Wellington, Fla. – March 9, 2017 – Rising talent dominated the Winter Equestrian Festival with three riders under 30 placing in the top five in five star competition. Japan’s Karen Polle and the United State’s Lillie Keenan scored the top two spots, respectively, in the $130,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup CSI5*, followed by Lauren Hough and Lucy Davis as six athletes delivered double clear performances.
The 1.40m track, skillfully built by Irish course designer, Alan Wade, saw 51 combinations try their efforts over the 16-fence course, yet only twelve horse and rider pairs were able to pull off clear rounds to qualify for the jump-off.
Hough set the time to beat as the first rider to return for the jump-off and produce a clear round with Cornet 39. The pair crossed the finish line in 38.53 seconds, but they would not stay at the top of the leaderboard for long as Polle and With Wings entered the arena for the second time. They fired through the timers two seconds ahead of Hough with a time of 36.71 seconds and all of the rails intact.
“I thought the jump-off was really fun. I think for Wings it really suited him well, because you could get a gallop and kind of cruise through and watch the verticals. There were two places where you could leave out strides so I think that really helped me.”
Polle, who has been training since October under the expertise of Olympic gold medalist and show jumping legend, Rodrigo Pessoa, said that she felt there was a place where she could leave a stride out and edge out the competition when discussing her strategy going into the jump-off.
“In the last line, we were planning on eight originally, but when I was going over it, I was like, ‘Rodrigo, I really feel like there’s a seven there.’ Everyone else was really waiting, and he’s like, ‘Okay, but if you really want it you need to meet it just right. Otherwise you should do eight.’ And then I met it really well and I was like, ‘I’m just going to go.'”
Lillie Keenan and Skyhorse narrowly missed Polle’s jump-off time, and ended up earning 38.14 seconds to clinch the red ribbon. Young rider and Olympic silver medalist Lucy Davis rounded out the top four after producing a clear effort in 38.954 seconds with Cassis 54.
Polle has been with her longtime partner, Wings, for the past seven years, so their foundation is built off of mutual trust and respect for each other. “I think that’s one of the most special things – to have a horse and to start with them really young. I started in the Low Juniors with him and we worked our way up to the 5* level,” the 25-year-old rider said.
Polle certainly acknowledges her horse’s capabilities in terms of scopiness and braveness, but most importantly is the size of Wing’s heart and his determination to always give it his all for his rider.
“I think he has everything that you want in a show jumper. He has a lot of scope, he has a big stride, he’s adjustable, he has a lot of range, he’s careful, he’s brave – everything you kind of look for, he has.”
She continued, “I also think his personality is really special, because he really wants to go clear and he wants to win. He’ll go in there and fight for me. I think that they can have all the ability in the world, but if they don’t want to go out there and try their hardest for you, I don’t think it will always work. His fight is one of his most special qualities.”
The future looks promising for the harmonious pair, as they are gearing up for this Saturday night’s feature class, the 5* $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix.
Competition will resume in the International Arena on Friday morning at 8 a.m. with the $6,000 1.40m Speed Challenge. This week’s highlight event, the 5* $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix, which will draw some of the nation’s greatest show jumping horses and riders, will begin promptly at 7 p.m. at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
$130,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round Nine
Place / Horse / Rider / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. With Wings / Karen Polle / 0 | 76.48 0 | 36.71
2. Skyhorse / Lillie Keenan / 0 | 75.07 / 0 | 38.144
3. Cornet 39 / Lauren Hough / 0 | 76.47 / 0 | 38.539
4. Cassis 54 / Lucy Davis / 0 | 75.49 / 0 | 38.954
5. Quintol / Eduardo Menezes / 0 | 74.03 / 0 | 39.308
6. A S D Farfala / Pablo Barrios / 0 | 74.25 / 0 | 39.547
7. Gazelle / Kent Farrington / 0 | 74 / 4 | 35.548
8. Lordan / Nayel Nassar / 0 | 75.32 / 4 | 36.234
9. Royce / Margie Engle / 0 | 73.73 / 4 | 36.879
10. Avalon 280 / Yann Candele / 0 | 76.59 / 4 | 37.309
11. Coach / Beezie Madden / 0 | 74.33 / 4 | 37.825
12. Quirie 2 / Ali Wolff / 0 | 76.06 / 4 | 39.808