Grand Prix of Devon Celebrates 35 Years!

May 6th, 2013 1:02 PM | Comments Off on Grand Prix of Devon Celebrates 35 Years!

A Little Grand Prix History…

In 1953, Jerry Baker competed on the United States Army show jumping team in Germany.  He was very impressed by the European shows that featured elite classes with courses that were technically difficult, and jumps that were as challenging as they were beautifully appointed. He arrived back in the States determined to bring this European elegance to the American show ring.

Baker organized the Grand Prix of Cleveland in 1965. It was held on Thursday in order to not detract from what was then considered the main event in American show jumping, the Stakes Class. It is a Grand Prix tradition that continues at Devon to this day.  This first American Grand Prix was won by Mary Chapot aboard Tomboy. The rights to the show were then bought by Harry Gill and Leonard King and, in 1970, became the American Gold Cup.

Throughout the late sixties and early seventies, the Grand Prix concept spread through-out the United States.  In 1978, King and Gene Mische formed the American Grandprix Association (AGA), whose purpose was to promote Olympic caliber show jumping throughout the United States by representing a network of Grand Prix events . The exposure made possible by the AGA attracted a significant amount of sponsorship and elevated the Grand Prix even further. King served as president of the AGA from 1978 until 1999.

That same year also saw the first Grand Prix of Devon, now the Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon.  It was won by the legendary Melanie Smith Taylor riding Val de Loire.  Taylor was named Lady Rider of the Year and Rider of the Year.  Val de Loire was named Horse of the Year.  Taylor’s accomplishments of 1978 were so impressive that the AGA decided to eliminate the Lady Rider category as it was clear that women had leveled the playing field.

In the past 35 years, the Grand Prix of Devon has been won by such illustrious show jumping names as Rodney Jenkins, Conrad Homfeld, Joe Fargis, Leslie Burr Howard, Michael Matz and McLain Ward.  Leonard King will be honored at the Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon on May 30 for his lifetime commitment to the Grand Prix and the Devon horse Show and Country Fair.

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