A $500,000 prize purse for the 2008 Bell Tea Horse of the Year class will propelthe Kelt Capital Horse of the Year Show onto the international circuit. The announcement, made today (Wednesday, March 7) by show director Kevin Hansen has been warmly welcomed by competitors and politicians alike.

The Bell Tea Company has sponsored this event since 2000. We are delighted to see an increase in the prize purse�, comments Mark Hamilton, CEO of the Bell Tea Company.

And there are promises it will be a million dollar class within a couple of years. It comes just days before 2500 horses and riders converge on Hawke's Bay for the start of the five day 2007 show which starts on Wednesday, March 14. This year the class is worth $100,000.

The $500,000 puts the class in the top six showjumping events in the world and makes it one of the top cash sporting prize purses in New Zealand. Show chairman Warwick Hansen says such huge increase in prize money will bring the world to New Zealand. "For the past 10 years we have spent huge money sending our top horses and riders to Europe and the United States to compete."

For New Zealand to be successful at Olympic level, the nation needed 20 or so horses and riders competing at the top. Bringing such a high caliber of offshore riders to New Zealand would help this cause.

Show director Kevin Hansen expects the money to attract top riders from the western United States, Australia, Japan and Asia as well as international media attention. But the class would remain one for New Zealanders. "This is not about getting 25 top European and American combinations out here to compete," he said. "It won't change the focus of the show which is inclusive of all disciplines."

The prize purse would immediately make the class a CSI-5-star event -one of only a handful in the world. Show sponsor Sam Kelt, principal of Kelt Capital, has worked closely with the Hansen brothers to design the financial structure to allow a$500,000 class.

"It is in line with their objectives and aspirations," says Kelt. Kelt Capital is providing additional financial support and underwriting the increase. "We want to back, support and help deliver what has become an iconic Hawke's Bay and national event," he said. Kelt, who is known for his unbending support of his hometown, says such assistance will promote the province and ultimately benefit the people of Hawke's Bay through international focus and recognition, which in turn would mean economic gain for all.

His involvement of the Kelt Capital Horse of the Year Show compares with his support to hockey and racing - the $2 million Kelt Capital Stakes and the Kelt Capital Hockey Academy where in both cases, he has created situations that are unique to New Zealand and have huge broad benefits for those involved.

�We are working hard with personnel and operating initiatives to ensure that the hockey academy will become a centre of excellence for children that will be unparalleled by any sporting code in New Zealand or by hockey on a worldwide scale," says Kelt. "We want to support Kevin and Warwick to develop the Horse of the Year into a world event."

Hastings District mayor Lawrence Yule has described the announcement, just days before 2500 horses and riders descend on Hawke's Bay for the start of the five day 2007 show, as stunning. "To come from a home grown volunteer led event and to reach such an international level is a tremendous result," says Yule. "I am delighted." Yule also believes the event fits perfectly into future plans for the region. "Between the Kelt Capital racing carnival and the Kelt Capital Horse of the year Show, we are rapidly assuming the position of equestrian capital of New Zealand. We are a popular area and this is a fabulous sport for us to be aligned with. We are continually looking at opportunities to further grow equestrian events in this region," said Yule.

Kevin Hansen says it is Kelt who gives the show organizers the courage to turn their dreams and aspirations into reality. "We have planned to take on the world like this for maybe four years, but to have it happen so soon is incredible. This is a truly special event that all of New Zealand can and will be proud of."