Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 1, 2021 – Week Three of the winter showjumping season at WEF brought us back to the main ring, but not for a Sunday afternoon grand prix rather than our typical Saturday night lights class. The feature class on Sunday was the $137,000 NetJets FEI CSI3* Grand Prix. Once again, the weather was perfect for showjumping, and 45 entries lined up to compete. The list of competitors had the same quality as Week 3 out on the grass and a couple of top riders kicked off the start of their season in the grand prix ring. Some of the top horses have yet to start, but they soon will be making their season debut.
Sunday’s class carried the 3* rating and, as I have said many times before, it is a difficult task for the course designer to find the right balance of height, width and degree of difficulty to create a fair and competitive test for a 3* with this field of horse and riders. The course designers who were put to the task this week were Peter Grant (CAN) and Joseph (Joey) Rycroft (CAN). I did not see any of the WEF Qualifier but did attend the 1.50m Classic on Saturday. The 1.50m Classic featured 70 starters and there were 10 clear rounds. The course was very strong with an aggressive time allowed, so I was interested to walk Sunday’s track which featured 14 numbered obstacles and 17 efforts. The time allowed was set at 86 seconds and remained unchanged. The course included a double and a triple combination, plank vertical, two liverpools (closed vertical and an oxer), a triple bar, short pole vertical and the wall. Now, let’s walk through the $137,000 Netjets FEI CSI 3*!
#1 Triple bar 1.48/1.80m or 4.11/5.9ft came at the far end of the ring off of the right rein and abruptly ended the day for two riders as poles toppled to the ground.
#2 Oxer 1.50/1.50m or 5/5ft came on the right turn off of a long gallop. Unfortunately, three riders fell victim to the long approach and pull rails at fence two.
#3 Vertical 1.50m or 5ft came from #2 on a soft bending right rein with a distance of 35.5m or 116ft. This fence was one of only two obstacles on the course today that did not need to be repaired.
#4 Vertical plank 1.55m or 5.1ft came from #3 on the left rein on a long gallop. The planks kissed mother earth seven times.
#5 Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #4 in a straight line with a distance of 19.6m or 64.3ft and the forward four strides resulted in failure for four riders.
#6 Closed vertical liverpool 1.50m or 5ft came from #5 on the left rein across the face of the in-gate and tumbled into the water four times.
#7 The wall 1.58m or 5.2ft was off a full rollback right turn towards and away from the in-gate. While we don’t typically see a lot of trouble at the wall, we did see some of its blocks take a tumble three times throughout the day.
#8 Oxer 1.50/1.50m or 5/5ft came from #7 on soft right rein with a distance of 32m or 104.9ft and received the coup de grace just once.
#9 Short pole vertical 1.50m or 5ft came from #8 in a straight line with a distance of 21.8m or 71.5ft. This was the second and final obstacle to remain off of the casualty list today. It is interesting to note that the two jumps that received no damage today were verticals.
#10a Oxer 1.50/1.55m or 5/5.1ft came from #9 on the bending left rein with a distance of 34m or 111ft. At this jump we had one refusal and three rails fall from grace.
#10b Vertical 1.50m or 5ft followed up from #10a with a distance of 8.20m or 26.9ft and was also tossed to the turf three times.
#11 Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #10b on the left rein with no given distance on the long gallop. The top poles were pushed from the yellow cups five times.
#12 Liverpool oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #11 on bending right rein with a distance of 35.5m or 116ft and got the full wash four times.
#13a Vertical 1.50m or 5ft comes from #12 on the right rein with a distance of 31.5m or 103.3ft. The top pole on this vertical was slipped from its cups two times.
#13b Vertical 1.50m or 5ft followed #13a on a distance of 11.20m or 36.7m and was punished four times.
#13c Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #13b with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft. This oxer was the bogey fence on the course today with 11 disappointing results.
#14 Vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft was the last fence in the first round and came from #13c on the right rein ending at the in-gate. This vertical was a last-minute heartache for two riders.
There were 12 clear rounds that advanced to the jump-off. Time was not an issue in round one as there were no clear rounds that featured time faults. We had 16 rounds of 4 faults, eight with 8 faults and three with 9 faults. The rest will jump another day. We had one refusal and there was one voluntary withdrawal.
I would like to feature the triple combination in my remarks today. Back in the day, with a huge influence by British course designers, the triple combination was used late in the course in many cases. You could count on the construction to be oxer, vertical, oxer. Over the years, the triple appeared all over the course and that is where we are today. During Week Two we were on the grass and Week Three we were on the artificial footing, but they were both 3* events. On the grass, the triple came early on the course (#4) and during Week Three we were at the end of the course (#13). We saw nine rails at the triple combination when it was early in on the course while on the grass. On Sunday we had 17 rails when the triple came late in the course. The triple askes the horse for serious leg strength wherever it is on the course, but at the end, the legs can be more tired and more likely to have rails.
The course designer must decide on the tests that he or she will use within any course, and where to employ the triple is a major decision. One must remember that the triple is only one of the tests and that the results of the course involve the whole track. My opinion has always been that if it is a good course then every jump on the course was a problem for the riders entered. Two weeks ago the course was faulted at every fence but one, and the last two weeks have had tracks that had faults at all but two obstacles. I would thank Peter Grant and Joseph Rycroft (CAN) for excellent work on the $137,000 NetJets 3* Grand Prix and the best of luck for the coming season. Once again I would like to thank David Burton and his crew for their continued great work of keeping all of us following the rules and safe. For Week Four we are back out on the grass and I am told that the open water will be in play (weather permitting). Until then, I am Dave Ballard.