The health of our competitors, spectators, officials, volunteers, and everyone else involved in the Ocala Jockey Club Three-Day Event production is very important to us. We announced on May 24 that we felt confident in OJC’s ability to run the 2020 Event and the accompanying USEF CCI4*-L National Championships as scheduled. We have continued to feel confident in our ability to implement ample and strict social distancing, sanitization, masks, and health screening protocols on site. It was clear in March that COVID-19 would not make it possible for OJC to conduct the 2020 Event as the high-profile community and spectator-friendly event of the past four years that has created over $1 million of annual economic impact to the community. Still, OJC heard the desire of competitors and USEF to run the event as a spectator-free competition-only event.
The 2020 Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event was set to run from November 12 to 15 at the picturesque 950-acre Ocala Jockey Club farm in Reddick, Florida. It was designated as the USEF CCI4*-L National Championships. Additionally, due to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games set to occur in the summer of 2021, the OJC Event was to serve as an important Olympic qualifier. As a number of four- and five-star events have canceled across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OJC has recognized the importance of the OJC Event to Team USA and USEF High Performance program and worked diligently to plan the event. However, with less than four months remaining for the planning of the event, OJC’s COVID-19 concerns have become significant enough that the hard decision to cancel needed to be made. Ocala Jockey Club wishes to provide competitors sufficient notice in the hope that they will be able to re-route to other events for their qualification requirements.
“We have wished to serve our part in the economic recovery of the community and the competition needs of the eventing sport. However, there has been increased concern on OJC’s part regarding the significant increase in community transmission of COVID-19, and a corresponding concern regarding current and continuing insufficient availability of local and national tools to combat such community transmission of this virus”, said Pavla Nygaard, President of the Ocala Jockey Club. “Hope is not a success strategy. We felt responsible to define a strategy that would provide the economic and community benefits to Marion County, the three-day eventing sport, and the Thoroughbred Eventing Champion program we have been proud to advance at our event, but only if we could reliably minimize public health risks. While there are current and upcoming equestrian competitions on the calendar at this time, our responsibility is to study trends and project likely impacts on a competition four months in the future. I have read hundreds of articles and scientific studies about the virus’s behavior, transmission, prevention, available therapeutics, screening apps, wearable technology, mitigation effectiveness, and otherwise. In addition to USEF and FEI guidelines, I have followed the design, effectiveness, and limitations of protocols of major sports such as NFL, NBA, MLB, and horse racing. I have spoken to organizers and competitors of other equestrian competitions regarding protocols, compliance, and factors affecting decisions of when and how to run. OJC has worked on designing protocols including health and other feasibility metrics that would assist us with pre-event and onsite decisions and processes. While most five- and four-star eventing competitions around the world have cancelled months ago, until recently we have felt that our strategies were feasible to continue even in a very uncertain environment. However, with recent spikes in infections and changes in the demographics affected, available public health metrics no longer give us the same comfort that the strategies within our control would reliably overcome the elements outside of OJC’s control.” Some of OJC’s concerns include:
The Ocala Jockey Club has heard from many participants over the years about the importance of this event. Jennie Jarnstrom, an eventing rider who has competed at OJC events, wrote to OJC in May: “Just can’t thank you enough for keeping the hope up and motivate us to work towards one of the greatest events in the country.” It was for the benefit of tireless and committed competitors like Jennie that we continued to search for ways to produce a safe high-quality level even with restrictions on many activities. However, as more of us now know those who have been affected by severe illness or death due to COVID-19, the more important it is to recognize our responsibility to take care of each other, even if it means that it is wiser to cancel this event than to keep pressing on this year.
Updates and information about the 2021 Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event will be available in due course at the event website at www.OJC3de.com. For more information on the Ocala Jockey Club, visit www.ocalajc.com. Best of luck to all staying safe, happy, healthy, and successful in 2020. See you in November 2021!
Very few stallions compete at the top level in eventing - let alone at the Olympics. Windfall did just that, winning a team bronze medal under Darren Chiacchia for the USA in Athens in 2004. The fact that Windfall now has not one, but two, sons due themselves to compete for the same country as their sire, the USA, in Tokyo really does make him one in a million.
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