Wellington, FL – Twenty-two horses remained in the USEF Selection Trials for the US Show Jumping Team for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and they contested their fifth and final Trial as part of the $150,000 CN US Open at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. A total of 55 horses tackled Guilherme Jorge’s course in the second feature event of CSIO Wellington week and the competition proved fierce.
A difficult related line, a real question of scope and rideablity over the last three fences, caught out many riders and of the entire field only six jumped clear. But the jump-off proved to be an international event with riders from three countries (USA, Canada and Mexico) returning for the second round.
Despite already being named to the USEF Long List, Laura Kraut (Wellington, FL) let Cedric stretch his legs in the $150,000 class – the tiny grey 12-year-old Dutch gelding jumped for fun around the course, making it look half the size it walked. He secured his place in the jump-off with a wonderful clear first round. Kraut wasn’t going to be outdone and she put her foot on the accelerator in the jump-off and took home the top prize of CSIO week with a blazing pace to the final fence.
It was only her second Grand Prix win with Cedric, who was part of the Gold medal team at the 2008 Olympic Games.
“I’ve never gone that fast in my life,” said Kraut. “I’m thrilled. The horse has been so good over the last three weeks. I’m normally jumping in Trials or Nations Cups, so it was fun to go fast. I almost lost control after the double, he wasn’t sure what I was doing (going that fast).”
Kraut (Wellington, FL) was only 1/10th of a second faster (48.04 seconds) than her Olympic teammate, Beezie Madden, who set a blistering pace on Danny Boy, stopping the clock at 48.19. “It was only one-tenth of a second, so I’m not sure where I made that up,” said Kraut who is battling a wicked cold.
Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (Thousand Oaks, CA) refused to let the pressure off her fellow Californian Richard Spooner – who was leading the Selection Trials after four rounds. Tal Milstein and Ilan Ferder’s Tristan jumped another immaculate clear, the first of the class, to secure their Selection Trials faults at nine. The 10-year-old Dutch gelding made it look easy on a day when the course proved anything but. She topped the Trials standings at the end of the day, the added bonus to her two beautiful clear rounds and her third placing in the class.
“He’s come along at the right pace,” said Shahinian-Simpson. “He got quite a lot of experience during the trials. As a horse/rider combination we learned a lot about each other.”
Shahinian-Simpson proved the strength of their partnership – she jumped three clear rounds throughout the Trials and added one time fault in the fourth. It was only the second Trial where she added jumping faults.
“He’s very, very scopey, and very, very brave,” said Shahinian-Simpson. “I knew as far as scope tests and tracks I was confident of what he can jump. I have a lot of options, I can do a lot of different things to suit the courses. I couldn’t be happier.”
Richard Spooner (Agua Dulce, CA) continued his assault on the Trials with Cristallo (right). The 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by Show Jumping Syndications came into the final Trial with six faults, the pair had only one rail down and two time faults over the first four rounds. They made the trip across the country worth every mile, despite having two rails in the final Trial – they finished up second on a five round total of 14 faults – good enough for second place in the standings.
“I think I underestimated how fit he is,” said Spooner of his energetic ride. “He is so fit, maybe I should have worked him harder yesterday. He was wanting to go and wanting to jump – when he gets like that I have to pull a little harder that I should.”
Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner’s Danny Boy had their best round of the Trials with a classy effort, guaranteeing a jump-off with the second clear round of the day. Their selection trials score of 16 faults meant they are tied in third with Mario Deslauriers and Urico in the overall standings. Her lightning fast jump-off round was impressive, and along with Madden’s braze riding – the rangy 10-year-old Belgian gelding made tight turns, defying his size.
“I thought it was a very tough course,” said Madden. “But it was pretty much what we expected. It tested scope, rideability, carefulness. I was very pleased with him today.”
Deslauriers (left) rebounded from a first Trial score of eight faults, with clear rounds in Trials two and four. Jane Clark’s relatively inexperienced nine-year-old KWPN gelding rose to the occasion for Deslauriers in his first year riding as an American.
Madden also jumped Mademoiselle, a brand new ride for her and owner Abigail Wexner in the Trials. They ended up on a Trials total of 21, good for seventh in the overall standings.
The Trials process lasted 12 days and was a test of jumping, endurance and horsemanship – US Chef d’Equipe and Technical Advisor, George Morris, was pleased with the level of jumping in the US and the process that produces the Long List.
“There are lots of pros and a couple of cons,” said Morris. “We have to have the Trials before April 1 because of the World Cup Final and the Top League. As long as I have the job, nothing will interfere with the preparation for the Top League. The beauty of these Trials is they up the ante, it is a pressure cooker for the riders, it is great for them. It also exposes and lets young horses you don’t know come to the top.”
There was high praise by all the riders for the effort put forth by Equestrian Sport Productions who organized the Trials as part of Week Eight of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. The logistics and coordination are a huge undertaking but Mark Bellisimo, CEO, Michael Stone, President and David Distler who managed the Trials in the middle of a very busy horse show, and their staff did an impeccable job.
Perfect footing, good organization and a significant amount of work meant the entire process was relatively seamless.
At the conclusion of the Trials, per the USEF Selection Procedures nine horse/rider combinations will be named to the USEF Long List based on their final overall placing from the USEF Selection Trials for Jumping. There are also up to six places on the long list available at the recommendation of the USEF selectors. Lauren Hough/Quick Study, Laura Kraut/Cedric and McLain Ward/Sapphire have already been named to the USEF Long List. A total of 15 horse/rider combinations will be named on Monday, March 8, 2010.