Wellington, FL – December 13, 2020 – The ESP Holiday II CSI4* at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) came to a close on Sunday after a week of international show jumping competition. The $214,000 Spy Coast Farm Holiday II Grand Prix CSI4* took place in the International Arena with 45 riders fighting for the top spot, which was ultimately claimed by Laura Kraut (USA) and St. Bride’s Farm’s Confu as the most efficient jump-off challengers. Sunday’s competition concluded the ESP Holiday II CSI4*, but showing will continue from Tuesday, December 15 to Thursday, December, 17, with the ESP Holiday III Show, followed by the ESP New Year’s Show from Friday, December 18, to Sunday, December 20.
“I have to say, I don’t know what year I’m on with him, maybe my fifth or sixth, but he has just been such a great partner for me,” commented Kraut of Confu, a 2007 Holsteiner gelding by Contact Me x Cambridge. “He’s like my security blanket. Whenever I need one to come out and do something well, it’s him. I appreciate him every time I get to jump him and when he performs like this it just makes everything wonderful. Now I can rest easy for a few weeks and be happy with that! It was great. Anytime you win a class like this, it’s why we do it.”
The international field of 45 entries in the $214,000 Spy Coast Farm Holiday II Grand Prix CSI4* represented 10 nations, including the United States, Israel, Ireland, Great Britain, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, and Colombia. For the first round of riding, course designer Héctor Loyola (PUR) crafted a track of 17 efforts, which tested challengers throughout the contest. It took until the 16th in the order of go to see a clear round, which came from Bliss Heers (USA) and Bridgeside Farms LLC’s Antidote De Mars, and Schuyler Riley (USA) and Katherine Gallagher’s Robin De Ponthual eventually forced a jump-off with their fault-free round as the 21st in the start list.
“This will be my third season with this horse. She’s great, and very, very careful,” noted second-place finisher Daniel Bluman (ISR) of his ride, Colestina H. “Her job normally is the 1.50m classes, as those are where she excels the most. That being said, sometimes she has to step up depending on how the calendar goes. This week she had to, and she delivered. She jumped amazing. She nearly won, so I’m thrilled with her. She gave an incredible effort.”
Already with two recent CSI4* successes under their belt as the winners of the $214,000 Holiday & Horses Grand Prix CSI4*, presented by Palm Beach County Sports Commission, on November 29, and the $73,000 Sweet Oak Farm 1.50m Qualifier CSI4* on December 11, Lucy Deslauriers (USA) and Hester continued their hot streak with a clear ride to add another contender to the jump-off list. Foot-perfect rounds then came in quick succession from Todd Minikus (USA) on Amex Z, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) with Akuna Mattata, Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve, Bluman riding Colestina H, and Kraut aboard Confu. The final pairs to qualify for the short course were Shane Sweetnam (IRL) on Alejandro, Harrie Smolders (SUI) aboard Monaco, and Margie Engle (USA) on Royce.
“Going in today, I was trying to forget about our hiccup, which is out of the ordinary for us and was totally my fault, in the Qualifier jump-off. I wanted to make sure she was totally confident and comfortable,” remarked Shahinian-Simpson of her goals for the class with Akuna Mattata. “She jumped the first round amazing, and in the jump-off I wanted to be really smooth and get back in my gear. I felt like the other day I was a little bit too racy in my head, so I wanted to get back centered and she felt incredible. I was really happy.”
In total, 11 combinations qualified to ride over the shortened jump-off course, which had been trimmed to eight fences. First to tackle the track, Heers and Antidote De Mars once again served as the pathfinders with a clear trip in 40.15 seconds to set the pace. The lead changed hands a number of times before finally settling on the victors, first to Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata in a time of 40.13 seconds, just two-hundredths of a second faster than Heers and Antidote De Mars. Bluman navigated Colestina H to an even faster time of 39.93 seconds to up the ante, but Kraut and Confu sliced even more time off the clock as the fourth-to-last challengers with a clear result in 39.75 seconds.
“I’m comfortable with her leaving strides and being fast because she’s so careful. She does spend too much time in the air, so that sometimes makes it a little bit difficult for me to win,” said Bluman of his jump-off plan and execution. “I saw that I could shave strides everywhere, and I knew my horse was really careful, so I knew I could really attack the jump, which I did. I’m very happy for Laura because she was great, and a second place for me today and a second place the other day in the Qualifier [riding Alamo] is super. It’s not a win, which is what we aim to do, but at least the horses are being consistent and the results are starting to be good.”
Reflecting on her jump-off plan as the times continued to get faster, Kraut commented, “I thought that I’ve got to go and give it the best that I can give it. I’ve not historically been the quickest with him. I saw Daniel go right before me, so I thought I’d just try to do the same things that he did and hope to be a little bit quicker, which is what happened. I still thought that I would get beaten by Harry, Margie, or Shane, but I got lucky today.”
Though the final three pairs chased down Kraut and Confu, none could catch the leading pair without incurring faults, solidifying the American duo as the winners. Bluman and Colestina H (Colestus x Cardenio 2), the horse co-owned by Blue Star Investments and Kim Douglas, maintained second position, followed by Shahinian-Simpson on Silver Raven Farms’ Akuna Mattata (Quinar x Landwind II) in third place. Smolders and Monaco turned in the swiftest ride of the jump-off thanks to a time of 38.39 seconds, but dropped the final rail.
“2020 was nice for him because he really had an easy year!” remarked Kraut of Confu’s activities throughout the year. “We did a lot of riding out in the countryside in England, so he did a lot of hills, opening gates, and crossing creeks. He had a really nice year and worked his brain a bit. Today when I was going around, he actually felt like he was having fun and like he loved it, and it showed in the way he jumped.”
Of her plans for the upcoming 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival, Kraut noted, “I think we are all appreciating what we can do more than we would have in years past, so I’m very much looking forward to that. I also have a string of horses that will be in Spain, so hopefully if everything works I will do a little bit of commuting back and forth. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my plan will happen, but if not, who can complain about being here?”
Immediately following the CSI4* grand prix, the $25,000 Holiday II National Grand Prix, presented by Resilient Fitness, hosted a pack of 56 horse-and-rider combinations in the International Arena. The tough course saw plenty of rails fall, with only two partnerships advancing to the jump-off. Adding to an already successful day, Bluman captured the victory on Over The Top Stables LLC’s Ubiluc (Ubiko x Lucian) with a double-clear time of 42.727 seconds. Also making an appearance in her second grand prix jump-off for the day, Springsteen piloted RMF Tinkerbell (Inkolor x Argentinus), owned by Rushy Marsh Farm LLC, to the runner-up spot in a fault-free time of 44.17 seconds. Teddy Vlock (ISR) and Vlock Show Stables LLC’s Conner (Cornado NRW x For Pleasure) nabbed third place with a single time fault.
Earlier on Sunday in the $2,500 High Junior/ Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, sponsored by Equiline, 40 horse-and-rider duos competed over the 1.40m course, with only seven qualifying for the jump-off. Of the seven competing in the second phase, a smaller group of four finished fault-free. Holding a fierce lead by nearly five seconds, Reid Arani of Wellington, FL, took the win atop Islay Jumper LLC’s Ziezo, in an untouchable time of 36.061 seconds. Right behind Arani, Stella Stinnett and her ride from Heathman Farm LLC, Copain Z, took second place with a time of 41.02 seconds. Natalie Dean of Palo Alto, CA, was just narrowly off the pace taking third with a time of 41.27 seconds aboard Marigold Sporthorses LLC’s Cocolina.
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults / R2 Faults | Time
$214,000 Spy Coast Farm Holiday II Grand Prix CSI4*
1. Confu / Laura Kraut / USA / St. Brides Farm / 0 / 0 | 39.75
2. Colestina H / Daniel Bluman / ISR / Blue Star Investments and Kim Douglas / 0 / 0 | 39.93
3. Akuna Mattata / Nicole Shahinian-Simpson / USA / Silver Raven Farms / 0 / 0 | 40.13
4. Antidote De Mars / Bliss Heers / USA / Bridgeside Farms, LLC / 0 / 0 | 40.15
5. Robin De Ponthual / Schuyler Riley / USA / Katherine Gallagher / 0 / 0 | 41.60
6. Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve / Jessica Springsteen / USA / Stone Hill Farm / 0 / 0 | 41.65
7. Monaco / Harrie Smolders / NED / Evergate Stables LLC / 0 / 4 | 38.39
8. Amex Z / Todd Minikus / USA / Bit by Bit Group / 0 / 4 | 38.88
9. Hester / Lucy Deslauriers / USA / Lisa Deslauriers / 0 / 4 | 39.84
10. Alejandro / Shane Sweetnam / IRL / Seabrook, Spycoast Farm and Sweet Oak Farm / 0 / 4 | 40.22
11. Royce / Margie Engle / USA / Gladewinds Partners, LLC / 0 / 3 | 46.74
12. Jet Blue / Carly Anthony / USA / Portfolio Horses LLC / 1 / 85.38