The Winter Equestrian Festival has finished the eleventh week of show jumping with the major class of the series. The $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix is the premier class of the circuit. This year there would have been a conflict of dates with the World Cup finals in Omaha next week so week 11 will host The Rolex instead of week 12. As the monetary value of the grand prix goes up we cannot expect the heights and widths of the course to do the same. The course designer must stay within the rules of the FEI when creating a $216,000 3* or a $380,000 4* and all other levels of stars. This venue has always tried to provide the competitors here with many of the best course designers in the world for our season. The roster of course designers has had a couple of changes over the last few years but the course designers that build here have a solid knowledge of the footing, material and the competitors that they will be building for.
Having this knowledge we have been on the receiving end of some terrific courses and competition. Tonight we will see the result of this combined knowledge. The course designer for this week has been Guilherme Jorge(BRA). Gui was the Olympic course designer for the Rio games and is also a permanent member of the course designer support group of the WEF series. With a half million in prize money in tonight’s class I would expect to see the use of height and width and with added technicality that this course will be a serious test. As I have stated in the past when those factors are present in the course that the time allowed should be fair, not too tight and not to generous. It should be an equal test along with the others on the course. In a grand prix of this calibre the water jump should be a serious consideration. It was and is in the course tonight.
There are 40 entries tonight and 40 will start. The course will have 14 numbered obstacles and there will be 17 efforts. In the course we will see a wall, triple bar, short pole vertical, 2 liverpools, the water jump, 1 double combination, 1 triple combination and there will be no plank jump. The time allowed will be set at 84 seconds and will not be changed. The material count shows us that there are 56 poles, 7 planks and there will be 4 fillers. We will also see the wall, the open water and 2 liverpools. Once again the weather is perfect, there is a great crowd on hand and the ring looks terrific. I believe that is now time for the walk of the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix.
#1 the wall 1.50m or 5ft and the wall was never faulted on the evening.
#2 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes with no given distance on the right bend from #1 and ended the evening for 7 entries.
#3 oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes on the left bend from #2 on no given distance but the popular stride count was 8.This fence was never faulted tonight.
#4 the open water 4m or 13ft comes from #3 on a full turn left away from the in-gate. This long gallop away from the in-gate resulted in only 4 toes in the tub. I believe that this should finally end the notion that the open water at night is so difficult that it should never be used. The water jump is a very valuable tool in major show jumping and when used the proper way in all classes where it can and should be used we should use it.
#5 vertical short poles 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on a straight line from the water on a distance of 28.3m or 92.9ft and disappeared from the top cups 5 times.
#6a vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes from #5 on the bending left rein with a distance of 27.5m or 90.3ft and was pushed to the ground 3 times.
#6b oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.5ft the distance in this double combination from A to B was 8m or 26.3ft and kissed the sand only 1 time.
#7 triple bar 1.55/2.00m or 5.1/6.6ft with a Liverpool underneath comes from #6b on the left turn and a long gallop from #6b and the spread was shortened 6 times.
#8 vertical 1.59m or 5.3ft, comes from #7 on a distance of 21.5m or 70.6ft and found mother earth 5 times.
#9a oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #8 on the right rein with no given distance and was pushed from the yellow cups 6 times.
#9b oxer 1.53/1.60m or 5.1/5.3ft with a distance of 11m or 36ft from #9a and was the most difficult question of the night and caused heartbreak on 14 occasions.
#9c vertical 1.56m or 5.2ft with a distance of 7.9m or 25.9ft and was 1 of 4 fences not faulted on the evening.
#10 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes on the right turn directly away from the in-gate and departed the top cups 4 times.
#11 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes across the in-gate on the left rein and found its way to the ground 4 times.
#12 vertical closed Liverpool 1.60m or 5.3ft comes on a full rollback turn left away from the in-gate and was the fourth fence not to get dirty or wet on the evening.
#13 oxer 1.54/1.80m or 5.1/5.8ft on a distance of 31m or 101ft from #12 with a small bend right and caused grief 6 times.
#14 narrow oxer 1.57/1.20m or 5.3/3.9ft on a distance of 18.5m or 60.9ft from #13 and ended the evening for 3 competitors.
This was the end of the first round of the $500,000 Rolex grand prix and now for the final tally: There were 5 clear rounds and 1 clear round with 1 time fault. There were 11 rounds of 4 faults and 2 with 5 faults. We also saw 7 rounds with 8 and 2 with 9 and 1 with 10. My final count will end with 3 rounds of 12 faults. There were 3 vw’s and no falls or refusals. In the end there were no riders that completed the course with more than 16 faults and there were only 2 with 16.
These are outstanding results for such a major event and my congratulations go out to Guilhere for making this a great evening. The TA was perfect and the use of the yellow cups throughout the course has given something back to the horses and the riders. In a season where we have had great course design every week this Saturday night class will go to the top of my ranking list.
There is still one more week (week 12) and we have another Saturday night 4* grand prix with Olaf Petersen Jr.(GER) at the helm and he is no stranger to the international ring. I am leaving early tomorrow to walk the $1,000,000 Great American Grand Prix in Ocala and would really like the followers of this walk to compare the dimensions of both these classes as I think it will be a great comparison. After the comparison of the courses and the final results you will be amazed. Until next week I am Dave Ballard