Wellington, FL - Marilyn Little (USA) and Clearwater executed a perfect plan in the $35,000 TACKNRIDER 1.50m Qualifier CSI 4* at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) to take the victory with a speedy jump-off time of 36.14 seconds.
Little narrowly edged Jessica Springsteen (USA), winner of yesterday's FEI class, who piloted Tiger Lily to second place after crossing through the finish in 36.42 seconds. Samuel Parot (CHI) guided Atlantis through the course to complete the track in 37.13 seconds for third. Competition at PBIEC continues throughout the week with the Holiday & Horses CSI 4*, featuring the $216,000 Palm Beach County Sports Commission Grand Prix CSI 4* on Saturday, December 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Little, who is just returning to the international stage of show jumping after pursing a career as an international eventer for the past few years, was incredibly pleased with the performance of Clearwater in the large class featured today at PBIEC.
"He's really still a green horse and I felt like over the past two days I've been able to take advantage of the opportunity to compete in this big arena and all that it offers," she explained. "I knew exactly what I wanted to do in the lines and also got to go late in the jump-off so I could see how it was riding and fine tune my plan."
With 62 entries contesting the Anthony D'Ambrosio (USA) designed track, Little used the time she had to watch prior trips to her advantage, something that she values when preparing the 2007 Holsteiner gelding (Clearway x Come On) owned by Karen O'Connor. Little bested the 16-horse jump-off with an efficient and quick round, which she feels gave even more confidence and experience to the talented gelding.
"I've gotten to go really late in the order twice this week and that's not really an advantage I typically have," commented Little. "I don't have a ton of ranking points right now because I've really just gotten back into the sport this past year and it's always beneficial to watch how the course is riding before heading in."
The pair have gained valuable experience together, furthering the career goals Little has for Clearwater looking towards the upcoming circuit. Coming off of their inaugural indoor circuit together Little felt their recent outings enhanced their partnership in the ring.
"He's really developed and come on so strong in the last year. His stride is getting bigger and the footing is fast here. I haven't ridden here in a while, since last spring at WEF, and it's so much fun to do a jump-off in this atmosphere," she continued. "There's so much space and the horses really get to turn. He's matured a lot and we're just so pleased with his progress."
At only nine, Clearwater has been the go-to mount for Little throughout the 2016 season and she feels that there is even more potential for him at the top levels of the sport. Little is careful to monitor Clearwater and his progress, ensuring that he is not over faced to build confidence and ultimately find success.
"I think we have a real player in this horse and sometimes I have to remind myself that he's only nine and that means that Saturday night will be big for him. It's an exciting place to be at the beginning of a long circuit and really excited for what's coming in the next few months."
The duo will return to the International Ring on Saturday evening to contest the $216,000 Palm Beach County Sports Commission Grand Prix CSI 4*, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. Little is looking forward to the evening as it has a similar ambiance to those of the bigger "Saturday Night Light" classes that are the highlight each week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season.
"He's a smart horse and he's very programmable. He wants to come out the same everyday and is very easy to ride. It makes him a great competitor, especially on days like today.With 16 in the jump-off, you have to know that you have to take a shot and there's going to be a small margin of error," Little elaborated as she discussed her take on the pair's rounds.
"It's coming down to the hundredths or thousandths of a second. I know exactly what I can get done on him in the ring and that helps me make the best choices for him. His technical ability will always play to his advantage and I think he showed that today."
To view results for the $35,000 TACKNRIDER 1.50m Qualifier CSI 4* click here.
For more information on Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) please visit www.pbiec.com.