L.A. Masters: Springsteen, Bloomberg Offspring Among Show-Jumpers in Inaugural Event
The daughters of Bill and Melinda Gates and BET founders Robert and Sheila Johnson also will compete astride "million dollar" horses
This story first appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
While there are more than 5,000 horse shows each year in the U.S., after the Longines Los Angeles Masters touches down at the Los Angeles Convention Center Sept. 25-28 (MastersGrandSlam.com, $40-$120), it'll be hard for the others to hold a torch.
The show-jumping competition -- where two-star Michelin chef Yves Mattagne of Belgium will cater to VIPs and prize money totals $1 million -- is the new sister event of the prestigious Gucci Paris Masters. Says Georgina Bloomberg, 31, a champion rider who is scheduled to compete in L.A.: "The Masters shows are unlike other horse shows. It's really wonderful to sit and drink champagne. It's a high level of competition, but it's very beautiful."
In L.A., Bloomberg -- the daughter of former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg -- will compete against high-profile fellow riders, part of a wave of pedigreed daughters bringing excitement to the sport. Also among the Masters riders will be Paige Johnson, 29, the daughter of BET founders Robert and Sheila Johnson; Jennifer Gates, 18, the daughter of Bill and Melinda Gates; and The Boss' kid, Jessica Springsteen. Bloomberg and Springsteen compete at the five-star level, while Johnson and Gates go at the lower, yet still professional, two-star level.
The women train seriously. Gates, now a freshman at Stanford, trained from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends during high school, and Johnson quit studying fashion design at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale after one semester to ride.
Bloomberg owns and operates her own farm, Gotham North in North Salem, N.Y., which has bred and sold about 10 show horses, and has collected gold medals at several World Equestrian Festival Challenge Cups. On Sept. 14, Springsteen won the $200,000 American Gold Cup at Old Salem Farm in North Salem.
The equestrian life is expensive. "You would be lucky to find a really good 10-year-old horse right now for under a million dollars," says Bloomberg, but she adds that "you buy them for $100,000 [to] $200,000 as a 5- or 6-year-old, and you can make a profit."
EEM World CEO Christophe Ameeuw, who founded the Masters Grand Slam (the third leg is in Hong Kong), expects 50,000 spectators at the L.A. event, which will be broadcast by Fox Sports. "All over the world, equestrian sports are growing at a fast pace," he says. During the past decade, the number of elite equestrian competitions almost has doubled globally.
For this trio, though, this is just like any other show: They're there to win. Scores are determined by whether the horse clears various obstacles and finishes in the allotted time. "At any horse show, there's pressure. Think about practicing six days a week for two minutes in the ring. It's crazy," says Johnson. And while Gates may be the youngest of the three, she says she doesn't rattle easily. "My parents have always instilled a lot of confidence in me," she says. "That definitely has helped."
More Show Jumpers in the Pedigreed Pack
→ Noah Cyrus, 14, daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus.
Her dream is to compete at the Olympics.
→ Hillary Dobbs, 26, daughter of Lou Dobbs.
In 2010, she became the youngest rider to win more than $1 million in prize money.
→ Hannah Selleck, 25, daughter of Tom Selleck.
Plans to compete at the L.A. Masters.
→ Mavis Spencer, 23, daughter of Alfre Woodard.
On her Twitter account, Mavis, who works at Belgium's Neil Jones Equestrian Center, says she's an "L.A. girl who dropped out of an Ivy League university to professionally play with horses!"