We have arrived at week 9 of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington Florida. This week we will feature the CSI 5* Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix. The purse will be $384,000 and we will see 40 competitors going for the pot of gold at the end of one round and one jump off.
Our course designer for the week has been Alan Wade (IRL) and he is no stranger to South Florida. Alan was the course designer at the Palm Beach National held down the road at Deeridge Farm a couple of weeks ago and there he displayed work that has made him the top course designer in the world at this time. In two weeks we will see him again in Florida where he will design the Ocala Million. Later in the year Alan will be the course designer of the World Equestrian Games in Tryon NC. I believe that Alan is a course designer that uses the specifications of the class to create a course that is aggressive in both height and width and gives the rider a very flowing track and a fair time allowed. When using aggressive height and width and a strong technical aspect the course designer must be fair with the time allowed. In watching more classes during the week than I normally do I saw that this was the case almost all of the classes.
As this is a 5*competition I believe that we may see the most aggressive course of the season. We have had two other 5* events to this point but I think that the field of horses that we will see tonight are at their peak in the season and are ready for a tough but fair test. The weather which has been perfect all season has decided to be less than perfect tonight and has been raining for most of the day. The rain will continue for the first round and I believe played a factor in the final outcome. The weather also affected the crowd which has been a sell all season for the Saturday night classes and tonight there is a small crowd on hand. This smallish crowd will be treated to a great event.
On the course tonight we will have 14 numbered obstacles and 17 efforts. The course will use 2 liverpools, 2 short pole verticals, the open water, a triple bar, 1 double and 1 triple combination. There will be no wall and no plank jump. The time allowed will be set at 86 seconds and will not be changed. There are 40 entries and all will compete. In my preliminary walk and speaking with some coaches they all agreed that the course was big and wide and was very much a rider’s course because of the technical aspect. One international rider and coach said that it was a vertical course and we will explore that at the end of tonight’s walk. It is now time for the walk of the CSI 5* Douglas Elliman Real Estate $384,000 Grand prix.
#1 vertical 1.52m or 5ft comes from almost every rider on the right rein and saw 1 pole and 1 refusal end the evening very quickly for 2 riders.
#2 oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.5ft comes on the bending left line with no given distance and was never faulted on the night.
#3 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #2 on the right turn back and fell to the floor 3 times.
#4 open water 4m or 13ft comes from #3 in a straight line and with a distance of 31m or 101.6ft and found 5 toes in the tub. There was 1 rider that had a refusal going to the water and would be difficult to give the refusal to the water.
#5 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from the water in a straight line with a distance of 28.5m or 93.6ft and kissed mother earth 3 times. Short pole.
#6 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #5 on the left turn back away from the in-gate and created 1 refusal and 2 poles in the sand.
#7 short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #6 in a straight line with a distance of 18m or 59ft and was a serious problem for 10 competitors.
#8 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #7 on the bend right with a distance that I have lost (please forgive my error) and here we saw 1 refusal and 1 pole tumble from the yellow cups. This jump was going directly at the jumbotron and will be discussed at the end of the walk.
#9 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #8 in a straight line with a distance of 19.50m or 63.9ft and also saw 1 refusal and 1 pole in the sand. This jump was also in direct line of sight with the big screen.
#10a triple bar 1.55/1.85 or 5.1/6ft comes from #9 on the right turn back with no distance and here we saw 1 refusal and 3 poles seek the artificial sand.
#10b vertical 1.56m or 5.2ft comes from #10a with a distance of 10.90m or 35.7ft and was the most faulted jump on the course tonight with 16 failures to execute.
#10c oxer 1.51/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #10b on a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and dashed the hopes of 8 riders.
#11 vertical closed Liverpool 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #10c in a straight line with a distance of 25.5m or 83.6ft and splashed down 1 time.
#12 oxer 1.50/1.75m or 5/5.7ft comes across the face of the in-gate on the left rein and a long gallop from #11 and was only the second fence on the course tonight never to be faulted.
#13a vertical 1.56m or 5.1ft comes from #12 in a straight line from #12 with a distance of 22.80m or 74.9ft and tumbled to the turf 3 times.
#13b oxer 1.52/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and fell to the floor 1 time.
#14 oxer 1.54/1.70m or 5.1/5.6ft comes from #13b on the left bend with no given distance and dashed the hopes of 2 riders. This was the last fence in the first round tonight.
The rain has also decided to ease off for the jump off. The final tally will give use 6 clean rounds. There were no clear rounds that resulted in time faults. We saw 14 rounds of 4 faults and 1 round of 5. There were 4 rounds of 8 faults. The important statistic is that half of the class were within 4 faults of jumping for the money. This was an extremely good grand prix. In the end there were 5 VW’s and they will fight another day. There was 1 elimination with 2 refusals and there were no falls. After the first 3 rounds and there was no refusal there was a clean round and when the TA was very close to the clean round there was no possible way to change the TA down. This was a very good thing for everyone. With the size of the course and the technical features and the weather conditions the TA needed to stay where it was.
I believe the weather played a small part in the outcome of the class tonight. I also believe that the big screen also played a part in the outcome of 3 rounds tonight. The big screen is a part of our sport today and for the people in the stands it is important to them and our sport. At night it can be a factor for some of the horses. Another factor in our sport is the water jump. In the class tonight the water was just another jump and in bad weather and under the lights it was just another jump. Before the walk a veteran coach and international rider pointed out that this was a riders course because of the technical questions but also that this was a vertical course. The meaning was that the verticals were the primary tests.
My count shows that verticals were faulted at a rate of over 2 to 1 in favor of the verticals. The verticals counted for 38 rails and the oxers at 16. This was great diagnosis of the course. The triple combination was the biggest test tonight. There were 28 faults at the triple and there were 33 faults on the rest of the course. A course designer does not plan for this result but it happens more than we would like. This was also a course where only 2 jumps remained untouched in the first round. The triple combination stood alone in the approach and with the distance from #10a to #10b on the short (not too short) distance the take off for the triple bar had to be perfect. Some were perfect and many were not. I
t was not an unfair test. I wish Alan Wade (IRL) the best in the coming weeks and the best at WEG. We will see you next year at WEF. Great job all week. Next week it will be week 10 and our course designer will be Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) and will feature the CSI 3* Horseware Ireland $132,000 Grand Prix. Until next week I am Dave Ballard.