Wellington, FL – Forty-four of the nation’s best horse/rider combinations lined up for the first of five USEF Selection Trials for US Show Jumping Team for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The jumping got underway on Thursday evening in low temperatures – at least by Florida standards.
But the jumping standard was high and out of the 44 starters - 13 jumped clear over Guilherme Jorge’s track. In the Selection Trials which are presented by Fidelity Investments, all the riders on a score of 0 will remain tied in the top spot in the rankings. With four trials to go – the process has just begun.
“All the horses came out jumping,” said veteran rider Margie Engle, who was one of the quickest clear rounds.
But the fastest of the group on the first night took home top honors for the evening and Todd Minikus and Pavarotti flew home with a time of 83.24. A veteran pair, Minikus and Pavarotti cruised around the track, and Minikus (Loxahatchee, FL) thought his 13-year-old KWPN gelding got the Selection Trials off on the right foot.
“It’s a good start,” said Minikus. “It’s a long process, there’s a lot of jumping that has to go on. It’s a good confidence builder and shows all your wheels are working together. It’s a team effort.”
Minikus and Pavarotti represented the US on the Bronze medal-winning team at the 2007 Pan American Games, but he explained, that it is a long way from February in Florida to October in Kentucky. “It’s one class at a time, one jump at a time,” he said. “It would be nice to jump five clear rounds, but it’s easy to have one down.”
Minikus just nipped Engle and Hidden Creek’s Campella who jumped to second in the class with a time of 84.03. Unlike Pavarotti, Hidden Creek Farm’s 10-year-old Swedish mare is inexperienced at this level and Engle was impressed with her effort.
“She felt great,” said Engle (Wellington, FL). “She was new at Grand Prix at the end of last summer, she jumped one other time under the lights. She was relaxed and surprisingly went very nicely. She’s very scopey but she doesn’t have that much mileage.”
Engle and Minikus were both impressed that there were 13 clear rounds. “It was big enough, but not that technical,” said Engle. “Honestly I’m a little surprised that there were 13 clear. But a lot of horses come in fresh. There was a lot of good jumping.”
Rounding out the fastest of the evening was the man who travelled the furthest from his home to get to Wellington, and Rich Fellers was rewarded for his effort and his faith in Mollie and Harry Chapman’s 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion, Flexible. The Wilsonville, OR rider was relieved. “That gets the monkey off your back,” said Fellers who arrived on Saturday via California. “It’s a long trip… it’s a great way to start.”
Flexible, was second at the 2008 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final and has been an incredibly consistent horse on theaWest Coast. His trip East was specifically for the Trials and after one leg – he delivered on the expectation and belied his 16 hands.
But Flexible has always stepped up – Fellers thought in the beginning of his career, due to his size and length of stride that he might just be a speed horse. Flexible proved him wrong. “A good horse is a good horse,” said Fellers – who didn’t know how good Flexible was going to be in the beginning. “And if I get him there halfway close, he’ll try his guts out.”
New York rider Georgina Bloomberg was one of two riders with three horses in the class but she was the only rider to jump two clear rounds. With Fiedi 3 and Metropolitan, the 27-year-old had stylish rounds on both of Gotham Enterprizes horses.
The eight other clear rounds were:
- Ashlee Bond/Chivas Z/Little Valley Farm
- Hillary Dobbs/Quincy B/Hillary Dobbs
- Kent Farrington/Uceko/RCG Farm
- Brianne Goutal/Ralvesther/Cloverleaf Farm
- Lauren Hough/Quick Study/Laura Mateo
- Laura Kraut/Cedric/Happy Hill Farm
- Beezie Madden/Coral Reef Via Volo/Coral Reel Ranch
The remaining four trials will take place over the next 10 days at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. The next opportunity to follow the best in the US on their road to Kentucky will be Trial #2 run as part of the $75,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix on Saturday night under the lights again in the International Arena.
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. A total of 15 horse/rider combinations will be named on Monday, March 5, 2010.