Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 24, 2021 – Week Two of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) came to a pinnacle Sunday with the $137,000 Restylane Grand Prix CSI3* bringing a field of international athletes and their mounts to the Stadium Derby Field of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Forty-five horse-and-rider combinations representing 12 nations put their names forward, all vying for a podium finish and a piece of the $137,000 purse. Representing Great Britain, it was Ben Maher and his veteran mount Tic Tac who led the victory gallop at the conclusion of the 12-horse jump-off.
Course designer Oscar Soberón (MEX) tested contenders over a 16-effort track. Soberón’s original tight time-allowed of 88 seconds was increased to 90 seconds, giving athletes ample time to navigate the 1.50m fences set across the large grass field. As the third entry to try their hand at Soberón’s course, Mac Cone (CAN) produced the first clear round of the day aboard Zaia Di San Giovanni. Guaranteeing an international jump-off, the United State’s Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) crossed the timers without penalty twelve trips after Cone, followed by Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez who posted no faults to the scoreboard.
With only three clear combinations heading into the second half of the first-round of competition, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor put forth the next fault-free round to join the jump-off. Natalie Dean (USA), Erynn Ballard (CAN), Laura Kraut (USA), Eric Lamaze (CAN), Darragh Kenny (IRL), Conor Swail (IRL) and Ben Maher (GBR) would also add their names to the tie-breaking start list for a 12 horse jump-off.
Soberón’s eight obstacle course in the jump-off featured rollback turns in between long approach singles that left athletes lots of room to gallop from fence to fence, as well as cut corners. Cone and Zaia Di San Giovanni were first to enter the jump-off, posting a clear round and setting the time at 49.023 seconds. Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata were quick to take over the lead with a clear time of 46.204 seconds. USA’s Kraut would continue the trend with Goldwin, crossing the timers at 44.647 seconds without rolling any rails. Soon after, Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 set a speedy new fault-free record at 43.576 seconds, with Swail and GK Coco Chanel hot on his heels immediately following with a clear 44.047 seconds. Lamaze’s lead remained until Great Britain took the lead by a 100th of a second thanks to Maher, who mastered the course with a time of 43.56 seconds aboard Tic Tac. With just one rider left in the round, the excitement and tension was coursing through the socially distanced crowd. As the final to vie for the top honor, Bluman took down a rail at fence 5, solidifying Maher’s lead and leaving Lamaze in second place with Swail finishing third.
The leading lady award went to USA’s Laura Kraut who ended up 4th overall in Sunday’s grand prix. This award was calculated using results from Thursday’s Adequan WEF Challenge Cup and a double of the day’s grand prix score.
Maher only brings Tic Tac out when the conditions are perfect for the 2003 warmblood stallion owned by Jane Clark. Prior to Sunday’s grand prix, the pair had not been seen in the show ring since March of 2020, taking third at the Palm Beach Open CSI5*. Maher felt confident with his decision to bring Tic Tac out for the $137,000 Restylane Grand Prix CSI3* because he considers the Stadium Derby Field of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center to be one of the best places to compete in the world.
Show jumping action will continue Sunday at WEF with the $30,000 CP National Grand Prix slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. in the International Arena, followed by a 1:30 p.m. start time for the $25,000 Hermés U25 Grand Prix on the Stadium Derby Field. Week Three of WEF will also feature CSI3* competition, with the $137,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI3* serving as the highlight event Sunday, January 31.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Ben Maher – $137,000 Restylane Grand Prix CSI3* winner
On the jump-off:
“I think it was my lucky day – sometimes it happens like that. Eric [Lamaze] is for sure one of the fastest riders in the world and was on a great horse today, so I maybe had a little bit of a luck of the draw. I also have an experienced horse – Tic Tac is 18 years old and he doesn’t come out often, but he gives me great confidence and he did everything for me today.”
On competing on the grass:
“For me, the grass arena here is one of the best grass arenas there is that we jump on in the world. That’s why I picked this week, to bring a horse of Tic Tac’s age over here. It’s great conditions and I thought it was a great course. It’s nice to see some different jumps out here this year at WEF with the wall and few other interesting things. It’s tough when we are here for 12 weeks and the horses get bored. I wish it was over here every week on the grass, and I’m not sure I can speak for the other riders, but it’s really refreshing being over here. It’s great to be back at this level of the sport. I didn’t ride much last year with my back surgery and then, for us all, COVID-19 hit. It’s nice to get back to what we love doing and that gives the whole team confidence.”
Eric Lamaze – $137,000 Restylane Grand Prix CSI3* second place
On Fine Lady 5:
“Fine Lady is naturally very fast. I’ve had a few classes where I went too fast and paid for it, then I asked myself, ‘Why did I go so fast?’ I was just trying to keep a good rhythm, and I knew what was coming behind me. Ben is one of the best riders in the world, so I wasn’t kidding myself that I had won by any means. I knew I had a fast course, but sometimes the order of go is the way it is and it’s okay.”
On competing on the grass:
“I think they should have as many competitions as they can out here. I think it is the best footing in the world. The horses love jumping here and for me it’s real show jumping. I absolutely love it out here. Fine Lady is also 18-years-old so between the two of our horses there is quite a bit of age there, but it just shows you that the longer you go the more you learn. It was a great competition and had the right numbers in the jump-off. We appreciate all of the effort that is made to keep us safe from COVID-19. These are difficult times and we should be very happy that we can be doing this at this moment.”
Connor Swail – $137,000 Restylane Grand Prix CSI3* third place
On how the class played out:
“I thought it was a good class. It was a little different from the classes we’ve been jumping in, there were less numbers down the lines. But it was creative and again, it got a very good result. I didn’t think it was huge but it was very difficult to jump. You have to give the course builders nice credit for that.
$137,000 Restylane Grand Prix CSI3*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Time | R1 Faults / R2 Time | R2 Faults
1. Tic Tac / Ben Maher / GBR / Jane Forbes Clark / 86.63 | 0 / 43.56 | 0
2. Fine Lady 5 / Eric Lamaze / CAN / Artisan Farm & Little Creek Investments / 88.15 | 0 / 43.57 | 0
3. GK Coco Chanel / Conor Swail / IRL / Vanessa Mannix / 89.38 | 0 / 44.04 | 0
4. Goldwin / Laura Kraut / USA / Stars And Stripes / 85.81 | 0 / 44.64 | 0
5. Chacna / Enrique Gonzalez / MEX / Enrique Gonzalez / 84.56 | 0 / 45.38 | 0
6. Akuna Mattata / Nicole Shahinian-Simpson / USA / Silver Raven Farms / 84.09 | 0 / 45.20 | 0
7. Cocolina / Natalie Dean / USA / Marigold Sporthorses, LLC / 89.4 | 0 / 46.53 | 0
8. Emmerton / Darragh Kenny / IRL / SHL Farm / 85.27 | 0 / 46.65 | 0
9. Zaia Di San Giovanni / Mac Cone / CAN / Chadburn Holdings Inc. / 89.88 | 0 / 49.02 | 0
10. Colestina H / Daniel Bluman / ISR / Blue Star Investments / 87.38 | 0 / 45.52 4
11. Cadiz / Cian O’Connor / IRL / Ronnoco Jump LTD / 87.57 | 0 / 48.49 | 4
12. Kamilla D / Erynn Ballard / CAN / Erynn Ballard / 87.43 | 0 / 48.55 | 4