The Gold Coast Grand Finale was a Grand Easter Weekend

DressageDaily and PhelpsPhotos returned to South Florida for the Gold Coast Grand Finale, where the final taping of Robert Dover’s Search for America’s Next Equestrian Star took place Saturday, April 15th. But it was also a full show, with quality rides and competition, with the FEI Young Horse Classes added, with the debut of Lisa’ Wilcox’s return to the American show ring on Cindy Snowden’s Dolomit, in the six-year-old class. Look for Wilcox to be bringing out more incredible young horse talent at Raleigh.

The Gold Coast family feeling was prevalent throughout the weekend, as members participated as volunteers on every level. Everyone was invited to the Player’s Club in a wrap party for Robert Dover’s Search for America’s Next Equestrian Star, hosted by associate producer Karin Offield for a night of dancing and celebration.

The top four finalists in the “Star Search”, Philesha Chandler of Kansas, Rebecca Vick of North Carolina, Jamil Kassum of Arizona and Jessica Jo Tate of Wisconsin, were reunited with family and friends, and their cell phones (which were not allowed during the three weeks they were on location) who came to Florida to root them on, along with a crowd of spectators as they performed in their own class in front of a panelist of judges.

The main arena at the Wellington show grounds was filled will television cameras from every angle, including a huge boom at A. The production crew for Russell Best’s Brave Street Productions was there in full force from the early morning hours making sure every angle was covered.

Robert Dover exhausted but elated after an intense three weeks of taping day and night, called DressageDaily at the end of the day, just prior to the big wrap party held at the Player’s Club. “The support we have received from the community has been overwhelming.” said Dover. “The Judges, (Linda Zang, Jessica Ransehousen, Hilda Gurney, Gary Rockwell, and Anne Gribbons) all did this as volunteers, and came at their own expense to help with the final phase, and I can’t thank them enough for their support.” Gold Coast president and show organizer Noreen O’Sullivan-Flanagan worked tirelessly to assure that Gold Coast provide the perfect backdrop for the show’s taping, which will be aired sometime this fall.

Sponsor banners flanked the arena, as each of the final four performed a test in front of the judge’s panel of their assigned horses. They then came back 2 hours later, switching mounts. Associate producer Karin Offield witnessed the transition of each contestant on a daily basis who was picked from over 150 tapes which were submitted.

After the show, under a veil of secrecy and confidentiality agreements, the winner was selected, but all six came away from the experience as winners. “Everyone came away with lots of prizes and gifts from sponsors.” said Dover.

DressageDaily brought our reporter Shaneen Kohler to the weekend festivities, and she filled an entire reporter’s notebook with interviews and quotes from the event. Stay tuned as we bring you reports from last weekend, and as we look forward to the World Cup Final in Amsterdam, and the USDF Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, The Freestyle Symposium in Lexington Kentucky, and then the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event.

Related Links
On the Scene at the Gold Coast Grand Finale
Follow the Action on The Search for America's Next Equestrian Star

Lisa Wilcox Makes American Debut at the Gold Coast Grand Finale

It was Olympian Lisa Wilcox’s first show in the United States since returning from a 12-year stint abroad. It was not only Wilcox’s first show since returning, it was her first time showing in Florida, as well.

A crowd was gathered around the warm-up area and spectators were securing spots in the covered viewing area to watch her performance aboard Cindy Snowden's Oldenburg, Dolomit in the FEI Test for 6-Year-Olds at the Gold Coast Grand Finale I in Wellington, Fla., April 15. The anticipation was almost tangible.Wilcox finally entered the ring.

The viewing areas were packed and all motion outside of the ring seemed to come to a standstill as she and Dolomit completed their test. A rider in the adjacent ring, who finished her test midway through Wilcox’s, jokingly commented to the throng as she passed the viewing area: “You’re all here to see me, right?”

A Heartfelt Welcome From Judge Fran Dearing

At the completion of the ride, the first words out of the judge’s mouth were, “Welcome back.” Following her heartfelt comment, judge Fran Dearing provided a verbal explanation of the test results for all to hear, as is done in the USEF/Markel Young Horse Qualifiers for 5- and 6-year-olds.

It was the trot that impressed the judges (Fran Dearing “S” and Lois Yukins “I”) the most. “The trot was elastic and powerful” and worthy of an 8.5. However, they did recommend she watch the tendency of getting fancier in the front than the back during the trot. The walk was also “quite good,” and earned an 8.5. Plus, “We saw some good transitions.”

The canter did not earn the accolades the walk and trot did, though. “The rhythm is questionable,” said Dearing. There was a “lateral tendency.” The score was 6.5. Submission was also intertwined with the canter, and combined with some missed changes, scored a 6.3. But, the General Impression was a 7.5.

“We have no worries that you will not rectify (Dolomit’s canter performance) and he will have an awesome career,” said Dearing.

Lisa Wilcox knew why Dolomit’s canter performance was not his best, but she accepted it and didn’t dwell on it. Some confusion with paperwork had resulted in a longer than normal wait before their test, which caused Dolomit to “melt. When he’s fresh, he’s super,” said Wilcox, adding that this was also Dolomit’s first test with changes. “Horse shows are horse shows,” said Wilcox simply. Sometimes these things happen, and I know this, “as a professional,” said Wilcox with her usual poise and graciousness.

Lisa Wilcox Settles In

soon be an “official” Florida resident, with a move-in date of May 1 scheduled at Flying Low LLC in Wellington. Her decision and actual move back to the United States took place in a relatively short period of time. Though Dolomit’s owner and Wilcox’s long-time friend and manager, Cindy Snowden, had asked her if she wanted to move back to the States last year, Wilcox had declined. “I was exhausted after Athens,” said Wilcox, “and needed to find me again.” When Snowdon repeated the question this year, Wilcox agreed. She has been in Florida since March 1, after spending only a month getting ready for the move.

Mary Phelps and JJ. Hathaway of hosted a welcome reception for Wilcox during the 2006 “Inspection Reception,” which followed the Horse Inspection at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, sponsored by Markel Insurance and friends Cindy and John Snowden.“It was a pleasant surprise to have a welcoming committee,” said Wilcox, who was concerned American riders might not have open arms. “I am here to assist Americans,” said Wilcox, who is eager to share some of the knowledge she has been accumulating in Europe. “The seat. The effectiveness of the seat is key, plus the rider’s position,” said Wilcox about what she has been learning in Europe.

Wilcox came back to America with only one horse on her list, Dolomit, but has already accrued an additional six or seven mounts, including three from Rick Rockefeller-Silvia: Starlight, a Sandro Hit stallion; Lullaby, a Londonderry stallion who is also fifth in the country in young horses; and Relavant's Couture, a Relavant mare co-owned by B.G. Siegfried. “American are getting some good horses,” she said. “I see a lot of quality and very impressive horses here now.”

Wilcox will be showing some horses, concentrating on the young horses, as well as holding clinics and giving lessons. “I have some promising young horses and some good clients,” said Wilcox. You can keep track of Wilcox's travels and horses at

On the Scene at the Gold Coast Grand Finale