Wellington, Fla. – March 25, 2017 – The highlight event of the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season got underway on Saturday evening, with the best of the best in show jumping turning out for their chance to win the coveted $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5*. After placing third twice in two other recent CSI5* grand prix events at WEF, Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya saved the best for last to clinch the biggest victory of the season in Wellington.
Watch highlights from Sergio Alvarez Moya and Charmeur’s first round!
“I am super happy,” said Moya. “My horse jumped amazing. The last time I was here, they were saying that I wasn’t fast enough. I said I was going to try if I was in the jump-off as much as I could today and it worked out well so I am super happy.
“I’ve placed in other grand prix events but never won a class here,” continued Moya. “I just went as fast as I could. For me, this is the best in the world — the best riders in the world are here. I feel very happy and proud to win a 5* grand prix here. I think this is the grand prix that every rider in the circuit wants to win and I was just lucky I won this one and not the others.”
Forty athletes entered the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center determined to jump clear around Brazil’s Guilherme Jorge’s first round course in order to advance to the jump-off.
Jorge, course designer of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, challenged the world’s top horses and riders over a series of 14 obstacles, which included an open water element, tricky bending lines, rollbacks, double and triple combinations and a triple bar. Only five were able to successfully complete the course with no faults to return for the tiebreaking round.
Coming off of their win just two weeks ago in the $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5*, 24-year-old Karen Polle (JPN) and her trusted partner, With Wings, were the first to take on the jump-off. The pair set the standard to beat at 4 faults in 39.544 seconds, which would be good enough for third place honors in the final standings.
“When I was walking I thought this was the trickiest grand prix that I walked this circuit,” said Polle. “I think it was very big and there were a couple of questions about numbers when I was walking but I thought it rode very nicely. You had to work hard, but it was very nice to ride if you did it right.
“It’s definitely a great feeling [to be third],” continued Polle. “I’m really happy that With Wings and I are so consistent at this level now — that we are in these jump-offs. I thought the course tonight was really, really tricky so I’m happy to have been in the jump-off.”
Next to return was Moya, who navigated his own Charmeur, a 10-year-old KWPN stallion, to the first double-clear performance, taking every chance he could to stop the timers in a blazing 37.761 seconds to take the lead.
“I saw Karen go and I just thought I had to start fast from one to the end,” said Moya. “I didn’t think I left much room [for the others]. I thought about it and everyone said, ‘You better go around as fast as you can,’ and it worked out well so I don’t think we have to analyze too much.
“[Charmeur] started jumping down here,” continued Moya. “He had time off at the end of last year. He doesn’t have so much experience at this level but he has just gotten better and better here at the show. I think it is a great place to be, and obviously to jump in such a grand prix as this they have to be really ready. I think from here on we can go everywhere in the world.”
Beezie Madden (USA) and Coach, owned by Abigail Wexner, crossed the finish line next, collecting 4 faults in 40.208 seconds, which would earn them fifth place.
Laura Kraut (USA) and St. Bride’s Farms’ Confu also added a heartbreaking 4 faults to their score over the final Rolex oxer in 39.812 seconds to finish in fourth place.
Last to jump-off was USA’s McLain Ward and Sagamore Farms’ Rothchild. The pair only needed to jump clear and be faster than Moya to claim the win. The decorated duo pulled off the second clear round of the jump-off but their time of 38.305 seconds fell short to Moya by one second, thus settling for second place.
“I thought it was a very good course,” said Ward. “I think in these 5* grand prix I prefer to see five or six clear, not 10 or 12. In the 3* that’s a different thing. It’s a different group of horses and it’s a much more mixed bag so you like the course to be more conservative. But these are grand slam type of events and the course should be challenging. I thought [Guilherme] did a very good job. I think one of his trademarks is that he doesn’t vary too wildly, he’s not a guy that gets 15 clear or one clear. He’s normally in the five to 10 range.
“Sergio is a very fast rider,” continued Ward. “I knew it was a good round. The first two jumps were a little bit of a challenge for me. I went in and I looked at the inside cut inside the gazebo and I decided not to do it. Then when I turned back on the oxer, I saw the line and I knew I was too slow one to two to have a chance and I figured at that point it was worth the risk. I took a little bit off but Sergio didn’t leave much room. I’m thrilled with the horse though. It’s his eighth year jumping grand prix competitions [at WEF]. He’s just a remarkable animal; I’m blessed to have had him and I’m excited to be able to keep on doing it.”
Results: $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5*
- 3703 CHARMEUR SERGIO ALVAREZ MOYA ESP 79.94 37.76
- 1603 ROTHCHILD MCLAIN WARD USA 82.78 38.30
- 2085 WITH WINGS KAREN POLLE JPN 82.63 4 39.54
- 1461 CONFU LAURA KRAUT USA 83.40 4 39.81
- 2293 COACH BEEZIE MADDEN USA 82.98 4 40.20
- 301 GRAND CRU VD JIJF EIKEN VANESSA MANNIX CAN 1 85.91
- 3031 ROYCE MARGIE ENGLE USA 4 78.42
- 2978 ISHD DUAL STAR LAURA CHAPOT USA 4 79.14
- 4454 SFN ZENITH JEROEN DUBBELDAM NED 4 79.59
- 106 CADALORA P TIFFANY FOSTER CAN 4 80.68
- 5981 A S D FARFALA PABLO BARRIOS VEN 4 80.77
- 3105 CORNET 39 LAUREN HOUGH USA 4 80.88