedule runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
And Sunday’s big $400,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup is from 2 to 4 p.m. with gates opening at 1 p.m.
General admission for the Nations Cup is $10 per person, while children five and younger are admitted free.
Spectator tickets for any of these events can be bought online at tbird.ca.
The public is asked to enter the gates at 6975 248th St.