Wellington, FL - Gustavo Prato of Wellington, FL, and Carna Z took top honors in the $35,000 Neue Schule Bits Grand Prix at ESP Spring II hosted at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), after tripping the jump-off timers in 33.596 seconds. Ailish Cunniffe of South Salem, NY, and Baloucento 2, captured second place with a jump-off time of 34.44 seconds ahead of Emanuel Andrade of Wellington, FL, and U, who narrowly missed second place and finished with a time of 34.769 seconds.
Prato and Carna Z, a 2005 Zangersheide mare (Crown Z x Gannus) owned by Equus Forte LLC, bested the class, which saw 19 combinations test the track designed by Ana Catalina Harris Cruz (MEX). Eight pairs advanced to the short course, while five finished with a double clear effort on the day. Prato and Carna Z went second in the jump-off and set a quick pace that was unbeatable by the following pairs.
"On the first course, I thought it was not huge, but technical, so we needed to first go clear," he explained. "In the jump-off I had a few riders behind me that I knew were going to be really fast so I tried to go in and go as fast as I could and I got lucky."
The duo have been working their way up through the levels over the course of the past year and 2017 was a break out season, as they continued to solidify their partnership.
"She's been with me for a little bit over a year. She's going to have a great year ahead of her. We're heading to Kentucky and Tryon after the spring circuit here," said Prato. "She has experienced a lot over the winter and I think in the spring and summer it's going to be great and will only get better. I have high hopes for her."
While going into the short course with a forward-thinking plan, Prato was aware that he would need to complete a round that would be difficult to beat for the combinations coming behind them. The mare, who has exceled at the larger heights this season with Prato guiding from the irons, is naturally fast, which Prato believes played a significant role in their win.
"I think she is just really fast all over the place. You can turn, you can leave the strides out When it comes to speed it's very easy for her. As long as you leave the jumps up, you know you're going to be there time wise," he commented.
Prato and Carna Z earned a lot of "firsts" this season during the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) including their first FEI Nations' Cup appearance and several successful outings during the popular "Saturday Night Lights" classes hosted each Saturday during the circuit.
"I thought that this winter season was great because when I got her a little bit over a year ago, she was only doing 1.30 and 1.35m. We started to improve together and even did the Nations' Cup together. We also did a few Saturday Night classes together and I thought she did great," he concluded.
The ESP Spring Series continues with competition on Wednesday, April 19, with ESP Spring III. To see a full list of results and to learn more about PBIEC, please visit www.pbiec.com.