We have reached the top of the mountain and it is all downhill from here. Week 7 of the 12 WEF grand prix will take place tonight under the Saturday night lights. The class tonight is the $391,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic Grand Prix CSI5*. Our course designers for the week have been Anthony D’Ambrosio and Andy Christiansen Jr. (both USA) and together they will produce the test for tonight’s class. There are 40 entered and with 4 scratches and 1 add we will see 37 entries cross the start line.
The course will consist of 14 numbered obstacles and 17 efforts. There will be 3 double combinations, plank vertical, a wall, triple bar, short pole vertical and 2 liverpools. The time allowed is set at 84 seconds and will remain at 84 seconds. The weather is very humid and since the sun has gone down the temperature is ok. Once again there is a good crowd on hand and I feel that there is more excitement about the class tonight than a couple in the past. This is a CSI 5*($391,000) and at the midway point in the season I expect that many horses are close to top form and I expect that the course will reflect this level.
It is nice to show case American course designers at this point in the season and especially Anthony and a newcomer working his way into the international ring (Andy Christiansen) as the focus to this point has been course designers from other parts of the world. Next week we will see Steve Stephens and these two course designers (USA) have contributed to decades of course designing around the world at the highest levels. It is now time to begin the walk of the $391,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic Grand Prix CSI5*.
#1 vertical 1.50m or 5ft comes on the left rein and abruptly ended the evening for 1 competitor.
#2 oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #1 in a straight line with a distance of 32m or 104.9ft and riders could choose the up 7 strides or the soft 8 strides. This oxer shortened the evening for 3 competitors.
#3 the wall 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on the full turn left and was never punished tonight.
#4 oxer 1.52/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes on the right rein and soft bend and was rolled from the top cups 1 time.
#5a triple bar 1.55/1.95m or 5.1/6.4ft comes from #4 on the right rein with a bending distance of 38m or 124ft and the back rail found terra firma 4 times.
#5b vertical 1.57m or 5.2ft comes from #5a with a distance of 11.50m or 37.7ft and here we saw 1 refusal and 1 pole fall from grace.
#6 Plank vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #5b on the bending right rein with a distance of 37m or 121ft. This black plank has been in this similar position in a couple of Saturday night classes and had very similar results. 1 plank was pushed to the floor tonight.
#7 oxer Liverpool 1.52/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes on a left turn back at the far end of the ring and met mother earth in the pool 5 times.
#8a oxer 1.52/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #7 on the bending left rein with a distance of 41m or 134ft and prompted some difficulty with 8 diamond cuts and 1 refusal.
#8b closed Liverpool vertical comes from #8a with a distance of 7.80m or 25.6ft and was the most difficult test on the course tonight. This closed Liverpool vertical created 7 splash downs and 2 refusals. 1 refusal resulted in a fall (just got wet) and thus1 elimination. I will elaborate on this combination at the end of tonight’s walk.
#9 oxer 1.55/1.50m or 5.1/5ft comes from #8b in a straight line with a distance 27.50m or 90.3ft and found ground zero 1 time.
#10 oxer 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes on the right rein across the face of the in-gate and was lowered 4 times.
#11 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes in a straight line from #10 with distance of 14.3m or 46.9ft and was dashed from the yellow cups only 2 times. I picked this line of 3 strides as the biggest problem line on the course tonight. I was really wrong. Please go to some other walks and compare the 3 stride line distances.
#12a vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes on a full turn right and again across the face of the in-gate and was punished 2 times.
#12b oxer 1.52/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #12a with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and it too was punished 2 times.
#13 short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #12b away from the in-gate on the left rein with a bending distance or 42m or 137ft and was damaged 7 times.
#14 oxer 1.53/1.65m or 5.1/5.4ft comes from #13 in a straight line with a distance of 22.5m or 73.9ft and as the last fence in the first round it was the last fence for 2 riders. There was also 1 refusal.
The final tally of the first round will show that there were 6 clean rounds. This is a great result when considering many factors. The seeding of this class gave 3 clear in the first half and 3 clear after the break. There were 3 rounds of 1 time fault. When I was with Anthony and Andy before the class began someone asked Anthony what he wanted in clear rounds and his reply was that he would be very happy with 6 to 8 clean. He got his wish with a great 5* course. There were 10 rounds of 4 faults, 2 with 5 and 4 with 8 faults. More than half the class were within 4 faults of making the jump off. The rest will jump another day. We had 4 VW’s and they were riders that choose not to finish and record a score for rider points. They had accumulated enough faults that they could save there horse for another day. We had 1 elimination due to refusals and 1 elimination due to a fall that resulted from a refusal. The time allowed was aggressive but very fair. The more aggressive time allowed is now a fact of life in show jumping and riding at a more aggressive pace must be taught at some lower levels so it does not become a serious problem when young riders move up. Young horse at a certain point in their young careers must also be taught to jump clean at a faster pace.
We have beautiful standards to build these major courses but the fill becomes really, really boring. The fill is the same every week and it can become boring for the horses. They see the same fill week after week and the result can lead to some indifference and therefore carless jumping on their part. We do not see the water and this is wrong. (Next week we will see the water because it must be used in the Nations Cup) In the first combination tonight we had an oxer 2 stride vertical closed Liverpool and this was the most difficult part of the course. This is the first time this season that a Liverpool has been used in a combination. Because it was the first time quite a few horses had a good look at it and were a little intimidated by the look. We need to create some new fill that creates new looks to the jumps. The Liverpool in the combinations gets us back in a small way to what courses used to look like. Not all things that come from back in the day need to be replaced. Some things are worth keeping around or bringing back, please. I think that the course tonight was as good as we have had this season and was made better by a very exciting jump off and a great win for Danielle Goldstein.
Thanks to Anthony D’Ambrosio and Andy Christiansen (USA) for a great night and look forward to future courses. Next week we have the Rolex Nations Cup week (WEF 8) and Steve Stephens/ Nick Granat .(USA) The feature grand prix will be the $209,000 Lugano Diamonds CSIO 4* and will be in the international ring on Sunday afternoon. The international ring will host the Nations Cup on Friday night. Until next week I am Dave Ballard.