When at his zenith, Ireland’s Eddie Macken rampaged across the world, this was during the mid 1970s. He came first or second in 34 major international Grand Prix or Derby events.
The likes of Rome, London, New York, Aachen, Hickstead and Calgary – all fell to his genius. As he topped the world ratings for the period 1975-1977 his accumulated earnings were £250,000.
Not bad for the time! But if he did it today he would be a multi-millionaire. Back then I can remember being jealous of other individual sports like golf, tennis and motor sport in which millions were competed for. But times they are a changing.
The American Circuit
I recently spoke with the President of the Massachusetts USA based Classic Communications Company, Marty Baumann, about the growth of prize money in his country. “Back in 1994, a study showed that just six USA show jumping riders had lifetime earnings of one million dollars. Now there are dozens,” he notes.
Baumann’s company has been supplying full service marketing and event management to show jumping championships for over 40 years.
He recalls: “The first show I did was the Lake Placid in 1981. The Grand Prix prize that year was $10,000. Now it has two Grand Prix events over two weeks with ten times that on offer.”
He points out that the great Hampton Classic, which has gone from $25,000 in the 1980s to $410,000 today. Old Salem Farm near New York runs two Grand Prix classes totalling $325,000. And he notes: “Without question more money will be going into spectacular classes in the years ahead.”
Our own international journalist Louise Parkes agrees. She covers Nations Cups, World Cups and the Olympics for the FEI and she has this to say: “Show jumping prize money is escalating at a colossal rate and it will keep on growing.
"The Rome Grand Prix recently won by Ireland’s Denis Lynch had a prize of €450,000.” She also mentioned the Longines Global Champions Tour which has a record €26 million on offer for its 17 fixtures this year.
Longines’ rival Rolex has also entered the sponsorship fray. Its four Grand Slam events offer €500,000 each plus a bonus of one million for any rider winning three in a row.
One of its venues, Aachen, has upped the ante this year and has 1.5 million for its Grand Prix. All of this affects horse prices.
Marty Bauman says that in the USA a Grand Prix horse can now cost up to ten million dollars. In Europe, Global Champions Tour President Jan Tops paid a mighty $15 million for one in 2013.