It is a long drive to Ocala on a Sunday morning (4 hours) but I am here for the Great American Million Grand Prix. This is the second million dollar grand prix on the HITS circuit in two weeks with one on the west coast and now the second in Florida. The million in California was a great success with a brilliant course and really good jumping results. Our course designer this week was a familiar face with Alan Wade (IRL) at the helm and we have come to expect nothing but the best in course design.
This will be an afternoon class with good cool weather (maybe a little too breezy for me) but great conditions for this event. There is a good crowd on hand and the local population support this event. As I have said in the past the jumps are very good and they are different from the standard colors that we see at WEF. Seeing something different in the jumps is good for the sport. The jumps are of great quality at both venues but seeing something different makes for better jumping.
There are 44 entries entered and 42 will compete. The time allowed is set at 85 seconds and will remain there. There are 14 numbered obstacles and there will be 18 efforts. We will not see a wall, open water and there will be no plank jump (the wind was a factor). The course will show 1 triple combination and 2 doubles. I believe that the use of 3 combinations 1 of which is a triple is a serious choice for the course designer. I believe using these 3 combinations is a walk on the wild side and should never be used at a lower level of show jumping as the degree of difficulty will focus on the combinations and less experienced fields of competitors may not need this focus. However in a million dollar class and with this mixed field of competitors this choice of difficulty is a fair test. The course will show 2 liverpools and a triple bar. A factor in jumping in this ring is the slope of the surface. The ring slopes from the in-gate down to the far end of the ring and when walking the distances between the jumps when going up and down the slope a rider must consider the slope. In the international ring at WEF there is a crown down the middle that can affect the walk and the Derby field (my favorite) is for the most part very flat.
There are invitations that are given to riders that have not competed in Ocala enough to qualify for standard entry and they will compete at the beginning of the class. This is a national level grand prix and not FEI rated competition and will be held under national rules. This is also 1.50m or 5ft class. Under national rules there will 2 verticals at 1.60m or 5.3ft.
It is now time to begin the walk of the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix.
#1 vertical 1.50m or 5ft and saw 1 rider hit the showers early.
#2 oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft comes from #1 on the left turn on no given distance and found the artificial footing 5 times.
#3 vertical short poles come from #2 in a straight line with a distance of 18.10m or 59.3ft and fell from grace 4 times.
#4a vertical 1.53m or 5ft comes from #3 on the right rein and no given distance and fell from the yellow cups 4 times.
#4b oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft with a distance of 8.05m or 26.3ft and was buried in the sand 4 times and created 1 refusal.
#5 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #4b with a distance of 22m or 72ft. With the slope up towards the in-gate the quiet 5 strides rode fairly normal.
#6 triple bar 1.53/2.00m or 5/6.6ft comes from #5 on the right rein past the in-gate and back down the slope. The spread was made easier because of the downhill ride and was only faulted 1 time. Please refer to the CaptiveOne grand prix on the grass yesterday and how flat ground and the triple bar had different results. This triple bar was also used more as a set up jump for the following test rather than a stand alone effort.
#7a vertical 1.54m or 5.1ft comes from #6 in a straight with a distance of 19.20m or 62.9ft and fell to the floor 5 times. Down the slope this distance was shorter than it walked.
#7b vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #7a with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and also tumbled to the floor 5 times. Down the slope this combination rode very short.
#8 oxer Liverpool 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #7b in a straight line with no given distance (8-9 strides) and rode forward in the 8 strides and down the hill the extra width was negated and saw only 2 poles reach the floor.
#9 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft (mandatory 1.60m or 5.3ft vertical) comes on a long gallop on the left rein and suffered 2 fatal falls.
#10a oxer 1.49/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #9 in a straight line with a distance of 25m or 82ft and found the sand 3 times. This distance up the hill would suggest the 6 strides but up the hill at this triple rode technical in the 7 strides 99% of the time. The 6 was attempted a couple of times and did not work.
#10b oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #10a with a distance of 10.80m or 35.6ft and bit the dust 5 times.
#10c vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from *10b with a distance of 7.85m or 25.7ft and won the bogey award as it was pushed to the sand 11 times.
#11 vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #10c on the soft bend left with a distance of 27m or 88.6ft and kissed mother earth 4 times.
#12 oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.54m comes on the full turn left past and away from the in-gate and fell from the clouds 7 times.
#13 vertical closed liverpool 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #12 on the right rein and splashed down 6 times.
#14 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #13 in a straight line with a distance of 23.20m or 76ft and the last fence in the first round and was embarrassed 3 times.
The Great American million grand prix was a great success. The final results of the first round are as follows- there were 5 clean, 1 round of 1 time fault, 5 rounds of 4 faults, 2 rounds of 5 faults, 4 rounds of 6 faults and 7 rounds of 8 faults. The rest will fight another day. We had 1 fall resulting in elimination and there were 3 vw,s. The TA was perfect and a major benchmark was that every jump was faulted at least once.
We have been treated to 2 very good 1 million dollar classes in the last 2 weeks and they have given a cross section of the best in the USA in the equestrian show jumping sport. We have some of the best horses and riders in the world and we have seen course design from the best in the world with some established course designers and some of the up and coming designers. I hope that this will continue. Later this week I will compare the million in the desert course with the course that we had today and then the final walk under the lights next Saturday. Until then I am Dave Ballard. Ps. Congratulations Beezie.