Wellington, Fla. – Mar. 12, 2022 – Crowds gathered at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Saturday evening for the feature class of the week, the $406,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5*, featuring an array of the world’s elite equestrian athletes vying for top honors. Over a track set by Ireland’s Alan Wade, 41 competitors brought forth their top mounts to claim the third CSI5* win of the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), but in the end, amidst a season of repeat wins, it was Abdel Said, now representing the Belgian flag, who topped the field with Arpege Du Ru.
With several heavy hitters coming early in the order, the pressure was on to dominate the course without having seen where challenges would arise. Wade’s technical course consisted of 13 numbered obstacles and featured a triple bar oxer at fence two, an oxer-oxer-vertical triple combination at fence four, an open water, and several careful skinny verticals set at 1.60m. Top-ranked worldwide athletes fell victim to the questions Wade asked across the track, set within a time allowed of 81 seconds, but 12 pairs navigated the first round clear to advance to a highly competitive jump-off.
First out of the gate, the USA’s McLain Ward conquered the course as the first clear round with Contagious. Immediately after, Said, who won the very same class during WEF 2021, guaranteed a jump-off with a second clear round aboard the 12-year-old Selle Francais mare Arpege Du Ru. Still to join the incredibly competitive list of clear first rounds were the United States’ Katie Dinan, Adrienne Sternlicht, Kent Farrington, and Laura Kraut, plus Beat Mandli (SUI), Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts and Emilie Conter, Germany’s Andre Thieme (GER) and Philip Weishaupt, and Captain Brian Cournane (IRL).
Aware of the horsepower in the 12 combinations following him, Ward took to the jump-off with incredible pace from the get-go, using his 2020 Olympic mount’s massive stride to his advantage, but had an unfortunate rail down at the second to last fence. Said then took over the lead as the first double-clear effort of the night, clocking in at 38.58 seconds and setting the blazing fast pace for the rest of the field to catch. Next to come close to Said’s time was Farrington with the budding superstar Orafina, 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare. The pair crossed the timers in 40.42 seconds, which would prove good enough for second at the close of the class. Philippaerts piloted his top mare Katanga V/H Dingeshof, a 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood, to a quick time of 41.65 seconds, slotting into an eventual third place. While several pairs would cross the timers with double-clear efforts, Said ultimately couldn’t be caught and took the win, adding another CSI5* victory to his name.
Said was the winner of the $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* in 2021 at the Winter Equestrian Festival aboard Bandit Savoie, when he became the first Egyptian to win a CSI5* Grand Prix at WEF. Now flying the flag for Belgium and aboard his up-and-coming mare, the future is bright for Said, who is using the season in Wellington to gain experience for his horses and prepare for the rest of the year. His lucky strategy – sitting alone, without his phone, near the parking lot waiting for the class to end in his favor – paid off as he still held the lead after 10 more horse-and-rider combinations tried to challenge him, and he returned to the International Arena for a victory gallop and champagne shower.
The Winter Equestrian Festival continues on Sunday with the $75,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic CSI5*, and WEF 10 kicks off Wednesday, March 16, for a week of CSI4* competition featuring the $216,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI4* Saturday night.
FROM THE WINNERS CIRCLE
Abdel Said – $406,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5* winner
On putting on the pressure early on:
“Honestly, I was happy with the draw. When I saw the list and I was second to go I was a bit bummed but I saw McLain [Ward] was before me so I said, ‘Okay, I will see what I need to see. If he’s in the jump-off, I’ll see the right strides.’ I actually enjoy being at the beginning. I’m really delighted with my mare because all season she’s been developing. Every year I come to WEF I find my horses develop here and I’m happy that it all came together. With a time fault in the [$406,000 CSI 5* Fidelity Investments Grand Prix] – me being too slow – and the [$406,000 CSI 5* Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix] we were double clear and I was too slow, so today I said, ‘I will not be too slow; I may be too fast and have a rail but we’re going to go for it.’ I wanted and I needed that win for our whole team. We were knocking on the door but not really there. It was always one down or time faults, so it was nice that it all came together tonight.”
On continuing on last year’s success:
“I really enjoy being here. I think the people are all very welcoming and also regarding the horses they really get to develop; they get to jump here, go up a level, and go on the grass field. I don’t think there are many better venues in the world. Being here really sets you up for the rest of the year.”
On Arpege Du Ru:
“She’s always been competitive. I wasn’t sure she had this kind of ability for these big grand prixs, but I started the season and she just kept getting better and more consistent. She’s very clever. She’s super intelligent and a really funny mare. For example, to build up for this Grand Prix I didn’t ride her during the day today. I’ve realized the less I do trying to work her the better. She’s very intelligent and she gets the game; she knows she has to jump the poles in the fastest time. If I mess up then I have a rail but she’s very clever. I love French mares; I think they’re very intelligent horses in general. She’s a real trier.”
On his jump-off strategy:
“I have a little private spot from last year – it’s close to the parking – and I just go there, I put my phone down, and when the class finishes I look at the results and tonight I was still number one so it was a happy day. Like Kent said, it feels good.”
On competing for Belgium:
“I’ve been very welcome in Belgium. I’ve lived there for the past eight to 10 years. Of course I still have my Egyptian heritage as I always will. It was in a nutshell the management of our nutshell is disgraceful and I couldn’t keep dealing with it. But in Belgium they’ve been very open to me, so I’m very happy to win this for Belgium.”
Kent Farrington – $406,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5*, second place
“I’m really happy with my horse. This is her second time jumping a CSI5* class, so I thought it was a tremendous result. I like to take my time producing young horses who have a lot of talent. I’m really excited about her. She proved a lot to me here in this class tonight and I’m hoping for big things going forward. I think Abdel had an incredible round; that was going to be tough to beat on any horse tonight so I didn’t think my chances were great on a young horse, but I’m thrilled with her performance. It was a well deserved win for Abdel tonight.”
On competing with mares:
“All of our horses are great horses and that’s really what the sport is about. Mares, geldings, stallions – it’s horse sport. You’re seeing tonight some of the great horses in the sport. I think we all have tremendous athletes beneath us tonight. I think it’s unique that tonight they all happen to be mares. I’ve had a lot of success with great mares. They have a lot of heart, a lot of try, and that’s what I have in my horse now.”
Nicola Philippaerts – $406,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5*, third place
On Katanga V/H Dingeshof:
“She’s great at the moment. She feels good. Two weeks ago he was also fifth in the [$406,000 CSI 5* Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix]. For her, she doesn’t have the biggest stride so it’s not too easy in the jump-offs to go flat out, but I did my best. Abdel rode a perfect jump-off today and he was very difficult to beat, but personally I can be very happy and it gives a lot of confidence for the season. She’s a very special mare to ride, but I think she also can give something extra in the important moments. She’s an unbelievable mare; she has something special and she can always do something special in the moments that are important. She showed again today that she’s a great horse.”
On Belgium’s strength in equestrian sport:
“Belgium has been quite strong the last few years. It only motivates us more and we get more riders and it looks good for the future.”
$406,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI5*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / R2 Faults | R2 Time
- Arpege Du Ru / Abdel Said / BEL / Abdel Said / 0 | 75.95 / 0 | 38.58
- Orafina / Kent Farrington / USA / Kent Farrington LLC / 0 | 76.73 / 0 | 40.42
- Katanga V/H Dingeshof / Nicola Philippaerts / BEL / Nicola Philippaerts / 0 | 78.34 / 0 | 41.65
- Brego R’N B / Katie Dinan / USA / Grant Road Partners LLC / 0 | 79.76 / 0 | 44.25
- Coby 8 / Philip Weishaupt / GER / Mariko Kato, Noyuri Ko, Beerbaum Stables / 0 | 79.10 / 4 | 38.52
- Contagious / McLain Ward / USA / Beechwood Stables, LLC / 0 | 75.51 / 4 | 39.84
- DSP Chakkaria / Andre Thieme / GER / Pfudermanagement & Marketing / 0 | 78.34
- Baloutinue / Laura Kraut / USA / St. Bride’s Farm / 0 | 75.43 / 4 | 40.42
- Dsarie / Beat Mandli / SUI / Grant Road Partners GMBH / 0 | 77.85 / 4 | 41.02
- Armik / Capt. Brian Cournane / IRL / Mr. & Mrs. Stiller and Brian Cournane / 0 | 80.67 / 4 | 43.40
- Balento C.S. / Emilie Conter / BEL / Stephex Stables / 0 | 79.27 / 8 | 41.86
- Bennys Legacy / Adrienne Sternlicht / USA / Starlight Farms 1 LLC / 0 | 77.83 / 16 | 61.88