Course Discourse: $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*

Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 11, 2020 – Week Five of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, brought us our first 5* grand prix. With $401,000 total prize money on the line, the competitors had their work cut out for them in last Saturday’s $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*. For Week Five’s Saturday Night Lights feature, our course designer was Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA).

Before we begin the walk-through, I would like to mention two events that took place on this same weekend. The first was the birthday party held by Eric Lamaze for his very good friend Kim Kirton on Saturday night. The party began before the grand prix (which little did he know, but Eric would be in the jump off that evening!), and so many friends went to the grand prix and then to the party. I want to thank Eric for this expression of friendship for our good friend Kim.

The second event occurred on Sunday night when Ilan Ferder tied the knot with Lexi Glover-Shaw. It was a lovely ceremony, and the farm was decorated in an amazing setting. The party tent was spectacular with amazing floral arrangements, lighting and really good food. The heart of the story goes out to the entertainment. It was over the top. I wish the best for Ilan and Lexi. With a small accounting of the Oscars, this was a very busy weekend, and I hope that this week will pass with a little less activity.

Now onto the 5* grand prix. The course featured a double and triple combination, the wall, a triple bar, two liverpools (one closed vertical and one oxer) and a short pole vertical. There was more use of the 10ft material than in previous weeks. There will be no plank jump and, again, no water. The time allowed was set at 80 seconds and was not changed. There were 40 entries with no scratches. The course showed 14 numbers and 17 efforts. The weather all week has again been unsettled, but tonight the conditions are perfect for show jumping. When the weather is this good, the crowd is usually large, and last Saturday was no exception! The stands were packed full of excited fans for the week’s highlight class.

#1 Vertical 1.52m or 5.1ft comes across the in-gate on the right rein and did not hit the ground throughout the evening.

#2 Triple bar 1.53/1.95m or 5.1/6.3ft comes on a bending right rein with a distance of 40m or 131ft. This jump also did not cause any issues for riders over the course of the night.

#3 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #2 in a straight line with a distance of 28.70m or 94ft. Again, this jump was on its best behavior and did not receive any punishment.

   #4a Oxer 1.52/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #3 on a full left turn and was the first of the night to be tortured a total of four times.

#4b oxer 1.52/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #4a with a distance of 11.10m or 36ft and was punched to the floor one time.

#5 Vertical 1.56m or 5.1ft comes from #4b on the bending left rein with a distance of 47m or 154ft. This was yet another obstacle that remained in the yellow cups all night.

#6 Oxer/liverpool 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes in a straight line from #5 with a distance of 18.60m or 61ft. The poles came down and caused ripples in the water four times.

#7 The wall, which is 1.60m or 5.3ft, comes on the full rollback right turn at and away from the in-gate and was taken down one time.

#8a is the start of our triple combination and is a vertical 1.56m or 5.1ft. It comes from #7 in a straight line with a distance of 27.30m or 89ft, and kissed the sand five times.

#8b Oxer 1.52/1.65 or 5/5.4ft comes from #8a with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft. #8B was the big bogey fence on course this evening with 14 poles being removed from the top cups.

Our triple combination wrapped with #8c which was a vertica,l 1.56m or 5.1ft. #8c comes from #8b with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and caressed the carpet 2 times.  

#9 Oxer 1.52/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #8c on the bending left rein with a distance of 41m or 134ft. Luckily, this jump only hit the ground one time tonight. 

#10 Vertical 1.58m or 5.2ft comes from #9 in a straight line with a distance of 15.40m or 50.6ft. This jump heads right into the Jumbotron, but only one entry was distracted on the course tonight.  

#11 Closed liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #10 on a full left rein turn and there were five poles in the pool over the course of the night’s class.

  #12 Oxer 1.52/1.75m or 5/5.7ft comes from #11 in a straight line with a distance of 23m or 75.4ft and using the up and down feature of going across the crown of the arena, this fence was disabled one time.  

#13 Oxer 1.53/1.85m or 5.1/6ft comes from #12 on the right bending line with a distance of 46m or 150ft. Even with this being the widest oxer on the course tonight, it had only four meetings with Mother Earth.        

#14 Vertical 1.63m or 5.4ft comes from #13 in a straight line with a distance of 25.80m or 84.6ft. This was the last fence in the first round tonight and gravity had to enter the picture and pull six poles to the sand.

We will now tally up the results of the first round. There were 12 clear rounds and no rounds with a time fault. There were nine rounds of 4 faults, three with 5 faults, six with 8 faults and three with 9. The rest will jump another day. There were no falls and no eliminations. There was one voluntary withdrawal.

There were five clean in the first half and seven in the second half, followed by five clean rounds as the final eight riders contested the track. The seeding has, in some cases, a reason for some disappointment with the course designer. We have discussed this at length over the first weeks, and there is not much more that I can add. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. However, when your jump off includes Eric Lamaze, Kent Farrington, and McLain Ward and your course is designed for pure speed, it does not get any better for the spectators.

All-in-all it was a good class and great jump off. Well done, Anthony! Now we will move on to my yearly rant about the water jump. We are now entering week six, and the International Ring has not seen the water. I do not care if the water is used in the grand prix classes, but there are classes where it can be introduced for the development of riders and horses. The water can be used in so many ways that if you do not wish to jump it, you do not need to. The use of the water should be spread out over the full 12 weeks and not just the final third of the season. I think I provided enough statistics last year that when the water was used at night, the jump was no more of a factor than any other jump. There is no bigger stage for international jumping in the world than Wellington in the winter, and until it is removed from competition, it is essential that developing riders and horses be given the opportunity to gain experience at the water jump. If you have a horse that you wish to sell as an international jumper, you will be asked to prove their ability to jump the water. If you have a student wishing to compete internationally, they must have a mount that jumps the water. I have said enough about the water, for now.

Next week we have another doubleheader with major classes at Deeridge and WEF. Deeridge will feature the Longines Nations Cup on Sunday afternoon (qualifier for the nations cup final in the fall in Barcelona Spain) and the Palm Beach Masters 5* grand prix on the grass Saturday afternoon. WEF will feature the $137,000 CSI 3* grand prix in the dressage stadium on Friday night at 7 p.m. The WEF 3* qualifier will also be held in the AGDF stadium on Thursday at 11 a.m. Until next week, I am Dave Ballard.

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