Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 25, 2021 – Week two of the WEF season concluded on Sunday with the feature class being the $137,000 FEI Restylane CSI 3* Grand Prix. I was really pumped for the Sunday morning grand prix because we were out on the derby field. With perfect weather and the grass in perfect condition, there is no better place for show jumping. Last week in the 3* Saturday night lights grand prix we had a very mixed field of riders and horses and it was an excellent class, but Sunday’s roster featured a much more experienced field of riders and horses. The task for the course designer was to create a fair 3* course for a list of 4* and 5* horses and riders. Our course designer for the week has been Oscar Soberon (USA) and earlier in the week the WEF qualifier was an excellent example of the expertise of Mr. Soberon. It was a great track with great results.
Sunday’s course featured a triple combination, double combination, a wall, two liverpools (one oxer and one closed vertical), a triple bar and a plank vertical. There were also several jumps using three different lengths of poles in their construction. There was no open water and while I understand the reason, I think we need to see the water soon. There are 13 numbered obstacles and 16 efforts. The time allowed was originally set at 88 seconds and was changed to 90 seconds after the third round without a refusal. The rule is that if the time allowed is, in the opinion of the judges and course designer, unfair it may be altered after there have been three rounds that have been completed without a refusal. On Sunday, the time was deemed to be too short and it was changed after the third ride. If the next horse had started before the change then the time allowed must stay the same. In hindsight, I believe the time was correct before the change. We saw all 45 entries trot across the derby field for the first round. It was truly a beautiful morning, so now let’s kick off the course walk of the $137,000 FEI 3* Restylane Grand Prix.
#1 Oxer 1.43/ 1.45/ 1.45m or 4.7/4.9/4.9ft and was the unexpected end to the day for three riders.
#2 Vertical 1.52m or 5ft came on the soft right bending rein and was the abrupt end to one rider’s hopes of joining the jump-off.
#3 Liverpool oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #2 on a full turn on the left rein and was easy enough to jump clean with only on splash-down throughout the class.
#4a Oxer 1.48/1.55m or 4.11/5.1ft came from #3 on the continuing left rein with no given distance and tumbled to the turf two times.
#4b Vertical 1.50m or 5ft came from #4a with a distance of 11.30m or 37ft and created one refusal and one rail down.
#4c Oxer 1.50/1.50m or 5/5ft continued from #4b with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and was dashed to the dirt six times.
#5 Oxer 1.48/1.55m or 4.11/5.1ft came from #4c on a long gallop on the right rein and fell from grace twice.
#6 The wall 1.58m or 5.2ft came from #5 on a right turn back and remained intact for the first round. The wall is not necessarily a jump you expect to fall a lot but is used to set up the test to the next jump.
#7a Plank vertical 1.50m or 5ft came in a straight line from #6 with a distance of 27.50m or 90ft and was pushed to the floor two times.
#7b Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #7a with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and made its way to the turf twice.
#8 Oxer 1.47/1.55m or 4.11/5.1ft came from #7b across and away from the in-gate on a long gallop. We just saw one rail here throughout the first round.
#9 Closed liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft came from #8 on a straight line with a distance of 25m or 82ft. We had hurricane-like damage here with one refusal and eight poles at the bottom of the deep blue sea.
#10 Short pole vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft came from #9 on a long gallop on the left rein and remained in pristine condition for the whole class.
#11 Triple bar 1.50/2.00m or 5/6.6ft came on a full turn right from #10 and was the last of three fences that remained intact throughout the course today. The triple bar, like the wall, is a set-up jump, and the effort to jump the width and the arc of the horse to the landing will make the next jump (if related in distance) the test.
#12 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft came from #11 on the bending right rein with a distance of 32.60m or 107ft and got in the face of Mother Earth 14 times. The poles in the construction of #12 are called Mafia poles. I don’t know the exact origin of that namesake, but the stripes on the poles are parallel lines which makes them appear a little harder to see than the vertical stripes.
#13 Oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft came from #12 in a straight line with a distance of 25m or 82ft and gravity took eight poles to terra firma. That completes the first round and now for the results of a very entertaining opening round.
Following the conclusion of round one, there were just 12 riders going to the jump-off. We did not have a clean round with only time faults. There were 15 rounds that had 5faults and one with 5 faults. There were ten rounds of 8 faults and the rest will jump another day. We saw two voluntary withdrawals and two refusals. We did not see any falls or eliminations.
I know how difficult a 3* can be in Wellington in the winter because of the caliber of both horse and rider that spend the winter here. Our course designer, Oscar Soberon, and his crew did excellent work all week and I think everyone enjoyed the courses and the final results. Most can be confident that they are well prepared for the coming weeks.
A good fact to take note of is when a course from the first jump to the last causes disruption for some riders. Last week in the Saturday night class all of the jumps except for fence three were in play for someone. Today there were three jumps that were not faulted, but two of those were what I call set-up jumps so I think that all of the jumps on the course were in play for someone.
The time allowed was changed from 88 to 90 seconds and I agree with that decision for two reasons. One of those reasons is the 3* designation and the other being the fact that this class was on the grass for the first time this season. The result of this change saw that eight of the clean rounds were under the original time allowed and four were under the changed time allowed. This was not a bad thing for this class. Enough said.
Another fact that readers should explore when reading Course Discourse is the FEI seeding of the start order. Today we had one clean round in the first third, three in the second third and eight in the last third. I think that this system for our sport is flawed, but it is what it is. I wish we could go back to a random draw.
This week we saw that many of the top riders and some of the top horses made their season debut, and in the following weeks we should be treated to many great grand prix competitions. We are back to the main showgrounds for WEF Week Three and I am excited about the coming weeks. Being on the grass is special and I am really sad about not having the Wellington Masters and their amazing facility for the future. The sport of show jumping in Florida in the winter is the biggest loser. You will be missed. Once again I will mention David Burton and his crew are doing a great job, and if you are out and about please obey the rules and stay safe. Until next week, I am Dave Ballard.