We have arrived at week #5 and will host our first 5* CSI grand prix. The presenting sponsor is Fidelity Investments and the prize money will be $384,000. Our course designer for the week has been Kelvin Bywater (GBR) and he is very familiar with the International ring in Wellington. Tonight we will see 40 competitors entered and all will compete.
The course will consist of 13 numbered jumps with 16 efforts. On the course we will see a material count of 58 poles, 12 planks, 2 fillers and 2 liverpools. There will be no wall, no water and no triple bar. There will be a plank vertical, short pole vertical, 1 double and 1 triple combination. The time allowed is set at 73 seconds and will not be changed. The WEF challenge saw 57 starters and jumped for $135,000 on Thursday and as stated there are 40 entries that have come forward tonight.
Although the class tonight is under the lights and on an artificial surface I encourage readers to compare the heights and widths used tonight with the specifications of the 3* and 4* classes of last week which were held on grass and during daylight. I believe that the course tonight will highlight a combination of horse scope and a good test of the riders using the scope of the horse in lengthening and shortening on a few more of the lines than in the earlier grand prix’s.
There were several areas were the riders could add a stride or leave one out and the time allowed was involved in these decisions. The seeding of the riders as in all major FEI classes came into play tonight and as I am not a fan of seeding in our sport I will spend some time at the end of tonight’s walk on the seeding factor. The courses all week have been excellent so let’s begin the walk of the $380,000 Fidelity Investments CSI 5* Grand Prix. The weather is great and a large crowd is on hand to watch the first horse address the first jump.
#1 vertical 1.48m or 4.10ft and was one of 2 jumps tonight that was never faulted.
#2 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #1 on the left bend and with no given distance (7 strides all night) was the early exit for 2 riders.
#3 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on the full left turn with no given distance and tumbled to the floor 5 times.
#4a oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #3 on the bending right rein with a distance of 33.50m or 110ft and was a tough test and proved too tough for 9 riders.
#4b vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #4a with a distance of 7.90m or 26ft and found the sand 3 times.
#4c oxer 1.51/1..60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #4b with a distance of 11.30m or 37ft. This oxer was pushed out of the yellow cups only 1 time.
#5 oxer 1.51/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #4c on the right rein and is in front of the in-gate on no given distance (8 strides all night) and was punished 4 times.
#6 short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #5 in a straight line with a distance of 24.10m or 79ft and across the face of the in-gate and to my surprise was never faulted tonight. The majority of the class did the forward 5 strides but some opted for the 6 quiet strides.
#7 skinny oxer 1.56/1.35m or 5.1/4.3ft comes from #6 on a full right turn back towards the in-gate and kissed the ground 4 times.
#8 oxer liverpool 1.51/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #7 on the bending left turn with no given distance (Hermes Liverpool oxer) and delivered 9 knockout punches.
#9a plank vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #8 in a straight line on a distance of 26.80m or 88ft and slipped from the flat cups 3 times.
#9b oxer 1.51/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #9a with a distance of 8.05m or 26.6ft and fell from grace 4 times.
#10 closed Liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #9b in a straight line with a distance of 18m or 59ft and splashed down 9 times. We also had 1 drive by.
#11 oxer 1.52/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #10 on the full right turn and created 3 failures to execute.
#12 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #11 on the left bend with a distance of 28m or 92ft and had 6 assaults to the top pole.
#13 oxer 1.53/1.70m or 5.1/5.6ft comes from #12 in a straight line on a distance of 21.95m or 72ft and as the final fence of the first round it ended the evening for 5 riders.
The final tally of the first round gives us 2 clear rounds. There were 2 rides that had 1 time fault. There were 9 rounds of 4 faults, 5 rounds of 5 faults, 9 with 8 faults and 4 with 9 faults. The rest will jump another day. Let’s say that half of the class was within 5 faults of the jump off. There were no vw’s but there was 1 elimination resulting from a fall. To this point in the season with have had great course design in the International ring and tonight was no different. There were only 2 for the jump off so one might say that tonight was too difficult. One would be wrong. This was as good as it gets. I asked at the beginning of the walk that a comparison of the previous grand prix’s was in order. This was not too high nor was it too wide. The time allowed was on the aggressive side but very fair. Some will say the TA should have been changed but with the first 3 rides at the beginning having recorded faults and 2 of the 3 were within the time allowed the course designer and the jury had to let the time stand. Here is my problem with seeding in show jumping, the weaker section of the class goes in the first third followed by the middle third and the best in the final third. When 2 of the first 3 go within the TA then if they can be within the time why would they change the TA? Tonight in the final third (13 rides) there were only 2 rides that exceeded the TA. The TA tonight was a little aggressive but extremely fair and was properly left alone. It would be easier for the jury to properly view the TA if there was no seeding. There is also no guarantee that in the first 3 rides that there will be a ride that gives a better view of the time allowed. I do not like seeding for other reasons but they can wait for another walk. Kelvin’s course deserved a better result tonight but that is show jumping. My beginning in course design was based in the British tradition and so I am a fan of what we saw tonight and know we will see kelvin again next year. Next week (week 6) we will see the grass again at the derby field and the dressage stadium with Catsy Cruz (MEX) as the course designer. I always favor the grass so until next week I am Dave Ballard.