We have arrived at week 6 and the first of the CSI5* rated events on the winter circuit. There will be another 3 weeks of 5*competitions. Our course designer has been Kelvin Bywater (GBR) and he is no stranger to the international ring at WEF.
To begin the week for our 5* riders and their mounts there was the WEF qualifier on Thursday with 51 riders starting. Kelvin is a good friend and has been for many years. He is one of the best course designers that is working today anywhere in the world and he provided the best WEF course to this point in the season. My daughter won her first 5* WEF qualifier and was one of only 7 riders to advance to the jump off. When I walked the course before it began my impression of the course was that it was a really good test for the first 5*. The fact that Erynn won was only icing on the cake. The monetary value of the WEF qualifier was $134,000 and the sponsor was Equinimity. At the end of the walk tonight I will spend a moment on the history of the WEF qualifiers and their rise as major standalone grand prix competitions.
Tonight’s event will show 40 entries and all will compete. The course will consist of 13 numbered obstacles and 16 efforts. On the course we will see 1 triple combination, 1 double combination, a plank vertical, 2 liverpools, and 1 short pole vertical (8ft). There is no wall, triple bar or open water. (I will be presenting facts that show that the water at night at this venue has been nothing more than the average jump in the outcome of the first round. I am in the process of gathering these facts and will present them in the near future). The time allowed is set at 79 seconds and will not be changed.
Our CD has created a course that makes very good use of the whole ring and this is good for the spectators all around the ring. The weather is a little humid but there is a nice breeze and the large crowd on hand for the class tonight should be very comfortable. It is now time to walk the $391,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI5*.
#1 oxer 1.45/1.50m or 4.10/5ft starts the class off on the fence line and the riders will approach on the left rein. In my years as a CD my first fence in a major class was with very few exceptions an oxer. The oxer as the first fence should be a mild test but a test. Using a vertical or the triple bar is in most cases giving away the first fence. The first fence is part of the course and therefore should be involved in the outcome of the first round. (Major classes) Tonight the first fence ended the evening very quickly for 3 riders.
#2 oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft comes from #1 on the left rein and with no given distance (8 strides for 97%) and tumbled to the floor only 1 time.
#3 short pole vertical all black comes from #2 in a straight line with a distance of 19.50m or 64ft and had 2 rails find terra firma. We also had a fall and 1 elimination at #3.
#4 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #3 on a right angle right turn with no given distance (9 strides) and was tossed from the yellow cups 1 time.
#5a vertical 1.54m or 5.1ft comes from #4 on a full turn right and the top rail vanished 3 times.
#5b oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft comes from #5a with a distance of 8.05m or 26.6ft and remained intact the whole of the first round.
#6 liverpool oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #5b in a straight line with a distance of 25.30m or 83ft and splashed down 2 times.
#7 plank vertical 1.59m or 5.3ft comes from #6 on the bending left rein with no given distance (7 strides) and was 1 of 3 obstacles to remain intact in the first round.
#8 oxer 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes on a full turn right at the far end of the ring and met mother earth 2 times.
#9 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on a full rollback turn on the right rein and also met with mother earth 2 times.
#10 closed Liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on the left turn and left rein and was the bogy fence on the course tonight with 6 splash downs.
#11a oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes in a straight line from #10 with a distance of 23.25m or 76ft and was reduced in height 1 time.
#11b oxer 1.50/1.30m or 5/4.3ft comes from #11a with a distance of 11m or 36ft and fell to the floor 2 times.
#11c vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #11b with a distance of 8.35m or 27.6ft and was the final obstacle not faulted in the first round tonight.
#12 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #11c on the left rein towards the in-gate with no given distance (7strides) and fell from the sky 5 times.
#13 oxer 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft and was the final fence in the first round. The last fence was the last fence to be jumped for 3 riders.
We have now ended the walk of the $391,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI5*. I have asked this question before: who wants to be a course designer? The final tally of the first round will give us 18 clear rounds. There was I round with 1 time fault and 9 rounds of 4 faults. There were 2 rounds of 5 faults and 5 with 8. That leaves only a few with more faults but they will jump again another day. We had 1 VW and 1 fall resulting in elimination. There will be questions as to why there were so many clean rounds and I can only give my personal opinion. The TA was set at 79 seconds and the first rider was well under the time but with 12 faults. The second was slow but with 8 faults. The third rider was clean and in the middle time wise. I think they should have reduced the time 2 seconds maybe 3. It is the decision of the jury and the course designer in cooperation with each other to make that decision. They did not change the time allowed.
As I said at the beginning of the walk I liked the use of the ring for this track. As I have also stated in previous walks the quality of both riders and horses at WEF is as good as it gets anywhere in the world at this time of the year. The decision of the course designer as to what tests he will incorporate into any course is based on many factors such as prize money, star rating (5*tonight) and the calibre of horse and rider. There are other factors such as footing, jump material, weather, ring size and time of day. The course tonight showed that the competition was equal to the course and the tests therein. In the end the riders found the right numbers and they all did the same thing and they had ample time in which to them. One must realize that this is just week 5 of 12 and there are 3 more 5*weeks to come and these horses will be called upon to jump again. There is no way that Kelvin wanted or foresaw the results tonight but it is what it is. All course designers will have days or nights like this and life will go on. The eventual winner tonight was also the silver medal winners at WEG in the fall in Tryon. The cream does come to the top.
Next week we drop back to the 3* level and we will see more jumping on the Derby Field. Catsy Cruz (MEX) will be at the helm and we will also have another week at Deeridge and the Longines Nations Cup in children’s, Junior and young rider divisions and also the senior nations cup teams. These youth competitions will be held in the sand ring and the senior Nations cup on the grass. Until next week I am Dave Ballard.