Course Discourse: $214,000 FEI CSI4* M&S/Great American Grand Prix

Between the feature class on Sunday afternoon on the grass, the $214,000 Marshall & Sterling/Great American Insurance Group CSI4* Grand Prix, and the Super Bowl, we had a busy conclusion to Week 4 at WEF. The best part of last week was the fact that we were back on the derby field where we can always expect great jumping on that really excellent surface. The horses love the grass and I expected them to give us their best effort over the course designed by Anderson Lima (BRA). The weather once again cooperated with us and was mild with some mild winds and no rain during the class.

Once again, this year the course design has been excellent in all of the feature classes and it is important this year that the horses get to jump a couple of extra weeks on the grass. I cannot say enough that the shows at Deeridge are really missed. The threat of rain for Sunday made me a little nervous about the water jump being on the course but there were no issues. The class featured 45 qualified entries who qualified out of the WEF qualifier on Friday on a very fair and solid 4* course. The course Sunday featured the water, a triple and double combination, a plank vertical, two short pole verticals, a closed liverpool vertical, a triple bar and the wall. The time allowed was set at 83 seconds and remained unchanged. There were 13 numbered obstacles and 16 efforts. Now, let’s begin our walk-through of the $214,000 Marshall & Sterling/Great American Insurance Group CSI4* Grand Prix.

#1 Vertical 1.50m or 5ft and was one of only two jumps to remain in the yellow cups during the first round.

#2 Oxer 1.50/1.50m or 5/5ft came from #1 on a soft right bend with a distance of 37m or 121ft and abruptly ended the day for one rider.

#3 Triple bar 1.55/1.90m or 5.1/6.3ft came from #2 on the left rein and with no given distance and would also result in one rider to miss out on the jump-off.

#4 Plank vertical 1.57m or 5.2ft came from #3 in a straight line with a distance of 28.90m or 94.9ft. The top plank fell from grace only one time.

#5 The wall 1.58m or 5.3ft came from #4 on the left turn. Here the bricks crumbled to the ground three times and created one refusal.

#6 The open water 3.9m or 12.9ft came from #5 on the right rein with no given distance (it was nine strides for most) and, if you can believe it, never had a toe in the tub! It is important to note that the water was used only in this class and for the first time this season. The use of the water was posted at the beginning of the week so the competitors could be prepared for seeing it today. I know that in my 13 years of Course Discourse, this is the first time that the water remained undamaged for a whole class. If all of the horses jumped the water as well as the entry of Paris Sellon who was the first on course Sunday, then we could spend less time thinking of the mystic of the open water.

#7a Vertical 1.54m or 5.1ft came from #6 in a straight line with a distance of 34m or 111.9ft and tumbled to the turf four times.

#7b Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft followed #7a with a distance of 8.10 or 26.6ft going towards the in-gate and fell from the heavens two times.

#8 Closed liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft was on the left rein away from the in-gate with no given distance and splashed down five times.

#9 Hermes oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft came from #8 on the left rein and saw eight fatalities. I mention the sponsor name of this obstacle because it is important to note that over the course of this blog, the Hermes has been the most faulted individual stand alone jump.

#10 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft was positioned from #9 in a straight line with a distance 23.20m or 76ft. Here six riders ended their day shortly as they watched rails fall to the ground.

#11a Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #10 on a soft left bending line with a distance of 30.80m or 101ft and was punched out three times.

#11b Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft followed #11a with a distance of 11m or 36ft and was the bogy jump on the day with poles tumbling to the turf nine times.

#11c Vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft came after #11b on a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and was damaged throughout the day five times.

#12 Short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft came on the right turn with a long gallop and was a day-ending question for eight competitors. We also saw one refusal here in round one.

#13 Oxer 1.52/1.75m or 5/5.7ft came from #12 in a straight line with a distance of 25.90m or 84.9ft and is the final test in the first round today. Five riders had a heartbreaking rail at this final jump. We also saw one recorded refusal here, but it was more of a voluntary withdrawal.

The final tally of the first round of the Marshall & Sterling/Great American Insurance Group CSI 4* Grand Prix is as follows: There were 12 clear rounds and there were no clear rounds with only time faults to count. We had 14 rounds that saw 4 faults and 10 with 8 faults. The rest will compete another day. The weather was never a real factor and the footing remained perfect. Many thanks to Anderson Lima (BRA) and his crew for a really good week of course design that created great jumping and great results.

I would like to note a couple of personal opinions. The water jump, as many will know, is a personal passion and I have stated many times over the years that if the water is presented in the proper way, it is a normal jump. It is also a jump that must be used in some cases for riders and horses to go the international level. The water today was under 13ft (3.90m), and for the first time this season was just right. I think 4m (13ft) is the more normal width. The water under the lights, if presented properly, should be considered a normal obstacle. As I presented the stats for the water last year and showed them over five seasons, daylight and under the lights the water was just another jump.

My second observation will be about the triple combination which is a continuing the topic from last week. The construction of the triple combination early or late in the course is also key to the difficulty therein. Today the triple came late but it was oxer, oxer, vertical for the first time this season. When the triple involves two oxers, the difficulty increases. The line to the triple was also a small factor. It will be interesting in the coming weeks to compare a triple that involves two oxers and comes early in the course. We are back under the lights for Week 5 which will feature our first 5* Grand Prix of the season. Once again, I want to thank David Burton and his crew for their work on masking and social distancing and keeping this sport up and running. Please follow the rules and keep yourself and those around you SAFE. Until next week I am Dave Ballard.

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