Wellington, Fla. – Mar. 10, 2020 – Last week we reached Week 9 of the 2020 WEF season, and we had the opportunity to walk Saturday’s featured class, the CSI 5* Douglas Elliman $401,000 Grand Prix. Our course designer for the evening, Alan Wade (IRE), is no stranger to South Florida. The starting field hosted 40 starters, all of which competed. The course consisted of 14 numbered obstacles and 17 efforts. On the course we will see the open water, two liverpools (one closed vertical and one oxer), one triple combination and one double combination. There were also two short pole verticals and one triple bar (in the triple combination). There were no plank jump and no wall. The time allowed is set at 84 seconds and remains unchanged.
The weather Saturday evening was perfect with cool temperatures and a slight breeze. When the weather is this good, there is a great crowd! Having walked the course in advance, there were several comments that this was a very well designed course and that this had been a great season to this point in reference to the course design. We have seen multiple 5* grands prix to this point in the season, and this course is well within the same bounds in height and width as all the others. The only exception is the use of the open water at WEF. There will be three factors to review at the end of the first round: the water, the time allowed and if any of the jumps were a factor in the final result. One other key factor to discuss is whether the time allowed was generous enough to allow the riders to exercise option numbers in the distances between certain jumps. All that being said, I think that it is time to walk the Douglas Elliman CSI 5* $401,000 Grand Prix.
#1 Vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft comes on the left rein away from the in-gate on a distance of 29m or 95ft. Much to my surprise, gravity took hold and ended the evening before it began for six riders when the poles came tumbling down.
#2 Oxer 1.49/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #1 on the left bending rein and destroyed the goal of making it to the jump off for three competitors.
#3 Closed liverpool vertical 1.59m or 5.3ft comes on the full turn right and there were three splash downs into the water tray.
#4a Triple bar 1.55/1.90m or 5.1/6.3ft comes from #3 on the continuing right rein with no given distance (10 strides for most) and resulted in only one denial throughout the evening.
#4b Vertical 1.56m or 5.3ft comes from #4a with a distance of 10.90m or 35.7ft and the solid yellow poles were tarnished two times.
#4c Oxer 1.51/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #4b with a distance of 7.95m or 26ft. Five poles met Mother Earth at #4c and we did have one fall here, but both rider and horse left the arena under their own power.
#5 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes in a straight from #4c with a distance of 18.30m or 60ft and tumbled to the turf only on time.
#6 Narrow oxer 1.54/1.40m or 5.1/4ft comes on the full turn left at and away from the in-gate. The Rolex stopped ticking for four riders.
#7 The open water was 3.80m or 12.6ft and came from #6 on the bending right rein with a distance of 35m or 114ft (seven bending strides for most). There were six toes in the tub Saturday evening.
#8 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes after the water in a straight line with a distance of 25.85m or 84.9ft and fell from the yellow cups only once.
#9 Oxer 1.51/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #8 on a long gallop right to a rollback right turn and fell from grace four times.
#10 Oxer liverpool 1.51/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #9 in a straight line with a distance of 21.80m or 71.6ft and caught only 2 riders.
#11 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #10 on the left rein coming home with no given distance. Fence 11 was the bogey jump tonight with 12 poles kissing mother earth 12 times.
#12a Vertical 1.57m or 5.2ft comes from #11 in a straight line with a distance of 27.20m or 89ft and created chaos on three occasions.
#12b Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from 312a with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and the chaos continued three more times.
#13 was a short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft which came on the left rein deep in the corner of the ring. Here we had one denial and six poles tumble to the turf.
#14 Oxer 1.53/1.75m or 5.1/5.7ft comes from #13 in a straight line with a distance of 23.20m or 75.8ft. This jump not only ended the first round, but also ended the evening for one rider.
The final tally of the first round of the CSI 5* Douglas Elliman showed four riders who advanced to the jump off. There was one rider with only 1 time fault. The time allowed was not an extreme factor in this well-designed course. There were nine riders with 4 faults, three with 5 faults and six with 8 faults. Over 50% of the entries were within two rails of the jump off. The rest will jump another day.
The first observation that I will review is the time allowed. The time allowed in this grand prix was very fair and allowed for riders to add or ride forward on certain lines. Number #1 riding to #2 allowed for the forward seven or the bending eight strides. I think that taking an angle on #1 for the seven strides was more difficult than the straight forward eight, which might have created some mistakes early on the course; thus, the six rails at the first fence. The bending ten strides from #3 to the triple combination also created areas for rider error either in the number of strides taken or the accuracy to the base of the triple bar. In places where this course could not be ridden at 375m/m, Alan gave large areas where the rider could increase speed to make up the deficit and get back on the time allowed. In courses where the time allowed makes all the lines the same for all the entries, the course is horse specific, and it is the horse that can be responsible for the mistakes. When the rider has options on the numbers to be used, they can be responsible for the screw-ups. When the time allowed is too aggressive, the horse is the main factor.
In my personal inventory of what qualifies as a great course, every fence must be a factor, and the course tonight saw every fence on course be a statistic. There was also no serious trend to make the combinations the major factor in the final results. The open water was just another fence on course and was just an average area of difficulty. There is no other jump that, when jumped well, is so spectacular to the spectator.
I do not normally have a negative comment, but tonight I have one. Preloading is a privilege and not a right. Management affords preloading as a time-saving asset, and this is correct. When a rider enters the ring while another is still on course, it is the RESPONSIBILITY of that rider to remain well out of the line of sight of the rider on course. Over the course of several years now, I have witnessed many times riders entering the ring enter space that they should not be near. It is rider to rider courtesy that must be respected, and if riders show disrespect to another, then a ringmaster must be in the ring to tell the preload rider where to go. At Spruce Meadows, you go where you are told to go, or you do not go. Riders must respect the space of other riders.
I know that it is repetitive, but we just had another world-class course from Alan Wade (IRE), and I look forward to many more in the future. It was a job well done. Many thanks to you and to your team. Until next week and Week 10, I am Dave Ballard.