Wellington, Fla. – Mar. 9, 2021 – I feel like it is safe to say that WEF Week 8 was the most work intensive week of the winter season due to the fact that it features more major classes than any other. There was the Nations Cup, WEF Qualifier, U25, 1.50m classic and a 4* grand prix all in the same week. This is a serious work load for the course designer and our course designer for the week was Steve Stephens (USA). I believe that the courses for these events were worth 4*. The WEF qualifier was a speed event and a fair test. The Nations Cup was maybe the best in quite a few years. Many course designers have worked their whole careers and have never had the honor to design a Nations Cup. It is a fairly normal tradition that if the host nation has a course designer that has the accreditation to design a Nations Cup, then the host country will use that course designer. The Olympic Games has that tradition and, in some cases, there has been no course designer that has that experience and another foreign course designer has been given the job.
When designing a Nations Cup there are a couple of key things that as a course designer you try to accomplish and one of them is no jump off. Two rounds over a major course is a long day for any horse. After two rounds on Friday there was one clear winner, one clear second place and one clear third place team. The time allowed was perfect and in a couple of rides it did affect the outcome. As usual the open water was in both rounds, and in a slight twist, the first round was in daylight and round two was under the lights. The open water was not a serious factor in either round. In fact, the difficulty was equal in both rounds. An excellent Nations Cup will provide an average around three or four double clear rounds. Friday there were six double clear rounds. I think that the Nations Cup this year was a great one. Congrats to the USA team.
We will now move the $214,000 CSIO 4* Grand Prix presented by JTWG, Inc. held on Sunday afternoon. There were 50 entries and the weather was perfect, much better than the weather on Saturday night because of the heavy rain that fell. The course featured 13 numbered obstacles and 17 efforts. There was no open water, no wall and no plank vertical. There were three combinations (two doubles and one triple,) a triple bar and two Liverpools (one closed vertical in a combination and one oxer). There was one short log vertical. The time allowed wass set at 78 seconds and with the very technical track was perfect. The jump order is seeded with the split being 1/3 first, 1/3 being second and 1/3 last and is based on FEI rider points. I have said in the past many times that I am not a fan of seeding and would prefer a random draw, but this time the seeding system worked out. I will explain my comment at the end of the walk, but now it is time for the walk of the $214,000 CSIO 4* Grand Prix presented by JTWG.
#1 Vertical 1.48m or 4.11ft came off the left rein and was the only jump Sunday that did not need to be repainted.
#2 Oxer 1.48/1.55m or 4.11/5.1ft came from #1 in a straight line with a distance of 27m or 88.6ft and quickly ended the day for three riders.
#3 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft followed behind #2 on the left rein with no given distance across the face of the in-gate and touched down three times.
#4 Triple bar 1.25/1.90m or 4.2/6.3ft came on the right rein back across the in-gate on no given distance and the back pole was punished four times.
#5 Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft followed #4 on the right rein away from the in-gate with no given distance, however eight was the popular number throughout the class. This jump’s rails kissed mother earth six times.
#6a Vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft came from #5 in a straight line with a distance of 19.7m or 64.6ft. This was the bogey fence this afternoon with gravity taking 18 poles to the ground.
#6b Closed liverpool vertical 1.58m or 5.2ft followed #6a with a distance 7.90m or 26ft and was washed down 12 times. We also saw two refusals at this vertical.
#7 Oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft came from #6b in a straight line with a distance of 18m or 59ft and tumbled to the turf four times.
#8 Short log vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft came from #7 on the full turn on the left rein with no given distance and was rolled to the artificial footing six times.
#9a Oxer 1.48/1.60m or 4.11/5.3ft followed #8 in a straight line with a distance of 23m or 75.9ft and only fell from grace one time.
#9b Vertical 1.58m or 5.3ft came shortly after #9a with a distance of 7.90m or 26ft and was dashed to the dirt five times.
#10 Vertical 1.58m or 5.3ft came from #9b on the right rein with no given distance and was faulted six times.
#11 Oxer liverpool 1.48/1.70m or 5/5.6ft came from #10 in a straight line with a distance of 22.4m or 73.6ft. There was one washed pole and one refusal here.
#12a Oxer 1.48/1.65m or 5/5.4ft followed #11 on the right rein away from the in-gate on no given distance and was struck down three times with another two refusals.
#12b Vertical 1.57m or 5.2ft came from #12a with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and with the color of the poles going to all black, the curtain came down on #12b ten times.
#12c Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft followed behind #12b with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and also brought the curtain down six times.
#13 Oxer 1.51/1.75m or 5/5.6ft came from #12c on the soft left rein with a distance of 31.4m or 103ft and to finish the first round it finished the afternoon for five entries.
The final results will show that there were eight clear rounds to advance to the jump off. There were no clear rounds that had time faults. We had eight rounds of 4 faults and 14 rounds of 8 faults. The rest will jump another day. There were five refusals and four voluntary withdrawals. We had no eliminations and no falls. In the past I have rated the grand prix classes with stars and this grand prix will receive 4*- great track and great results. This course involved more of the rider and the horse than in previous grand prix classes this season. The tracks this season have been more of the scope of the horse than the combination of scope and rideability. Today we had a course that asked the rider to be accurate and the horse to respond. The seeding shows us that four of the clear rounds came in the first third, two in the second and three in the third seeding. This was a class that had you in the seats to the very end. A new combination of Teddy Vlock and Amsterdam 27 were very,very good and Loli Mytilneou (GRE) was fantastic. This was a great week for equestrian fans and I know that the coming weeks will be just as exciting.
I want to make a final comment about this week, and this becomes very personal for me. Management, sponsors and riders have a seat at the table and should be able to express opinions about the sport and how it can be run, but they as a single entity should not control the sport. There was a situation this week that could have shaped the competition and the results of that class. There was a situation earlier this season where an unreasonable complaint changed a jump that could have been a reasonable test into a nothing test. There was a similar complaint this week that withstood the complaint, but resulted in the loss of jumps that could have replaced the very boring poles and planks that is all we see week after week. The spectators are bored by the look of the ring and so are the horses. Decisions about the course and the material used are very important and should be made at the proper time and by the people in position to make these decisions. Riders are hired because of their expertise and course designers are hired because of their expertise, trainers are hired for the same reason. Respect given is respect earned. I extend many thanks to Steve Stephens and his crew for a great week. Until next week, I am Dave Ballard.