Wellington, FL - Two rounds of jumping for the USEF National Show Jumping Championships took place on Thursday at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center - and for the 30 horses returning for the penultimate round, there was also selection for the U.S. Show Jumping Team for the 2012 Olympic Games on the line. Alan Wade's course was a serious one this evening, and it was compared to some of the biggest championship tracks in the world.
Clear rounds were hard to come by in both rounds: in the Trial 3 no one managed a fault free performance, but fellow New Yorkers Mario Deslauriers on Jane Clark's Urico and Brianne Goutal on Remarkable Farms' Nice de Prissey respectively finished with one time fault. This performance, put Deslauriers into the fourth place spot in the trial rankings (on nine faults) with a three-way tie for the lead on eight.
"Tonight was one of the biggest tracks we've jumped in Palm Beach," said Deslauriers. "I thought it was very hard...You had to dig deep tonight to get around. It was a very hard test... I'm proud of (Urico) tonight." As he should be.
Reed Kessler (Armonk, NY) continues to top the leaderboard, only now she has company. Two rails down on Cylana in Trial 3 left her tied with Rich Fellers (Wilsonville, OR) on Flexible and Margie Engle (Wellington, FL) on Indigo. Kessler led the way after the afternoon's second round - an impressive feat for the youngest rider in the field. She jumped two immaculate clears on both her horses - leaving Cylana on a score of zero after two rounds. Kessler, who turns 18 in July, handled the pressure of her first Trials admirably. Cylana was still feeling very fresh for the third round of the Trials, and Kessler felt that their enthusiasm together might have been responsible for their faults.
"Both horses were great," said Kessler of Cylana and stablemate Mika, who sits sixth in the Trials standing with 13 faults. "I think I got a little bit excited. Cylana was a little fresh... She is so fit but she's still green. She's only done one other night class."
Engle and Greise, Garber, Hidden Creek and Gladewinds' Indigo have been battling an abscess in Indigo's right front foot. But she feels that the 12-year-old Dutch gelding's feet felt fine - he just is a bit muscle weary from missing some work. "He's never tired in his mind," said Engle. "His foot feels good, he's just not that jumping fit. He has a lot of heart and he tried hard for feeling a little empty."
Engle, who most recently represented the U.S. on a championship team at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games, recognizes that between March and July, when the Olympic Games take place in London - so much can change. After the trials, all long listed horses will have to contest two of four USEF Observation Events. The choices are Kentucky, Devon, Del Mar and Spruce Meadows. "There's a long ways to go," said Engle.
Engle also won the most recent USEF National Show Jumping Championship which was held in 2008.
Fellers backed up a clear round in Trial 2 with a four-fault effort in Trial 3 with Mollie and Harry Chapman's Irish Sport Horse stallion Flexible. Fellers made the trip from the West Coast worth the miles, he remains right in the mix after a very tough day of jumping. "This is a lot of jumping. I agree, it could have easily been the final round (in a championship)," said Fellers. "(Flexible) feels good... he felt good tonight."
Fellers said Flexible had a fairly light campaign to prepare out West - but Flexible, a seasoned veteran who was second at the 2008 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final, seems to be agreeing with the strategy so far.
Friday is a day off for the National Championship and the Selection Trials, but the competition continues on Saturday March 24 at 8 PM at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival.
For those that missed the live stream, rounds two and three of the USEF National Show Jumping Championships and the USEF Selection Trials for the U.S. Show Jumping Team for the 2012 Olympic Games will be available to watch on demand on the USEFNetwork.com presented by SmartPak. The fourth and final trial will be available LIVE. please visit: www.usefnetwork.com for complete results, video, photos and more information.
Follow the 2012 U.S. Jumping Team at www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2012jumping
Photos: Mario Deslauriers and Urico; Rich Fellers and Flexible (Photo: SportFot)