Last week we concluded Week 5 of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida which was host to the first CSI 5* Grand Prix of the season. The class Saturday night was the Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI 5*. The total prize money was $401,000 and 40 qualifiers were accepted to compete. Once again, the weather was very good for show jumping with maybe a little too much humidity to be perfect. The course designer for Week 4 was Kelvin Bywater (GBR). Kelvin has been my friend for a really long time and is a personal favorite in the craft of course design. Kelvin has been in Wellington for many years and has a stellar record in providing great competition. One of his personal aims in creating good courses is to present the jumps and the ring in a decorative eye pleasing way.
On walking into the ring Saturday night, the first observation I made was that the ring looked great and the jumps seemed to be a little more colourful. There were more turning islands (one big potted palm tree), a little water display at the closed liverpool and overall, the jumps just looked better. This attention to making the ring look better is for both the competitors and the spectators. The course featured a triple and double combination and two liverpools. There was also a plank vertical and a short pole vertical. The course did not have the open water, the wall or triple bar.
There were 13 numbered obstacles and 16 efforts with a time allowed of 79 seconds. The course Saturday was similar to the WEF qualifier held on Thursday in that it was very related with the oxers about the same height but with more width and the verticals being higher. The biggest change in the course for the feature class was the technicality in the lines between certain jumps. The riders needed to have complete control of the horse to make the delicate adjustments to be successful on these lines. The WEF results had a couple more clean rounds than I thought because the course was extremely fair and by the rules, but the quality of the horse and rider in Wellington is way above the norm. Now, lets turn our attention to the course walk of the $401,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate CSI 5* Grand Prix.
#1 Vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft was the beginning and the end for one rider.
#2 Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft came with no given distance (7 or 8 strides) on the right rein and was also the demise of one competitor’s dreams to move forward to the jump off.
#3 Liverpool oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft was on the left turn. Here we saw the poles take a wash five times as well as one refusal.
#4a Plank vertical 1.55m or 5.1ft came from #3 in a straight line with a distance of 23.50m or 77ft and was punished four times.
#4b Oxer 1.51/1.60 or 5/5.3ft came from #4a with a distance of 8.05m or 26.6ft and was the only jump to remain intact during the round. This came as a surprise with the forward distance to #4a, but all riders managed to do the forward five or the short six strides and get out of #4b comfortably.
#5 Vertical 1.62m or 5.4ft followed #4b in a straight line with a distance of 18.10m or 59.6ft and fell from grace two times. Once again, the quality of the horse and rider riding the difficult short four strides was not the major test I had imagined.
#6 Short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft came from #5 on the strong bending right rein toward the in-gate and had a meeting with mother earth one time.
#7 Oxer 1.51/1.70m or 5/5.6ft came from #6 on the full rollback turn across the in-gate and was faulted twice.
#8 Vertical 1.60m or 5ft came from #7 away from the in-gate with no given distance and fell from grace two times. We also saw a refusal and fall that resulted in elimination.
#9a Oxer 1.50/1.70m or 5/5.6ft came from #8 in a straight line with a distance of 25m or 82ft. Here riders had a choice of five or six strides, with six being the most popular ride. This was the second most difficult on the course tonight with seven rails tumbling to the ground.
#9b Vertical 1.53m or 5.1ft followed #9a with a distance of 7.90m or 26ft, and while the “A” and “C” elements of the triple were constructed with double blue and white poles, “B” was all white. This is the first time this year that the color has changed in the middle of the triple combination to all white. I like this use of color and it was a main feature that I used in my course design. The “B” element of the triple was damaged three times.
#9c Oxer 1.52/1.60m or 5/5.3ft followed #9b with a distance of 11.30m or 37ft and was tossed to the turf tive times and also created one refusal.
#10 Vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft came from #9c on the left bending rein with a distance of 27.40m or 90ft, and fell to the floor three times.
#11 Oxer 1.52/1.65m or 5/5.4ft came from #10 on the full left turn with no given distance and was roughed up six times.
#12 Closed liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft came from #11 on the right rein and was the bogey fence tonight with six splashdowns and two refusals resulting in elimination of one rider.
#13 Oxer 1.53/1.80m or 5.1/5.8ft came from #12 in a straight line with a distance that was not on my build sheet, but riders had an option of six or seven strides. This was the last fence in the first round and we had two poles bite the dust and one refusal to finish our walk.
The final results of the first round of the $401,000 CSI 5* Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix will give us nine clean rounds advancing to the jump off. There were two rounds incurring only 1 time fault and we had seven rounds of 4 faults, four with 5 faults and four with 8 faults. The rest will jump another day. We had five refusals, one fall and four voluntary withdrawals. The fall resulted in elimination, and two refusals by a rider on course resulted in elimination.
This was an excellent course for the 5* and the results were perfect. The time allowed was aggressive, but very fair. As I said earlie,r I saw that the ring was decorated so that it was pleasing to the eye as always, but tonight it appeared to be a step up. The decoration around #12 the closed Liverpool could have served to catch the focus of the horse a little and create a change in the ride which should be considered another test for the horse and rider. Decoration is undervalued as an aspect of course design and Kelvin Bywater is one of the best at making his courses attractive. Job well done and hope to see you back next year.
I have an observation on the triple combination coming late on the course as we have discussed already this season. The triple Saturday night came late in the course and involved two oxers. This is the most difficult triple with two oxers. A triple that uses oxer, vertical, oxer can be considered easier than one that uses the two oxers together. The total rails tonight at the triple were 15 with one refusal which is very consistent with the faults this season with the triple coming late on the course. Keep up the good work David Burton and to everyone follow the rules and keep yourself and others safe. Until next week I am Dave Ballard.