Leaps and bounds

PABLO FERNANDEZ -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

With more than $500,000 in prize money up for grabs and some of the best competitors in the sport jumping for their share, the third biggest show jumping tournament in the world kicks off at Spruce Meadows today.

Talent-packed and blessed with sunny weather, this year's North American could be one for the books, said Spruce Meadows spokesman Ian Allison.

Although more than 100,000 spectators are expected to descend on Spruce Meadows this week, beating last year's attendance record will be a tall order, when more than 126,000 horse lovers and jumping fans took in the five-day tournament, he said.

Third in the world behind Aachen and the Spruce Meadows Masters, the North American runs through to Sunday, hosting horses and athletes from around the world and at the peak of their summer tour, said Allison.

Kicked off during the first week of June, the summer season at Spruce Meadows has been a relentless stretch of competitions, he said.

But the North American "is the most demanding and highest stakes part of the season," said Allison.

"It will be interesting to see how well riders have managed their horses and to see how much gas they have left in the tank.

"We're on the home stretch ... the horses and riders have hit their stride in the summer tour -- there's going to be some great sport."

The North American is running simultaneously with Aachen in Germany, but the Spruce Meadows tournament won't suffer, said Allison.


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