We are getting to the end of the winter season in south Florida as we begin the walk of WEF 10 and the $134,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI3*. Before I begin the walk I have a few comments on week 9 and the $391,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5*. For the first time in 11 years I missed walking this grand prix due to a very bad cold. The course designer was Alan Wade (IRL) and he continued his consistent, well-received course design. Alan is the hardest working CD that I know of today and every week provides competitors with the very best in course design. This was a 5* week and the WEF qualifier was the stoutest course to date this season. Most horses are at their best at this point in the winter season and this qualifier needed to be tough enough for competitors to go forward to Saturday night. The WEF had extremely good results. The water jump was not used in this class but the riders knew that the water would be used in the Saturday night class. As I stated I was sick and did not come to the arena for the class but I did live stream the class from home. The class was another well designed track and the results were very good with enough clean rounds and many 4 fault rounds. Alan Wade deserves the position as the leading course designer in the world today. (The water saw only 2 toes in the tub under the lights.) We now move to week 10 and the $134,000 CSI3*.
Week 10 will feature the course design of Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) and this will not be an easy week to be the course designer because this week will also see the Million in the desert in Thermal, California, and several of the major horses and riders have departed Florida to compete for the money in Thermal. This is also a week before the HITS Million Grand Prix in Ocala, Florida, and many additional horses will be rested this week before going up to Ocala next week. As we are nearing the end of the 2019 season here in Wellington some horses are being rested before the final 2 major classes. Tonight we will see some riders stepping up to the 3* level and many new mounts competing under the lights to gain more experience competing at night. The WEF Qualifier on Thursday was a class that saw more in the jump off than we have seen over the season but it was daytime and Michel needed to see what could be done on Saturday night.
The $134,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI3* will host 45 starters and all will compete. The course will show 14 numbered obstacles and 17 efforts. We will see a triple and a double combination, 2 liverpools, a wall and a triple bar. We will not see the water (not needed as we have seen it for 2 weeks and will see it again at least once in the final 2 weeks). There will be no plank and no short pole vertical. The time allowed is set at 81 seconds and will remain there. The TA was slightly aggressive but more than fair. This course was very related and was also very related in the qualifier. When a course is related in this way the numbers between the jumps are almost the same for every rider. There were some riders that did some options but they were for the most part not the best decision. The same numbers for everyone also can negate the TA as a test. If the numbers get the ride within the TA then riders are inclined to do the same numbers. There are always horse specific exceptions. It is now time for the walk of the $134,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI3*.
#1 vertical 1.48m or 4.11ft comes toward the in-gate and was 1 of only 2 fences not to be faulted tonight.
#2 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #1 on the soft right bending rein and with a distance of 29.9m or 98 ft. This fence was at the in-gate and with a little extra width for #2 we had 6 poles bite the dust.
#3 vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes on a roll back turn on the right rein at and away from the in-gate and was not faulted on the night.
#4 the wall 1.55 or 5.1ft comes away from the in-gate on the left rein and with no given distance was broken down 1 time. The wall used in this manner sets up the line and given distance to the next fence which happens to be the triple combination. The competitor who had the wall down received only 4 faults on the whole course.
#5a oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.3ft comes from #4 in a straight line with a distance of 26.9m or 88ft. These forward 6 strides created 4 failures to execute.
#5b vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #5a with a distance of 10.90m or 36ft and met mother earth 6 times and received 1 refusal.
#5c oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #5b with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft tumbled from the top cups 4 times.
#6 closed Liverpool vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #5c on a turn back on the left rein and result in 6 splash downs.
#7 triple bar 1.50/1.95m or 5/6.4ft comes from #6 on the right rein. This bending line did have an option of the number of strides but the riders stayed on the forward movement and the leave out not only for the TA but for the width of the triple bar. The triple bar collapsed 5 times.
#8 vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes in a straight line from #7 with a distance of 18m or 59ft and created a quiet line of 4 strides and saw 4 poles touch down.
#9 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #8 on a bending left rein with a distance of 27.4m or 90ft and was the forward 6 strides 99% of the time. The top poles fell from the sky 4 times.
#10 liverpool oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes on the left turn back at and away from the in-gate and was a problem for some of the competitors with 3 refusals. One combination had 2 refusals and therefore elimination. There were also 7 splashdowns.
#11a vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #10 on the right bending line with a distance of 29.3m or 96ft and is going directly towards the big screen. My opinion about the big screen is that it does affect the focus of some horses. This vertical saw 6 poles tumble to the turf and created 1 refusal.
#11b oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #11a with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and with the forward 1 stride and the big screen getting closer this oxer became the bogey fence on the evening with 13 rails coming to rest on the artificial surface.
#12 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #11b in a straight line with a distance of 19.80m or 65ft. These flat 4 strides at the base of the big screen created 1 refusal and the removal of 3 poles from the top of the vertical.
#13 oxer 1.50/1.65 or 5/5.4ft comes on the right turn back to come home. This oxer saw 4 poles fall from grace.
#14 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #13 in a straight line with a distance of 22.5m or 74ft and as the last fence in the first round proved to be the second most difficult with 12 disappointing finishes.
The final tally of the first round of the Horseware Ireland CSI3* will show that there were 4 clean rounds, 2 rounds of 1 time fault, 9 rounds of 4 faults, 4 with 5 faults and 7 rounds of 8 faults. That covers more than half the entries and the rest will compete another day. There were 2 VW’s and 1 elimination with 2 refusals. I know you may think that I am always in favor of the course and the course designer and most of the time I am. Tonight there will be no change in my thoughts. This was a good 3* track and given a very diverse group of competitors and their mounts these were very good results. There were 2 clear before the drag break and 2 more in the last half. I am not a fan of seeding in our sport. I would like to go back to a random draw. I have 2 main reasons to say this. One is that with the weakest going first the course can create a feeling that the course is not the way an individual may have walked and that it looks easier or harder than originally thought. For the spectator it makes each round more exciting when they are not waiting until after the drag break or the final few (the last 2 minutes of a basketball game). Some spectators may have had the opinion that this was a killer course tonight after the first 11 rounds but when got past that point the faults were far less and proved to be a tough track but fair. If you failed to notice this was ladies night with all 4 clean rounds provided by the ladies (2 Canadians – well done). One other personal observation was the big screen. I know that the big screen is a fact of life in most sport today and I acknowledge that but I think that sometimes it can be a factor at night with the focus of the horse. I think that tonight the screen could have been a factor for some horses that may have had less experience with night classes and the screen. Thanks to Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) for an entertaining course and look forward to your work next year. Next week is a big week as we go back to a 4* and the derby field and a Saturday 11 a.m. grand prix start. The courses will be provided by Olaf Petersen Jr who is one of my favorite CD’s. I will also take a road trip to Ocala on Sunday for the Great American Million. Until next week I am Dave Ballard.