Venue has a Masters plan

PABLO FERNANDEZ -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:18 AM ET

As the equestrian world turns to Calgary, Spruce Meadows is saddling up for the biggest competition of its kind on the continent.

The Masters, which started yesterday and runs through to Sunday, will welcome 150,000 spectators and riders from 14 countries, said venue spokesman Ian Allison.

"It's been an amazing season and we're anxious to see the success continue," he said.

The Masters pit the world's top jumpers, riding some of the most famous horses, against one another as they compete for $2 million in prizes.

Spruce Meadows president Linda Southern-Heathcott asked spectators to leave plenty of time to get to the south Calgary venue, as highway construction nearby has roads reduced to one lane and speed traps have been set up to enforce the temporary speed limit of 50 km/h, halved from 100 km/h.

But those who make it down to the grounds will be well-rewarded, she said.

With the British sending their top team, the Canadians putting forth a solid performance this season and Olympic medallists looking to settle old scores, there will be no shortage of drama out on the course, said Southern-Heathcott.

Attractions in-clude the ceremonial mounted troops from some of the most senior regiments in the British army.

Those in attendance will also have a chance to take in fireworks, an exhibit celebrating the 400th anniversary of the birth of Rembrandt, as well as dressage displays and more than 300 commercial exhibits.

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INDUSTRY SEEKS RECOGNITION

The Horse Industry Association of Alberta plans to thunder out of the gate and into the spotlight.

It launched a marketing campaign yesterday to highlight Alberta breeders, trainers and retailers in the $800 million annual industry.

President Peter Fraser said "our goal is to come out of the closet from behind the scenes with what we refer to as a high-bred vigour."


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