Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 9, 2019 – The most prestigious class of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) to date, the $391,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI5* drew a large crowd and an elite field of veteran contenders to the International Ring at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center on Saturday evening. Of the pack of 40 horse-and-athlete combinations who tried their luck under the lights, Martin Fuchs of Switzerland and Luigi Baleri’s Clooney 51 proved to be the best performers of the night ahead of an expansive 18-horse jump-off, navigating two foot-perfect rounds quicker than the rest of the pack to emerge as the victors and claim the greatest percentage of the purse, the largest pot offered within the first half of the 12-week circuit.
At just 27 years old, Fuchs is currently ranked 11th in the world on the Longines FEI Show Jumping List and has racked up an impressive list of victories with his partner Clooney 51 within the last two years. The pair’s career has been highlighted with multiple successes at the CSI5* level, including wins in the Longines Grand Prix of Zurich, the $300,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Lyon and the Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier at Basel. On the world stage, the pair earned a podium spot as the second place finishers individually and helped their team to a fourth-place finish at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, North Carolina last summer. Even more impressive is the fact that a colic surgery and subsequent rehabilitation took place amid the duo’s series of growing accolades. 2019 marks the partnership’s first appearance at WEF, and Clooney 51 has proven that his prowess extends to all venues, adding to his long list of clear trips at the 1.60m level.
Designing a course that proved to be not overly technical for the occasion, course creator Kelvin Bywater (GBR) presented entries with a 16-effort track, which featured fences set slightly higher and wider at 1.60m in height to match the designated-CSI5* status. Over the course of the 40 talented challengers, the crowd had ample time to celebrate as an incredible 18 of those athletes rose to the occasion without incurring any penalties.
First to go in the order, Wilton Porter (USA) set the standard for the evening by navigating the first course fault-free, and he was soon matched by Emil Hallundbeck (DEN) and his younger brother, Lucas Porter (USA). Spencer Smith (USA) was the tenth contender in the ring, piloting his horse to a seemingly easy and smooth ride leaving all rails in the cups, and Jessica Springsteen (USA) also joined the roster of jump-off participants. After the eight initial clear performances at the halfway mark, 10 additional riders’ swift precision landed themselves qualified for the short course. Tiffany Foster (CAN) led the way in the second portion of the class as the first rider to tackle the track without incurring any faults. She was followed six trips later with a clear ride by Todd Minikus (USA), and then by McLain Ward (USA), who gave the class the 12th clear performance of the evening. Towards the end of the order, Fuchs (SUI), Daniel Coyle (IRL), Richie Moloney (IRL), Beezie Madden (USA), Conor Swail (IRL) and Kent Farrington (USA) all added their names to the list.
The astounding 18-horse jump-off saw only half of the riders repeat their stellar performances to add a double-clear effort to their names. The first rider to tackle the short course, Wilton Porter secured another fault-free round in a speedy 34.975 seconds to set the bar. With the quick time to beat, Smith knocked Porter out of the leading spot after he jumped the short course clear in just 34.897 seconds. While Menezes and Hallundbaek stopped the clock quicker than Smith, both riders unfortunately downed rails to keep them out of contention for the victory. Chasing Smith’s time, Fuchs gained momentum and opened his mount’s stride on the bending line into the double combination, the only combination of the jump-off qualifiers to leave out a stride in that line. The Swiss rider’s tactful precision allowed him to eclipse the early leaders after finishing double-clear through the timers in only 33.130 seconds to capture the top spot with only five left to ride.
While Coyle was clear for the second time in the evening, the Irish rider was a hair slower than Fuchs and Smith, tripping the timers in 34.901 seconds. Moloney, with the reins on Equinimity LLC’s Rocksy Music, would bump Smith out of the second place position following his round, which he navigated in 34.423 seconds, and Swail slid into the third spot of the standings after tripping the timers in 34.698 seconds. As the final entrant in the jump-off and with the pressure mounting, Farrington attempted to beat Fuchs’ time of 33.130 seconds using the footspeed of Gazelle, the mare he co-owns with Robin Parsky, but ultimately they came up slightly short in 33.571 seconds to settle for second place honors. Moloney finished the night in the third position.
The fifth week of WEF will continue on Sunday starting at 8 a.m., with jumper riders offered another shot at the prize money in the FEI $72,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic CSI5*, followed by the FEI $50,000 1.45m Rushy Marsh Farm Grand Prix CSI2* later in the afternoon. Another week of CSI5* competition will return to the International Ring in two weeks, with the capstone Saturday night class taking the form of the FEI $391,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Martin Fuchs – $391,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* champion
On his reaction to winning:
“There were many clears in the first round and I was late to go. I knew that my horse was in great shape and he is great outdoors. We have been indoors the past few months, and he is very experienced so it was good for him to come out here under the lights. Still, he was a little surprised in the first round. He jumped very, very careful and I had to use more leg than usual, but this gave me a very good feeling for the jump-off because I knew when I had a bit more speed he would go over the oxers easily. When I walked the jump-off, I knew it suited my horse really well and I could take a nice turn from [fences] one to two, use his big stride and trust in his jump and his carefulness. I’m very happy with this win. I thought Kent [Farrington] was going to be faster since we all know he is one of the fastest riders on the circuit, but I’m happy that for once he didn’t beat me and let the Swiss guy have a chance.”
On his first experience at WEF:
“My girlfriend Paris Sellon is from the United States, and she has always been here showing over the winter. This year I wanted to join her, so I brought six horses for myself, and so far everything has been very good. I definitely like that we can ride outdoors here. We have nice indoor shows in Europe, but it can be very hard to take younger, inexperienced horses up to this level. For a horse like Clooney, it doesn’t really matter where he is, but for my second-string horses I think it is very important that we can bring them here and have classes every week to help bring them up to the 1.60m level so that Clooney has the support of some other horses.”
On Clooney’s recovery from colic surgery:
“Clooney started last year with two 5* grand prix wins in Switzerland in Basel and Zurich, he had a break, and then after the break he had colic surgery. He came back really quick and we did everything we could to make his recovery as good and fast as possible. We installed a camera in his box to be able to supervise him all the time, and at nights one of us woke up to check him in the box every two hours. Since he was not allowed to have a saddle on, we took him on long four-hour walks every day, we walked on the hill and we rented a treadmill just for him so that he would stay in shape and not lose too much muscle. We did some small shows and took him to Aachen just to play around a bit, then after that we did three 5* grand prix classes where he placed in all three before we brought him to [the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in] Tryon, where he was at his best. I was just thinking about his rounds, and his last 20 1.60m courses, he did 18 clear rounds. That’s pretty amazing at this level, especially with going fast.”
Kent Farrington – $391,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* second place
On the jump-off:
“I knew it would be very fast. Martin [Fuchs] is a very competitive rider; he wins all over the world and he had a great result at the World Championships. [Clooney 51] is one of the best horses in the world that he is competing. I also have my top horse [Gazelle] competing, so regardless of whether there are 20 clear or two, we are going to be running as fast as we can go and everybody out there will really try to win. The top four were all pretty close in time and had to take risks out there. [Clooney 51] is exceptional and can take out strides in lines that other horses can’t. He left a stride out in the double, and was the only person to do that successfully. I thought that was too much risk for my horse as she is extremely careful, and I thought she might stop. I tried to catch him with foot-speed around the rest of the course but we fell a little short today.”
On the course:
“I think that it’s a very difficult job being a course designer. Something like the time-allowed being two seconds too short or too long can make the difference of two clear or 16 clear, so it’s a very small line that you’re playing with. With this caliber of horses and riders, two seconds can make the difference of a clear ride or lots of rails down.”
Richie Moloney – $391,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* third place
On Rocksy Music:
“He jumped WEF Week 3 after he had a three-month break. The plan was always aiming for tonight. I believe in this horse; he is a very good horse. He’s an Irish horse, and I think he is going to be my best horse. He was a little bit difficult when he first came to me. He is 11 years old, but he is probably a year behind. His first FEI show was October the year before last. We took a year just jumping 1.35m and 1.40m, so we took our time and when he was ready to go he came along very quickly.”
On the jump-off:
“Before I went, I was worried. In the jump-off, people really tried to go fast and there were a lot of fences down and people having mishaps trying to go too fast. It ended up as a very good competition and a good jump-off. I’m happy with how it ended up and I think my horse did very well.”
$391,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults / R2 Faults / Time
1. Clooney 51 / Martin Fuchs / SUI / 0 / 0 / 33.130
2. Gazelle / Kent Farrington / USA / 0 / 0 / 33.571
3. Rocksy Music / Richie Moloney / IRL / 0 / 0 / 34.423
4. Flower / Conor Swail / IRL / 0 / 0 / 34.698
5. Theoddore Manciais / Spencer Smith / USA / 0 / 0 / 34.897
6. Quintin / Daniel Coyle / IRL / 0 / 0 / 34.901
7. Caletto Cabana / Wilton Porter / USA / 0 / 0 / 34.975
8. RMF Cadeau Du Muze / William Whitaker / GBR / 0 / 0 / 38.857
9. Cool Hand Luke 4 / Markus Beerbaum / 0 / 0 / 40.717
10. Coach / Beezie Madden / USA / 0 / 4 / 33.524
11. H5 Chaganus / Eduardo Menezes / BRA / 0 / 4 / 34.011
12. Chalisco / Emil Hallundbaek / DEN / 0 / 4 / 34.289
For full results, click here.