The showjumping fixture at Chester Racecourse next week will be followed with interest – and no doubt a little sniffily by some – as organisers try to attract interest by unconventional means.
Many of those who recently watched a superb contest in the Super League series at Aachen, in Germany, may not relish an accompaniment of rock music and cheerleaders. But, if it brings new enthusiasts to the sport, no one can seriously object.
Maybe some of the newcomers could then be persuaded to watch showjumping without the need for all that tiresome razzmatazz.
Betting on showjumping has existed for some years – you can invariably find a bookie at Hickstead, the Horse of the Year Show and Olympia – but it is all fairly low-key compared with the plans afoot in Chester.
Undoubtedly, betting has added a fun dimension to the day out, but it should not be taken too seriously – especially in some of the smaller contests, which riders may be using as a school for the bigger test (and bigger prize money) to come. In these smaller classes, some are blatantly not trying.
If betting were to be promoted more seriously, this angle might need to be addressed rather quickly. It may not, however, be encountered by the Chester organisers, assuming that their programme is devised to make every class count.
There is, of course, scope for these new events to co-exist alongside the traditional format. After all, what is wrong with a bit of levity? But it should not be seen as the new face of showjumping. Watching talented riders and horses tackle difficult technical courses remains the name of the game.
Genevieve Murphy is the showjumping correspondent of 'The Independent'