Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 1, 2022 – It is Saturday night and we are under the lights for the NetJets CSI 4* $216,000 Grand Prix. This will be the first 4* of the season and it is a star studded lineup of major high FEI ranked riders and some of their best horses. There will be 45 qualified riders and with one late scratch 44 will cross the start line. The WEF qualifier on Thursday was a fair event to bring forward the 45 that qualified for the class tonight. The weather could be a major factor as the temperature was seriously low around 42°F at start time. Jumping ahead I can say that the weather did not affect the grand prix. Our course designer for the week has been Peter Grant (CAN) and has his work will be put to the test tonight with this star filled lineup.
The course tonight will show the triple combination and the double combination. There will be two liverpools (one closed vertical and one oxer). For the first time this season the liverpools were covered on the edges with footing to give a better picture of being in the ground. This small but important detail is something that should dealt with every time the liverpools are used on course. We will see a plank vertical, triple bar, short pole vertical and the wall. Do we have only one wall? I am not going to lie, I am disappointed that there is no open water.
The time allowed is set at 82 seconds and will remain there. It is very important that we will see that the order of go is random and that is a major rule change from the FEI that I fully support. We will not see the lower seeds start and the higher ranked riders come at the end of the class. The random draw can really affect how the riders see the course. If the riders early in the order have difficulty on the course, later riders may feel the need to change their ride. The draw tonight had an effect on the outcome of the grand prix first round. I will explain at the end of the walk. The time has come for the walk of the CSI 4* NetJets $216,000 Grand Prix.
#1 vertical 1.47m or 4.10ft comes on the right rein at and away from the in-gate and was not a factor on the course tonight.
#2 vertical 1.55n or 5.1ft comes on the continuing right rein with no given distance (10 strides mainly) and dashed the hopes early for three riders. It can be noted that two verticals to start a major class is a little unusual but it did make a difference.
#3 oxer Liverpool 1.49/1.55m or 5/5.1ft continues from #2 on the right bend with a distance of 35m or 114ft and suffered one refusal with a fall and one elimination. The appearance of the liverpool being in ground may have been a factor.
#4 The Wall 1.58m or 5.3ft comes on the left turn and as a set up jump can be excused for not tumbling to the dirt tonight.
#5a oxer 1.51/1.65m or 5/54ft comes on the bending left rein with a distance of 32m or 104ft and with the Wall setting up a ride of seven or eight strides stopped one ride in their tracks and sent three poles to the floor.
#5b vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes from #5a with a distance of 11.4m or 37.4ft and five poles slipped from the yellow cups to the floor.
#5c oxer 1.51/1.55m or 5/51ft comes from #5b with a distance of 7.90m or 25.9ft and was crushed three times. It must be noted that the vertical (5b) was not in the same color scheme as #5a and #5c and is a good design tool for the course designer. I love making a combination in this manner.
#6 closed Liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #5c in a straight line with a distance of 27.5m or 90ft and fell from grace only one time.
#7 oxer 1.52/1.55m or 5/51ft comes on the right turn away from the in-gate and was punched from the top cups only one time.
#8 short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #7 in a straight line with a distance of 15.20m or 49.9ft and met mother earth 10 times. This distance was very specific for certain horses in some that landed shallow over the oxer (#7) were long and pushed the pole to the ground and a ride that landed long from #7 were a little too short and also pushed the short pole to the turf.
#9 vertical 1.58 or 5.3ft comes from #8 on the soft left bending rein with a distance of 28m or 91.9ft and gravity pulled five rails to the floor.
#10 oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft comes from #9 in a straight line with a distance of 18.4m or 60.3ft and with the distance being a little quiet in four strides and a little extra width created seven failures to execute.
#11 plank vertical 1.61m or 5.3ft comes on the role back left turn and being all black should have been more of a factor but it was not and only recorded touch down.
#12 triple bar 1.55/2.00m or 5.1/6.6ft comes from #11 on the right turn and as a set up jump it also can be excused for not being an individual demon but it did set up the next test.
#13a vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft comes in a straight line from #12 with a distance of 22.30m or 73ft and recorded 10 fatalities. The triple bar did its job.
#13b oxer 1.50/1.60m or 5/5.3ft comes from #13a with a distance of 8.10m or 26.6ft and was forced to the floor one time.
#14 oxer 1.52/1.80m or 5.1/5.8ft comes towards the in-gate on the bending right rein with a distance of 36m or 118ft . #14 was the last fence in the first round and it also ended the evening for five competitors.
The final results of the CSI 4* $216,000 NetJets Grand Prix are as follows- There were 14 clear rounds and there were five rounds of four faults. We had six rounds of eight faults and five with nine faults. That covers over 50% of the class and the rest will compete another day. We had two refusals, one fall (elimination) and two VW’s. This was the first 4* of the season and reading the heights and widths it certainly shows that the course was stout enough and a good standard for the coming 4* competitions. If the specs of the course were stout enough the question asked of me was “why were there so many clear rounds”? First I have to say that this class had very good results as it is early in the season and it need not be a devastating course and I think that Peter Grant (CAN) did an excellent job. I think that the random draw had an effect because the first two riders in the order were two of the best in the world and they made the course look more comfortable than maybe some had thought with the course being strong enough. As a course designer, I used to fear the first in the ring to go clear. With the first two to go clear it established the numbers between the jumps as the standard for all the riders to come as the numbers to do. Almost all the entries from the first two did the same numbers and so the TA was at the 80 second mark throughout the class. The TA was 82 and very correct in my opinion. I think if the soft bending lines were more acute and therefore the number of strides in question and the eye of the rider and the ride-ability of the horse brought more into play there may have been fewer clear without making the TA shorter and more of a factor. There are more ways to increase the technicality and difficulty without making the time shorter. What do you the reader think about the change from a seeded jump order to the old random draw? I would love to hear from you about this change or anything that you would like to discuss. Next week we are back out on the grass and I hope the weather is somewhat warmer. Until next week I am Dave Ballard.