Wellington, FL – International and Olympic dressage star Anky van Grunsven, and winner of the recent Exquis World Dressage Masters musical freestyle in Palm Beach, served as a celebrity judge along with her husband and coach Sjef Janssen during the second week of the star-studded Top Shelf Dressage Under the Stars competition at the Player’s Club & Restaurant. Anky, a Dutch dressage champion, has three Olympic Individual Gold medals to her name and has dominated the World Cup Dressage competition since the 90’s. Kelly had been a student of Anky's as a young girl, but it was not until the event was over she realized who it was.
“It was amazing to have the number one dressage rider and coach in the world as our judges,” said Neil Hirsch, owner of the Players Club. “We are certainly having the best of the best when it comes to judges for our Dressage Under the Stars series. Last week we had World Cup winner Steffen Peters as a judge. The quality of judges certainly doesn’t get any better than this.”
Anky not only appeared as a celebrity judge during the evening, but also surprised the crowd when she stepped out of the judging booth to join world and national reining champions Jon and Seth Ingram in the ring to perform. Anky’s performance with the Ingram’s wasn’t the first time the Olympic Gold Medalist has traded in her dressage saddle for a western one. During the 2009 Exquis World Dressage Masters, Anky performed alongside Jon Ingram, showing that her skills aren’t limited to dressage. Jon and Seth Ingram, the dynamic duo behind Ingram Training Stable, South Florida’s premiere reining facility, have won over nine world and national titles.
“What a thrill to have Anky ride the reining horses, the crowd really enjoyed it,” Hirsch said. “It was also great to have Anky’s husband, Sjef, as a judge. He is the top coach in the world. We couldn’t ask for better celebrity judges!”
FEI rider and trainer Jodie Kelly, who dedicated her ride to a friend with breast cancer, had her mount Manhattan decked out in pink polo wraps with pink ribbons in his mane during her ride. Despite all the pink, Kelly and Manhattan rode away with the blue during the star-studded evening. Kelly and Manhattan performed to “I Will Survive” by Donna Summer, and their stellar performance earned them a cash prize of $500 from the Player’s Club.
“My hat is off to our celebrity judges and to our great sponsors of this event. The sponsors are really helping the series succeed,” said Neil Hirsch, owner of the Players Club. “Along with Anky and Sjef as judges, we also had the South Florida dressage show managers extraordinaire team of Noreen O’Sullivan and John Flanagan serving as judges.”
The Wellington Institute, a wellness center dedicated to medical and dental aesthetics and anti-aging medicine, donated gift certificates to the institute to each rider and judge. Additional sponsors for the evening included Premiere Equestrian, who provided the arena, Choice of Champions, Sho Clothes, who provided models, Equilite and Draper Equine Therapy.
Dancing Under the Stars is also sponsored by SUCCEED®, a digestive conditioning program, which donated product to winner Kelly. “Patron Tequila, Perrier Jouet Champagne and Absolut Vodka are also sponsoring the series and we want to give them a big thanks also,” Hirsch said. “Each week we will continue to have top sponsors and feature world-class dressage competitors and celebrity judges. Having dinner and watching horses perform and dance on the field is pretty special.”
Dressage Under The Stars will run Wednesday nights, concluding with a grand finale on March 17th, which boasts over $10,000 in prizes. Prizes include a check for $2,500 cash from Players Club Restaurant, a gorgeous saddle donated by Custom Saddlery, a beautiful dressage bridle from Smartpak Equine, Der Dau custom paddock boots, Draper Equine Therapy Deluxe Dressage Package and great products from Equilite Sore No More®, Sho Clothes, Dressage Training Online, The Tackeria, Choice of Champions and a gift certificate for The Sanctuary Equine Sports Therapy & Rehabilitation Center.
Admission is free and gives dressage enthusiasts a chance to sit tableside at the Players Club while enjoying top competitors and their horses dancing under the stars. For more information about the Players Club, visit their website at www.playersclubrestaurant.com.