We are now at the mid-way point in the 2018 season of the WEF winter series. This week will see the grand prix take place on Friday night in the dressage arena and also the U25 classic and the 1.50m classic will be held on the derby field. Our course designer for the week has been Catsy Cruz (MEX) and her work for the past few years has been exceptional. Catsy will have the difficult job of creating a course for the $132,000 Rushy Marsh Farm Grand Prix CSI3* in the smaller surface of the dressage arena (think indoor arena) when the competitors are used to the larger area of the international ring on the main grounds of WEF.
As this is the mid-season break for many of the grand prix riders and their first string mounts we will see some new riders and new mounts. We will also see a few of the regular riders but on their second string horses. Some of the main GP riders are also in Ocala for the major prize offered in the grand prix but also for the Longines Nations Cup.
Catsy has proven to be extremely accurate in her assessment of the starting field this week and also in the previous years of working at WEF. Even with a less experienced field she must be true to the regulations that govern a 3* CSI. Tonight there are 45 entries and 43 will compete. The course will consist of 13 numbered obstacles and will show 16 efforts. The time allowed will be set at 75 seconds and will not be changed. The weather is perfect and there is a very good crowd on hand for tonight’s class. On the course we will see 2 liverpools, 1 short pole vertical, 1 plank vertical, 1 triple bar, 1 wall and 3 double combinations. There will be no triple combination and no water (not necessary).
The sun has set, the lights are on and it is time to walk the $132,000 Rushy Marsh Farm Grand Prix CSI3*.
#1 triple bar 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft was never faulted on the night. This was the only fence on the course that did not pose a problem to someone tonight.
#2 the wall 1.50m or 5ft comes from #1 on the soft bend right with a distance of 34m or 111.6ft and the top blocks never found mother earth but caused 2 refusals. The wall caused a few other entries to have a serious look and jumped spooky.
#3 oxer 1.47/1.50m or 4.10/5ft comes on a full turn on the right rein away from the in-gate and the top pole was punched out 4 times.
#4a vertical 1.50m or 5ft comes from #3 in a straight line and on a distance of 19.40m or 63.6ft and we saw 1 refusal and 4 poles on the floor. We also saw mainly 4 forward strides and a few 5 short strides.
#4b vertical 1.52m or 5ft (2mm is not really significant) comes from #4a with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and also saw 1 refusal and 2 poles on the floor.
#5 oxer 1.48/1.55m or 4.11/5.1ft comes from #4b on the left rein with no given distance and at the far end of the ring. This oxer was the most difficult jump on the course and was violated 13 times.
#6 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #5 on the turn back left rein and saw 7 failures to execute.
#7a oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft comes from #6 on the right rein and with a distance of 35m or 114.9ft. This oxer saw 7 failures.
#7b skinny oxer 1.50/1.40m or 5/4.3ftcomes from #7a with a distance of 11.10m or 36.3ft and caused 1 refusal and we saw 5 rails seek relief in the sand.
#8 short pole vertical 1.56m or 5.1ft comes from #7b on the right bend and with a distance of 28.50m or 93.6ft tumbled from the top cups 4 times. I thought there would be more problems here but with the choice of 6 or 7 strides there were not!
#9 close Liverpool vertical 1.54m or 5.1ft comes from #8 on no given distance on the right rein and away from the in-gate was the second most difficult jump on the course tonight with 2 refusals and 7 splash downs.
#10 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #9 in a straight line with a distance of 27m or 88.6ft and resulted in 4 failures to remain in the cups.
#11 plank vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #10 on the left rein and with no given distance was a jump I thought would cause more problems but it did not! It kissed mother earth 2 times.
#12a vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #11 with a distance of 22m or 72ft on the left bend and created 1 refusal (second refusal and elimination) and 2 poles fall from the yellow cups.
#12b oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft comes from #12a with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and saw 1 refusal and 1 pole reach ground zero.
#13 liverpool oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #12b on the bending rein left with a distance of 32m or 104.9ft and is right at the in-gate and the last fence in the first round tonight was washed 3 times.
I will say at this time that my favorite number for clean rounds in a major grand prix that I designed was 7. The final tally for the first round tonight was 7 clean rounds. There were no clean rounds with 1 time fault. There were 10 rounds of 4 faults and 2 with 5. There were 3 rounds of 8 faults. Half the class was within 8 faults of making the jump off. The time allowed of 75 seconds was perfect. It was definitely there but if properly ridden was not a weapon. This course encouraged a forward ride without undo speed and supported the technical aspect and the heights and widths within the course.
Two years ago Catsy was the first course designer to use the yellow 18mm cups from start to finish in her 2* class at WEF and this trend has continued ever since by all the course designers. We never need to see more shallow cups unless they are made legal by the FEI. As one can see the proper dimensions were followed and everyone who competed tonight can say that this was a proper 3*. I am a fan of this kind of course design. On the course tonight we had 2 eliminations, 5 vw’s and no falls.
My thoughts go out to Kent Farrington who had a bad fall and suffered a broken leg. I hope for a speedy recovery. No family should forget that this is a difficult and dangerous sport and safety of the rider and horse is the major concern.
Next week we are back under the Saturday night lights in the international ring and will witness the work of Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) in the $384,000 5*CSI Rolex grand prix. Until next week stay safe. I am Dave Ballard.