Wellington, Fla. – March 17, 2018 – Week Ten of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) featured the $132,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI3* during the weekly Saturday Night Lights evening event at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Despite the event being held on St. Patrick’s Day, the luck of the Irish was instead with the United States as U.S. athlete Spencer Smith was the only competitor to successfully navigate the entire track fault-free despite the hard-fought efforts of other top international athletes.
A total of 44 horse-and-rider combinations challenged the Michel Vaillancourt-designed course, which asked athletes to navigate a 17-fence track consisting of two combinations including a triple combination as well as a triple bar.
The triple combination was by far the biggest issue for multiple athletes, and was the culprit of an otherwise fault-free round for almost half of the competition. The liverpool fence caused several refusals and downed rails, while the long gallop towards home to the final solid oxer also bested several competitors at the very end.
Halfway through the starting field, spectators had yet to see another clear round to contest Smith. The lineup for the second half of competition consisted of heavyweights such as Margie Engle (USA), Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Ian Millar, who despite their best efforts could not catch Smith’s solid display. Fourteen of the 44 entries were separated from the jump-off by only a single fence including second and third place winners Millar and Georgina Bloomberg (USA).
While Smith was not the fastest round by several seconds, the decision to maintain a steady pace paid off as he and Theoddore Manciais took the early victory and held it to the end. The Ashland Farms’ 10-year-old Selle Français gelding (Kashmir Van’t Schuttersho–Mifraine Manciais) and Smith cleared the timers in a tidy 75.09 seconds.
Canadian athlete Millar was aboard his veteran partner Dixson, a 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo D’arsouilles–Sanna). Millar and Dixson contrasted most other rounds by having a fence down early on in the course instead of late. The realization that he would need to be an exceptionally fast 4-falter was the push Millar needed to bring home the reserve coming in with the quickest time of the class in 72.23 seconds.
Millar’s exceptional time bumped Bloomberg out of the second place position she had previously taken from Gustavo Prato (ARG) and into third place still with an efficient time of 73.53 seconds. Bloomberg piloted the coming 13-year-old Oldenburg mare Manodie II H (Carthago–Monodie), owned by Gotham Enterprizes, LLC. As was the case with the majority of the night’s competitors, it was a lone fence on the course that would separate both Bloomberg and Millar from the chance to challenge Smith in a jump-off round. However, for Bloomberg, the night was still a success as it was the pair’s first competition under the lights.
Saturday Night Lights at WEF will return during Week Eleven with the $132,000 Hollow Creek 1.50m Classic Final CSI4* on March 24. Grand prix competition will take place during the day on the Stadium Derby Field with the $205,000 CaptiveOne Grand Prix CSI4* at 11 a.m.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE:
Spencer Smith – $132,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI3* winner
On Saturday night’s win:
“This is amazing. It’s unreal to be here, and to be showing in these competitions is a dream come true. To win one like this is just amazing. I thought the course was difficult. I think I had an advantage going early — not knowing how the course was unfolding. I just went in and did the plan that Eric [Lamaze] told me exactly and it worked out. The triple was tricky and the whole last part of the course was very difficult. I think the first part of the course got you somewhat relaxed and then it all of a sudden got very big and technical.”
On Theoddore Manciais:
“This horse is one that Eric Lamaze found. We jumped him in the Calgary Masters [at Spruce Meadows] and then he jumped for Canada in Barcelona at the Nations Cup Final. Now they’ve let me ride him again and we have him for the circuit, and hopefully the summer.”
On training with Eric Lamaze:
“I’ve been training with Eric [Lamaze] for about a year and a half and I really have to say that he’s changed my life. I’m forever indebted to him.”
Ian Millar – Second place
On his performance on Saturday:
“Dixson had a regrettable early rail and, actually, that turned into an advantage because I knew I really had to pick it up to be a fast 4-faulter. It was a very uncharacteristic rail for him but it’s one of those things that happens. Horses are horses.”
On the course:
“The course was quite excellent. I’m a big fan of Michel Vaillancourt. We saw so many rails down at the plank, the liverpool and the last few jumps. I suspect the effort required at the triple combination had a bit of a fraying effect on the horses’ mentality and then they started to get into trouble. It was an awkward distance from the liverpool to the vertical; I did a direct five strides but most people rode it in six. If the plan was to go in six, then you had to ride the liverpool quite conservatively, which then caused a lot of people to have it down. However, if your plan was to do a direct five strides, then the liverpool was easier but you put the vertical at a bit more of a risk so you were really required to pick your poison.”
On Spencer Smith’s clear round:
“It doesn’t happen often, especially in Wellington. I couldn’t be happier for anybody than I am for this young man tonight; I know what this means to him and his grandparents and father. It probably means more to them than it does to him. I’m so happy for Spencer tonight that I’m almost happy enough to take the rail down but not quite.”
Georgina Bloomberg – Third place
On Manodie II H:
“I don’t have a solid grand prix horse right now so she’s my best horse. I think she’ll take that next step up but she just needs a bit more time. This is actually my first grand prix with her for the season and the first time going under the lights with her. I think she was a little green as was I and I think, as Ian pointed out, that coming out of the triple combination, the horses had a little bit of trouble focusing on the rest of the course. She put in a great effort; it was really nice to have her come out and show that she can do it confidently. We just need some time to knock the rust off.”
On her WEF season so far:
“We started a little bit late this season so it took a bit longer to get back in the groove and start jumping bigger jumps. I decided to take my time and come back when I was ready therefore my horses were a little late peaking. My main focus for the year is really the [Longines] Global Champions Tour so we decided to take it slow this season and not come back too soon.”
On her advice for up-and-coming riders:
“I’d say my consistent advice is to learn to deal with failure because it’s a huge part of the sport. Growing up, I was never a talented rider and never won but I stuck with it and was determined. I think learning how to lose graciously is very important because I think a lot of people get discouraged very easily. If you really want to excel in this sport, there’s really nothing holding you back. We’re all given something, whether it’s determination or skill. Don’t let your failures get you down.”
$132,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI3*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
Theoddore Manias /USA / Spencer Smith / 0 | 75.09
Dixson / Ian Millar / CAN / 4 | 72.23
Manodie II H / Georgina Bloomberg / USA / 4 | 73.53
Carna Z / Gustavo Prato / ARG / 4 | 73.92
Iliona / David Raposa / USA / 4 | 74.24
Chamonix H / Kelli Cruciotti / USA / 4 | 74.59
Clearwater / Marilyn Little / USA / 4 | 74.77
Shiver / Liza Finsness / USA / 4 | 75.96
Chance Ste Hermelle / Michael Morrissey / USA / 4 | 76.11
ISHD Dual Star / Laura Chapot / USA / 4 | 76.14
Concetto Son / Laura Jane Tidball / CAN / 4 | 76.15
Homer Van De Barlebuis / Victor Luminatti / BRA / 4 | 76.91
For a full list of results, click here.