It’s that time of the year again when Vilamoura suddenly swaps its focus on golf and goes heart and soul into the heady world of equestrianism.

From today through March to April 1, 1,200 horses will be competing for more than 870,000 euros worth of prizes in 24 different events.

And for the immediate neighbourhood, the six week tour spells ‘mega bucks’.

According to information put out by the tour’s press office, up to €21 million is channelled into the local economy at a time typically considered ‘the low season’.

Up to 100,000 sleepovers will be registered just in Vilamoura itself as the event has become one of Europe’s premier competitions.

Said the tour’s CEO António Moura: “Vilamoura Atlantic Tour is the most important of the year for national horse riding… but it is not simply an equestrian event, it is an important economic agent which dynamises the region through (increased) tourism”.

Of the scores of international riders at least 200 are Portuguese.

The ‘circuit’ is divided into two parts, the first of which starts today (February 13) and runs until March 12, and the second which resumes on March 20, concluding on April 1.

Events are held in the Vilamoura Equestrian Centre, already famous for hosting so many European events.

One of the highlights this year will be the presence of legendary French showjumper Roger Yves Bost who won a team gold medal at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, and finished fourth at the 1996 Olympics.

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