Wellington, FL - March 8, 2015 - On Saturday night, a field of 41 horses attempted to tackle Allan Wade's $372,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix, but only three would master the first round and move into an exhilarating jump off. The showdown would include Great Britain's Ben Maher and Diva II, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany with Fibonacci 17 and Olympian Laura Kraut of the United States with her 17-year-old veteran partner Cedric, owned by Cherry Knoll Farm, Inc. of West Grove, Pennsylvania.
With a tight time allowed of 82 seconds, and one of the most challenging courses of the circuit, faults fell throughout the course and time infractions were incurred. Beerbaum was the first rider to show to a clear opening round, with Kraut duplicating her effort more than half a class later with Cedric. Maher was the second to last to traverse the track, making it a nail-biting jump off for the three riders, all competing for the opportunity to qualify for the 2015 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas this April.
Despite the difficulty of the course for competitors, Kraut was thrilled with the opening track, saying, "Allan Wade is a fantastic course builder. Once again, he did a great job tonight."
For the tiebreaker, Wade reduced the track to nine fences. He used long distances to challenge the horse and rider combinations with open gallops. Although the course was not ideal for Kraut and Cedric, they knew that they had to send caution to the wind, taking a risk for the chance of victory.
Kraut and Cedric went second in the return order, and in her haste to catch Michaels-Beerbaum's speedy time of 46.31, Kraut pulled the pole on the vertical just three fences from home, finishing with four faults in 46.76 seconds. She ended up 4/10ths slower than Michaels-Beerbaum.
She noted, "I let off the gas a bit, once I had the knockdown. This really wasn't the kind of jump-off course that suits Cedric, with all of the long gallops instead of tight turns. I can do much better with him when I can make up the time with really tight turns. But in order to catch Meredith, I felt I had to make that move there. Tonight it didn't work out quite the way I wanted."
Olympic Gold medalist Ben Maher and Diva II matched Beerbaum stride for stride, tripping the timers a slim 3/10ths of a second faster in 46.03 seconds, turning the jump off into a heated battle of the best, and a faceoff that matched the excellence of riders and horses on the course.
For Kraut, it was an emotional placing for her and Cedric. "I was saying to Meredith earlier, because she understands having had Shutterfly, every time that horse puts in a performance like he did tonight it makes me want to cry. It's so emotional. He's got such a big heart and tonight it was very, very difficult. I promised him earlier that if he was good tonight I wouldn't make him do any more this circuit. He must have heard me."
"I want to thank Margaret Duprey and Cherry Knoll Farm for making it possible for me to have this horse until he's 17 and on. It's a blessing every time," Kraut smiled.