This year’s Liverpool International Horse Show enjoyed a spectacular launch in the city on Tuesday as an inaugural Ride into Liverpool took centre stage.

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Grand National winner Bob Champion - Liverpool International Horse Show

Grand National winner Bob Champion – Ride Into Liverpool

Led by Grand National-winning jockey Bob Champion, international showjumpers Billy Twomey, Laura Renwick and Geoff Billington, plus a wonderful array of horses that included the famous Waldburg Shires and Shetland Ponies, it proved a memorable parade watched by bumper crowds.

The hour-long celebration came ahead of the Liverpool International, which takes place at the Echo Arena from December 31 until January 2.

A group of around 50 invited riders participated in the event along a route from the city’s Garden Festival Site, then into Riverside Drive and on to Salthouse Quay before ending at the ACC Plaza and Echo Arena.

Billy Twomey, winner of the first Liverpool International Grand Prix on Diaghilev, said: “It was a truly memorable day and really whetted the appetite ahead of what I know will be another fantastic show. The people of the city really got behind us, and it was a real pleasure to take part.”

And Geoff Billington added: “The city of Liverpool has supported today’s event magnificently, and the show itself, which is a fantastic, world-class addition to the equestrian calendar. The support has been truly amazing.”

1981 Grand National winner Bob Champion returned to Liverpool, where 35 years ago he won the National on Aldaniti, two years after being diagnosed with cancer. His inspirational story was subsequently made into a film “Champions” when Bob was portrayed by actor John Hurt.

Liverpool International’s charity partner the British Horse Society, meanwhile, sent riders to take part from their approved centres such as Croxteth Park, Beechley, Gellings and Knowsley Village.

Liverpool International show president Nina Barbour said: “The Ride into Liverpool really caught everyone’s imagination, from those on horseback to those who came out and supported us. We had a fanatstic first Liverpool International last New Year, and we really cannot wait for the second edition, which will be another three days of action-packed entertainment.”

Showjumpers from across the globe will compete for a total £160,000 prize fund at Liverpool later this year. The stunning waterfront venue attracted huge crowds for the show’s first running, and packed houses are again set to rock the city.

Showjumping action will be interspersed with performances that hold a wide family appeal, including music from the UK’s no 1 ABBA tribute band ‘Revival’, the Shetland Pony Grand National, carriage driving with teams competing in a speed challenge, the Black Fire Girls and so much more.

And New Year’s Eve itself promises to be an unforgettable night, with exclusive acts lined up, including Collabro, the world’s number one musical theatre boy band and the winners of Britain’s Got Talent series 8, plus the Equitop Myoplast Puissance, which is always a show-stopper, and a spectacular indoor display of fireworks.

All tickets give access to the show’s shopping village from 9am each day, with the shopping experience featuring a fantastic range of products from high-end equestrian outlets, exclusive fashion retailers, unusual giftware and beautiful things for the home. There will be many food and drink outlets on-site, including an upstairs Champagne Bar and the new Mersey View restaurant, which is open all day and suitable for all the family.

VIP hospitality, meanwhile, offers a spectacular first-class ringside dining experience on the newly-designed raised platform at the head of the arena. Prices start from £165 + VAT per person. For information about all of the hospitality options, including private boxes for 12 people, please contact Mel at the show office on 01829 307676.

Show tickets start at just £11.50, with family tickets and season tickets available. The booking line number is 08448 000400, or tickets can be purchased online. For groups of 15 people and more, a 20 per cent discount on adult prices only for silver and bronze areas can be obtained. The booking line for this is 08445 617672.