Wellington, FL - Liubov Kochetova (RUS) and Balou Du Reventon found themselves atop the leaderboard in the $216,000 Palm Beach County Sports Commission Grand Prix CSI 4* at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) after a unique finish to the week's highlight class.
Kochetova and Balou Du Reventon completed the first round track with a single time fault, as did Maggie McAlary (USA) and Maraca LS La Silla, which ensured a jump-off round. The two combinations were the only pairs to move forward to the short course and Kochetova secured the win with a jump-off time of 53.025 seconds and two time faults, while McAlary finished the evening with 17 faults in the jump-off. Todd Minikus piloted Babalou 41 to third place as the fastest four-fault combination in the first round.
Kochetova and her own Balou Du Reventon took their time around the first and second round tracks with both rides resulting in time faults, but their patience ultimately ensured a strong finish in the difficult class. Rails dropped throughout the Anthony D'Ambrosio (USA) designed course, proving to test riders for the duration of the evening.
"It was a tricky course. The triple combination was difficult because when the horses turn they can see the second fence. The horse needed to understand the rider very well," she explained. "Balou did the last World Cup Qualifier clear and it was good experience. I feel that he is ready to do difficult courses."
A total of 40 combinations tested the track, while only McAlary and Kochetova could navigate the course with out dropping a rail. Balou Du Reventon, a 2006 Oldenburger Springpferd stallion (Cornet Obolensky x Continue), is the top horse in Kochetova's string and the pair have amassed solid results throughout the 2016 campaign at both indoor and outdoor competitions.
"My plan is to aim for the FEI World Cup Final. I have three more World Cup Qualifier classes that I'm going to do and I hope that I can do well so I can go. That is my plan," she said.
Kochetova followed McAlary in the jump-off and knew that a clean round would secure the victory. Kochetova commented, "My jump-off plan depended on Maggie because if she went clear then I would need to go a little bit faster. She had a few down and my plan was to just be clear not be fast."
The duo most recently picked up two top ten finishes in Las Vegas and in Washington D.C. before returning to Kochetova's home base of Wellington, FL, last week. Balou Du Reventon traveled well and Kochetova felt that the pair could benefit from the experience of competing in the International Ring ahead of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season beginning in January.
"We did a lot of grand prix classes with Balou this year, but he's only ten so he's still young. He did Spruce Meadows and did very well there. I gave him a good rest this summer and didn't jump a lot. I picked difficult competitions for him but not every week and he feels good."
Liubov Kochetova and Balou Du Reventon in their presentation ceremony with ring master Steve Rector; Scott Glinski, Marketing & Communications Manager at Palm Beach County Sports Commission, and Lisa Lourie; partner of the Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP).
Tonight's victory marked Kochetova's first FEI victory of the year with Balou Du Reventon. According to Kochetova, the pair has gained valuable upper level experience this past season, competing at venues such as Spruce Meadows and the LA Masters, which Kochetova feels has greatly enhanced the pair's partnership.
"This means a lot to me. I'm not a fast rider and everyone says that I need to go faster but I think we have to take it step by step because he doesn't have enough experience to go clear and fast yet," detailed Kochetova, discussing her strategy with Balou Du Reventon. "I wanted him to go clear in a difficult grand prix and then maybe try to go a bit faster the next time out. It was nice today because we won today."
"I love my horse and he tries very hard. We just came from Las Vegas and he had just one week off and then we decided to show here. I'm very happy with him," she concluded.
Competition at the 2016 Holiday & Horses CSI 4* will conclude tomorrow at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) featuring the $25,000 Alpha Omega Grand Prix beginning at 1:00 p.m.
To view final results for the $216,000 Palm Beach County Sports Commission Grand Prix CSI 4* click here.
To learn more about PBIEC please visit www.pbiec.com.