The 9th week of the 2021 WEF season concluded on Sunday with the highlight class of the week being the CSI 5* $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix held on Saturday. Before our walkthrough I must acknowledge the special presentation that took place just before the class began. David Burton, your show manager of WEF, was presented with a trophy that will be given each year to a person that has shown continued excellence and dedication in maintaining and growing the horse sport that we all count on to be there every year at WEF. This award will be given in David’s name and it is an honor that is well deserved. I am proud to call David my friend, and the winners of this award in the future will know that the bar was set very high and a lot of hard work went into receiving this award. I am sure that David and his staff will continue to work for us to get us safely to the new normal.
Our course designer this week has been Alan Wade (IRE) and he is very familiar with the international ring in Wellington. Sadly, there are no more shows at Deeridge and Alan was the only course designer to work that wonderful grass field. The courses that were created there were excellent every time. The course tonight showed 14 numbered obstacles with 17 efforts. On the course we saw the open water, two combinations (a double and a triple), two liverpools (one closed vertical and one oxer liverpool), a triple bar and one short pole vertical. There was also a variety of length of the poles used throughout the course. The course did not feature a wall and or plank vertical. There were 40 entries qualified and with one scratch, we saw 39 starters. The time allowed was set at 83 seconds and was very fair. Let us begin our walk of the $401,000 Fidelity Investments CSI 5* Grand Prix.
#1 Oxer 1.47/1.49/1.45m or 4.10/4.11/4.9ft has a very slight ramp and created a sudden ending for one entry.
#2 Vertical 1.57m or 5.2ft came from #1 on the bending right rein and was one of only two obstacles to remain intact throughout the first round Saturday evening.
#3 Closed liverpool vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft followed behind #2 on the left rein and away from the in gate and was a little tight in the corner. We had five splashdowns at #3.
#4a Oxer 1.49/1.65m or 5/5.5ft came from #3 in a straight line with no given distance on the course plan. This line was related and seven strides was the popular number, so I walked the distance several times and estimate the distance to be approximately 29.6m or 97ft. I apologize if that is not exact. This oxer bit the dust one time.
#4b Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.5ft followed #4a with a distance of 10.90m or 35.7ft and fell to the floor three times.
#4c Vertical 1.58m or 5.2ft concluded the triple with a distance from #4b of 7.80m or 25.6ft and was removed from the yellow cups once.
#5 Triple bar 1.55/2.00m or 5.1/6.6ft came from #4c on the left rein with no given distance and tumbled to the turf two times.
#6 Vertical 1.61m or 5.3ft followed #5 in a straight line with a distance of 21.70m or 71ft and was punished throughout the night five times.
#7 Short pole vertical 1.60m or 5.3ft comes from #6 on the right rein with no given distance and these short white poles got dirty four times.
#8 Liverpool oxer 1.51/1.70m or 5/5.6ft came behind #7 in a straight line with a distance of 18.30m or 60ft and resulted with a refusal and fall, therefore resulting in an elimination. We also saw three floating poles on the course that night.
#9 Open water 4m or 13ft came from #8 with no given distance on the right rein and was the bogey fence on the course tonight with 10 toes in the tub. My personal observations at the water tonight were that there were a couple of the horses that faulted here that did have a look at the water, but there were no refusals. In my opinion, there were too many bad rides to the water that resulted in faults. At the end of the walk I will deal with my thoughts on the water a little further.
#10 Oxer 1.51m/1.65m or 5/5ft followed #9 in straight line with a distance 30m or 98.3ft and gravity took three poles to the floor.
#11 Vertical 1.61m or 5.3ft came from #10 in a straight line with a distance of 26.5m or 64.9ft and was the second of the two jumps not faulted tonight.
#12 Oxer 1.55/1.40m or 5.1/4.6ft came on the left rein from #11 and was away from the in-gate. The poles at this jump fell from grace five times.
#13a Vertical 1.50m or 5ft followed #12 on a soft bending line on the right rein with a distance of 26.50m or 84.6ft and met mother earth four times.
#13b Oxer 1.50/1.65m or 5/5.4ft comes from #13a with a distance of 8m or 26.3ft and kissed mother earth six times and we also had one refusal.
#14 Oxer 1.52/1.75m or 5/5.7ft came behind #13b in a straight line with a distance of 22.80m or 74.9ft and showed a recorded refusal, but really it was just a circle to regroup. This was the last fence in the first round and it also finished the evening for five riders. I believe that two of those five rides had their only faults at the last fence. That ends the first round of the $401,000 Fidelity Investments CSI 5* Grand Prix.
The final results of the first round will show that nine riders would go forward to the jump off. There was one ride that was clear over the jumps but had one time fault. There were eight rounds of 4 faults, two with 5 faults and three with 8 faults. The rest will compete another day. My evaluation of the course Saturday evening is that we were treated to an excellent 5* grand prix and I expected nothing less from course designer Alan Wade (IRE). There were only two jumps that remained in the yellow cups and both were verticals. The seeding did not factor in the results in that there were three clears in the first cut, two in the second cut and four in the final cut. This helped the spectators enjoy and remain in their seats for the first round.
The triple combination was early in the course and employed scope with A and B being oxers. I have said that I believe that when the triple is early in the course that with the horses fresh it will be less of a problem than when the horses are tired and it comes late in the course. The triple tonight saw only five rails in total. The open water (4m or 13ft) was the bogey fence tonight with ten toes in the tub. There were a couple of rides that showed some hesitation on the part of the horse and they did not achieve the strong stride at takeoff and therefore there were faults at the water. I know that it is only my opinion, but most of the faults at the water came from bad rides to the water. It would help if the water was given with a pole over it and an option beside if from week 1 and not just on the grass (1 week) where it remained fault free in that class and was less than 4m (13ft).
The water jump is a major problem in the USA. Some trainers and riders put pressure on show management to not use it ever. There is a need it more often, but when used it could be used in a better way. Sometimes we don’t see it for the first half of the season and then after that we see it too often. Young horses need to learn how to jump the open water and also young riders. The open water has always been a focal point for many riders and especially trainers and one answer is that today you can purchase the same jump that is used in many competitions and train at home with your horses and your future team riders.
It is with serious sadness that this is the final walk for me and Course Discourse this season because I am going home. I have been here for three months by myself without my wife Sandi and the dogs (my best friend “Doc” will not be there to welcome me home, but I do not wish to be on my own for another month). I want to thank the readers of Course Discourse and Phelps Media for their support over the years and I promise to be back next season for the full 12 weeks of WEF 2022. Thank you all for your support and I remain Dave Ballard.