November 15, 2014 - Las Vegas, NV - In true Las Vegas style, the final highlight event of the Las Vegas National opened with glitz and glamour. As eager spectators began to fill the stands, forty-four of show jumping's best and brightest prepared to compete in the $75,000 Las Vegas CSI-W Grand Prix. After ten went clean, it was Harrie Smolders (NED) and the speedy Regina Z who outran the rest for the win.
The Opening Ceremonies commenced with a Parade of Nations where flags from eleven countries waved as each rider was introduced to the crowd. Next, the silk aerialist group Flight La Femme impressed spectators by tumbling and twirling from floating banners affixed to the ceiling. Johanna Jones of Brigham Young University finished the ceremonies with a fabulous rendition of the national anthem, while Air Force representatives proudly displayed the stars and stripes.
Germany's Olaf Petersen, Jr. continued a week of impressive course designing with a big and technical track. "We have at least two 1.60m verticals as requested by FEI rules and a triple bar with a 2.10m spread. The oxers are wide, so we are truly testing for scope today as well as rideability," he said.
He emphasized that for him it didn't matter how many went clean in the class, but more importantly, those that could jump this difficult course clean would be capable of competing at the World Cup Finals.
Scope and stamina tests included fence 3, off a short turn past the in-gate; the broad aforementioned triple bar was fence 7 in a bending line to a very wide oxer at fence 8, and four strides after a challenging triple combination was also a sizeable oxer at fence 10.
Ten entries returned for the jump-off, which consisted of eight efforts in a time allowed of 45 seconds. The track offered options to leave out strides, take tight turns and gallop to the final oxer.
In a showdown of speed, Karl Cook (USA) on Jonkheer Z (Signe Ostby, owner) set a time to beat in 39.33; Lucy Davis (USA) and Old Oak Farm's Barron had the time, 39.16, but lowered the height of the last oxer for four faults.
Making superbly tight turns, Smolders and Axel Verlooy's Regina Z flew to the lead with a time of 39.21. Jack Hardin Towell (USA) and Lucifer V (owned by Jennifer Gates) smoked the time in 38.76 but also had a heartbreak rail for four faults. Jos Verlooy (BEL) on Farfelu de la Pomme (owned by Axel Verlooy) made a gallant attempt, with a fantastic time of 38.41 but also with an unfortunate four faults to finish fourth. Smolders had the only other double clean effort on Enjoy Louis (Axel Verlooy, owner), ultimately finishing first and third.
Smolders explained his winning jump-off track on Regina Z. "She doesn't have such a big canter but is very quick in the turns - naturally very fast. I know I always have a shot in the jump-off with her. "
The pair know each other well. "She is 14 years old, I got her when she was 10 and we've been together four years now. She's been very successful for me. She's a real trier and gives everything. She's such a fighter and I'm so proud of her."
He concluded with praise for his experience. "This is the first time we've competed on the West Coast. Las Vegas is beautiful and I hope to be back next year."