Wellington, FL - The $150,000 CN U.S. Open Grand Prix, CSIO 4* was today's highlight event and Laura Kraut (USA) with Cedric, owned by Happy Hill Farm, were victorious. Second place went to Beezie Madden (USA) and Danny Boy, owned by Abigail Wexner, while Nicole Shahinian-Simpson was third with Tristan, owned by Ilan Ferder and Tal Milstein. Nearly 3,000 spectators turned out to watch today's grand prix.
For the USEF WEG Selection Trials, the final leader was Nicole Shahinian-Simpson on Tristan, who finished with just 9 faults over the five trials. In second place for the trials was Richard Spooner and Show Jumping Syndicate's Cristallo, who had 14 total faults. Mario Deslauriers and Urico, owned by Jane Clark, sit in third with 16 total faults, tied with Beezie Madden and Danny Boy.
The eighth week of the FTI WEF is sponsored by CN and concluded with today's competition. The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 4, 2010, and they will be awarding almost $6 million in prize money through the circuit.
The course today was designed by Guilherme Jorge of Brazil, and it was another challenging test for horses and riders. There were 14 numbered obstacles, including a difficult final line of a 1.60m triple bar in seven or eight strides to a vertical set at 1.62m, then four strides to the final oxer, set at 1.75m in width. There were six clear rounds out of 55 entries in the class. This was also the final USEF WEG Selection Trial, and there were nine horses that rode only for their trial score and not for prize money in the class.
The first to return in the jump-off was Shahinian-Simpson on Tristan. They put in another clear round and finished with a time of 51.24 seconds that placed them third.
For Shahinian-Simpson (left), coming out on top of the trials was a great experience for her and her horse. "For sure he's improved," she agreed. "He's come along at the right pace, and we've really gotten to know each other. I'm thrilled with his progress and experience through the trials. As horse and rider, we've learned a lot about each other."
She went on to say, "I had no idea I'd come out the best. I never think that. I had a lot of confidence that he's very, very scopey and brave, so I knew as far as scope tests and tracks, I was comfortable and he could jump. I couldn't be happier with him."
Madden and Danny Boy were next in, and Madden put the pedal down as she approached the 1.62m solid "fish tank" wall. Her fantastic turns helped her finish in 48.19 seconds with no faults for the lead, but they would eventually finish second.
Madden and Danny Boy (right) finished second in the grand prix, but they also finished tied for third in the over trials standings. Madden said of her horse, "I was very pleased with him today. I was a little disappointed in the first two trials at night; he was a little tense here. Other places he's been good at night. Unfortunately we had the last fence in the first day, and then almost a stupid fault here the second night with the skinny oxer by the in-gate. He rose the occasion after that. He was good on the field, and Friday he had a solid round, even a little fresh. Today he was excellent.
Madden felt that the experience for Danny Boy in these trials, even though he has shown internationally, helped him improve. She said, "He had a long time off because I had surgery in the fall and hadn't shown since the Masters (in September). We had a few weeks under our belt in the beginning here, (but) we probably were cutting it close with how ready we were."
Jaime Azcarraga (MEX) and Presley Boy competed next, but had trouble out of the one stride combination, where they had a rail. Azcarraga lost his stirrups and attempted the next CN vertical, where they had another rail, and then circled before the wall. They finished with 21 faults in 64.22 seconds for sixth place.
Canada's Beth Underhill and Iron Horse Farm's Top Gun were next in. They had faults at the wall and the final oxer for eight faults and stopped the timers in 50.05 seconds for fifth place.
Kraut and Cedric were next in, and Kraut was going for speed in the second round. Kraut let the little grey gelding open his stride up, and they made good turns throughout. They came home clear and just beat the winning time in 48.04 seconds for the lead.
"I was laughing with Beezie because I knew I could turn very tight after the wall. Usually he lands at a standstill anyway," Kraut said with a smile. "I hadn't watched any of them go. I knew they were fast, and I was going to have to go as quick as I could. It was lucky."
The last to go was Mac Cone (CAN) on Ole, owned by Sara Houston and Larry Evoy. They had eight faults in 49.07 seconds for fourth place.
It was a great win for Kraut and Cedric, who were given a "bye" onto the long list for the U.S. show jumping team for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in October. This is only the second grand prix that the pair have won, since their focus over the years has mainly been on championships and competing in Nations Cups for the United States.
"I'm thrilled. I can't say anything more," Kraut beamed. "My horse has been so good for the last three weeks, because normally I'm jumping either in trials or Nations Cups or something. It was fun to get to run flat out and try to win something. I'm positive it's the fastest I've ever gone. I've never let him go like that. I almost lost control of him after the double. He was freaking out, like, what is she doing up there?"
Although they had four faults in today's grand prix, Richard Spooner and Cristallo (left) finished out the USEF WEG Trials and finished solidly in second place. He said, "(The trials) test the stamina that a horse has, as well as its quality to do five rounds in two weeks. It is a lot to ask of any horse at any level. That's what it's designed to do. It definitely did that."
Of his performance in the grand prix, he stated, "I think I underestimated exactly how fit he is. My horse is so fit I should have worked him harder yesterday; he was too fresh today. He was a little too up; he wanted to go and wanted to jump. When he gets like that, I have to pull a little harder."
It was a somewhat different situation for McLain Ward and Sapphire. Ward explained of his grand prix finish, "Sapphire felt quite good. In hindsight, I was little ambitious in my plan. I should have jumped one class in the WEF this week. She probably was not fit enough and ready enough to go in the course. The rail earlier was my fault, and at the end she ran out of gas. Next week will be better, and by the $500,000 grand prix, she'll be coming into form. Saying that, she jumped a nice solid round."
While Sapphire received a bye for the long list, Ward also finished well with his second horse Rothchild. "Rothchild has stepped up pretty well here this week. These trials have really helped that horse, and he's come a long way in 10 days. We'll take him to Europe and give him some exposure," Ward said.
Hough and Quick Study, another bye recipient, also had eight faults in today's grand prix, but she did not think the bye gave her a disadvantage. "Definitely my horse is one that's not a good one to sit in the stall all week and just show on Sunday. I jumped him yesterday in a 1.40m class, and he was quite fresh. I thought he jumped very well today," she conceded. "The first rail was completely my fault. I came around the corner a bit fast and pushed him through the front pole because I was worried about the back pole, which normally I don't have to worry about with him."
She went on to say, "I'm not thrilled with an eight fault ride, but I have a lot of confidence with the horse. I know the program that he needs to be in going forward, and we'll be ready to produce when the time counts."
Guilherme Jorge commented on his plan for designing this year's USEF WEG Trials, "We knew we had to start with a tough course from the beginning. Normally in a championship like the World Cup or Pan Am Games, I wouldn't start with a course as big as I had here on the first Thursday, but I understood what I needed to do from the beginning. I think everyone was surprised at how well they jumped on the first Thursday, and that definitely set up how we should try to do the courses."
He added, "I think everyone is very happy with the way they jumped throughout the process. Some young horses learned too; that's always my goal. They were jumping as well as they can. They even exceeded my expectations. All these courses have been serious courses. I've been to World cup and Olympic Games, many big shows, the Spruce Meadows Masters, Global Champions Tour, and these courses were as big as you see in any of these places. The horses really jumped fantastic."
McLain Ward remarked, "The courses were brilliant. We always praise riders and horses and owners, and sometimes the course designers go a little bit unnoticed. Michael Stone and his team as well, the effort to go down on the field (for the third trial) was huge. That was a huge factor in these trials and very important. On all fronts of the organization, it was a wonderful job."
Madden added, "I'd like to thank Equestrian Sport Productions. There are a lot of logistics involved with trying to embed it into the CSIO and the regular horse show and it's a big undertaking, so thank you."
Michael Stone, President of Equestrian Sport Productions, stated, "We were very pleased to have the trials. It's fantastic show jumping at a fantastic level and to have all the top riders in the U.S. here at our facility was wonderful. It's a big undertaking to put it on, but it was an amazing experience for everyone."
McLain Ward spoke of the process of having five classes for the trials. "I think the pros of the trials far outweigh the cons," he said. "Certainly there are a few cons. Coming this early in the year is tough, but this is our situation with the Super League. But the exposure that it gives up and coming horses and up and coming riders, and even seasoned horses and riders, it really raises their level. It's incredible. I think it makes us better."
He added, "I think this is a country of opportunity. People need a clear, objective way to make it. It keeps interest high, it keeps commerce high. Everyone needs a chance."
USEF Show Jumping Chef d'Equipe George H. Morris agreed with Ward, "Like McLain said, he hit it right on the head: the pros outweigh the cons. The organizers were fabulous. Guilherme, all I can say is perfect. The beauty of these trials is that it ups the ante of pressure. It is early in the year, but that's not the worst thing. The pressure cooker for the riders, and this was a pressure cooker, was great for them. It also exposes young horses you don't know. It does so many things, and that's the American system, and I'm going to protect these trials as an American."
Earlier today in the International Arena, riders competed in the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Classic. Yann Candele and Susan Grange's Game Ready (right) came home with the win with a double clear round and jump-off time of 38.509 seconds. They just caught Alexa Pessoa and Madison, yesterday's stake winners, who finished in 39.956 seconds. Pessoa beat her husband, Rodrigo Pessoa, who rode Legacy Stables LLC's Champ 163 to third place with a double clear and jump-off time of 40.851 seconds.
This marks the end of the eighth week of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, but week nine, also sponsored by CN, will run March 10-14, 2010 with more exciting competition, including the $200,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix, CSI 3*, presented by CN on Saturday, March 13, at 7 p.m.
Final Results: $150,000 CN U.S. Open Grand Prix, CSIO 4*
- 1. CEDRIC: 1998 DWB gelding by Unknown xx Unknown LAURA KRAUT, HAPPY HILL FARM: 0/0/48.040
- 2. DANNY BOY: 2000 BWP gelding by Clinton xx Alexis Z BEEZIE MADDEN, ABIGAIL WEXNER: 0/0/48.190
- 3. TRISTAN: 2000 KWPN gelding by Lancelot xx Ferro NICOLE SHANIHAN SIMPSON, ILAN FERDER: 0/0/51.240
- 4. OLE: 1996 KWPN gelding by Burggraaf xx Dukaat MAC CONE, SARA HOUSTON & LARRY EVOY: 0/8/49.070
- 5. TOP GUN: 2000 KWPN gelding by Corland xx Wellington BETH UNDERHILL, IRON HORSE FARM: 0/8/50.050
- 6. PRESLEY BOY: 1997 KWPN stallion by Concorde xx Damiro JAIME AZCARRAGA, JAMIE AZCARRAGA: 0/21/64.220
- 7. PAVAROTTI: 1997 KWPN gelding by Lancelot xx Renville TODD MINIKUS, TODD MINIKUS LTD.: 4/91.590
- 8. URICO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Zandor Z xx Fedor MARIO DESLAURIERS, JANE CLARK: 4/91.920
- 9. FLEXIBLE: 1996 ISH stallion by Cruising xx Unknown RICHARD FELLERS, HARRY & MOLLY CHAPMAN: 4/92.170
- 10. ROTHCHILD: 2001 SBS gelding by Artos xx Elegant De L'ile MCLAIN WARD (USA), SAGAMORE FARMS: 4/92.29
- 11. LET'S FLY: 1999 gelding by Lordanos RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), DOUBLE H FARM: 4/92.54
- 12. HICKSTEAD: 1996 KWPN stallion by Hamlet xx Ekstein ERIC LAMAZE, ASHLAND STABLES: 4/93.670
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Classic
- 1. GAME READY, YANN CANDELE, SUSAN GRANGE: 0/0/38.509
- 2. MADISON, ALEXA PESSOA, ALEXA PESSOA: 0/0/39.956
- 3. CHAMP 163, RODRIGO PESSOA, LEGACY STABLES LLC: 0/0/40.851
- 4. UNDER CONTRACT, ERIC LAMAZE, CAROL SOLLAK: 0/8/45.013
- 5. ATLETE VAN T HEIKE, ERIC LAMAZE, STEPHEX STABLES: 0/10/49.387
- 6. BLUE SKY VAN DE OLMENHOEVE, MARLEY GOODMAN, MARLEY GOODMAN & TURTLE LANE FARM: 1/82.715
- 7. PREZIOSO S, LAUREN HOUGH, HIGHLIFE FARMS: 4/74.942
- 8. NIGHT TRAIN, RODRIGO PESSOA, DOUBLE H FARM: 4/77.171
- 9. G&C SINATRA, PABLO BARRIOS, GUSTAVO & CAROLINA MIRABAL: 4/77.755
- 10. HH REBOZO, RODRIGO PESSOA, DOUBLE H FARM: 4/78.622
- 11. NIELSON B, JEANNE HOBBS, JEANNE HOBBS: 4/79.056
- 12. RAIMOND W, LESLIE HOWARD, LESLIE HOWARD: 4/79.363
The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 13 through April 4. WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $5.5 million in prize money will be awarded.
Photo Credit: © 2010 Randi Muster/Mustphoto, Inc., Official Sport Photographer of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.mustphoto.com.