Coup as China's top team gallop in

By Patrick O'Sullivan patrick osullivan@hbtoday co nz

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GROWING PAINS: Last year was a tough one for show director Kevin Hansen. PHOTO/DUNCAN BROWN HBT141068-01
GROWING PAINS: Last year was a tough one for show director Kevin Hansen. PHOTO/DUNCAN BROWN HBT141068-01

Kevin Hansen has scored a coup for the Horse of the Year Show, convincing the Chinese equestrian team to make the journey south.

The show director was part of an equine trade mission set up by the NZ China trade association late last year, targeting the elite Chinese equestrian world.

"New Zealand wasn't the only delegation wooing them - I was there during some large equestrian events and trade shows and we were competing against the Germans, the Dutch and the Irish," he said.

"It didn't take too long to convince them that this is a pretty special event in the equestrian world.

"We have got 20 Chinese coming including eight riders and the rest are business people, media and event organisers. I think it's a huge opportunity for us, for equestrianism in New Zealand and the Horse of the Year Show especially."

While the show continues to pump millions of dollars into the Hawke's Bay economy, the show itself makes little.

"The show as a business doesn't really make money, it never has, but everyone else does."

This year has been a difficult sponsorship year, despite winning NRM as naming sponsor.

"After 30 years Bell Tea was lost and the sponsorship market found it difficult to see a major opportunity outside of the cities."

Most sponsors were based in Auckland, he said. "Without being negative about Hawke's Bay it is a hard sell in Auckland to sell a Hawke's Bay show. The whole horse-show-and-Hawke's Bay-scenario is our main selling point, but it is still hard to get through to the big Auckland companies that this is the most fantastic sporting event in the country, if not all of Australasia."

But not all sponsors are city-centric. Local company JB Bostock's sponsorship of the $200,000 JB Olympic Cup is a major drawcard of top-level riders.

The show cost $2.4 million to stage and punches well above its weight, thanks to an army of volunteers.

"The volunteer base is up to 550 and they are actually the heart and core of the show that make it happen."

The show's success spreads far.

"An economic impact report in 2008 showed it gave an $11.5million GDP profit to the bay and $27 million was spent in Hawke's Bay that week of the show." Another economic impact report has been commissioned for this year and a big jump is expected because of the growth in the show.

The decision to move the eventing cross country course from the Hastings' Equestrian Park in Flaxmere to Showgrounds Hawke's Bay was expected to pay dividends.

"We have spent many, many tens of thousands of dollars on this cross-country course. I think it is one of the biggest developments of the show in many years and everything is in place for it to be a royal success - it has to make money. We have had record entries and the indications that the corporate VIP area in the Waikoko Gardens will work it and make us money, but it won't pay for itself for a couple of years."

The new naming sponsor will add to the international flavour. Riders from New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, China, India, the UK, Singapore, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands are competing.

"NRM's feed research is done by Kentucky Equine Research - they will be in force at the show and this year the many marquees will host Australian, United States and Italian equine businesses."

This will be Mr Hansen's 16th Horse of the Year Show and its continuing growth had brought continuous challenges, he said.

"The show has got harder as it has grown. This year we're putting a huge emphasis on health and safety, which is all new for me and that has taken a lot of work. The cross-country has been a lot of work and the Chinese have been a lot of work.

"There still is a lot of Horse of the Year enjoyment but it hasn't got easier - when I look back at the early shows they were pretty simple."

The proposal to move Hawke's Bay Racing's thoroughbred racing to the showgrounds is something Mr Hansen supports "100 per cent".

"I think everyone realises that for the Horse of the Year show to succeed the showgrounds need to develop. A link with Hawke's Bay racing is a marvellous thing as it would give us new facilities like stabling."

The show is contracted to be in Hastings until 2027.

"In real terms, that's forever."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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