A nighttime crowd packed the stands in support of 40 international riders who came to compete in the $380,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5* Grand Prix in Wellington, Florida on Saturday, February 11, 2017. The atmosphere was electrifying through Round 1 and an 11-horse jumpoff, with the most applause of the night reserved for USA’s Kent Farrington and the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Gazelle (Kashmir von Schuttershot x Indoctro), as they captured 1st place.
The Bob Ellis and Kelvin Bywater-designed track saw a diverse field of horses and riders try their luck in what was the first, CSI5* rated grand prix of the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festical. Time allowed for Round 1 was 86 seconds, though it was the 13 obstacles themselves that proved to be the greatest challenge.
“I thought, after walking, that a lot was going to depend on the time allowed,” said Farrington, who is the Longines FEI No. 3 ranked rider in the world. “In an ideal world [Bob Ellis] could have had the time allowed a touch shorter, as you ended up with a few more in the jump-off than you maybe wanted, but the jump-off was still difficult enough to go clear.”
The course began with tight turns from fences one through four, and the Rolex triple combination came right up on a bending line early on course, at obstacle 7ABC. That, and a black oxer on the dark end of the arena caused the most faults, but mistakes were made throughout the track, which was fair and rideable.
As veteran talents succumbed to the course, younger riders got their chance to shine under the grandstand lights, notably 20-year-old Chloe Reid, who produced the third clear round aboard her 10 year old Irish Sport Horse stallion Codarco (Darco x Orame). Last to go Ireland’s Conor Swail produced the final clear of Round 1, solidifying a jumpoff that included Canada’s Eric Lamaze and USA’s Margie Engle, riders known to hold nothing back during the race against the clock.
Six nations were represented on the shortened course, though only two would go clear over the eight obstacles to secure a spot on the podium. Farrington was the ninth rider to go, and to the satisfaction of the crowd, was able to capitalize on his efforts in 44.48 seconds, making the leading time on the board his own.
“Usually, my plan in a jump-off is to play to the horse’s strengths,” said Farrington. “Coming after me was Fine Lady and Eric Lamaze, a very competitive combination. They’re super fast against the clock, so my plan was to do what I thought was the limit for my horse, and to put the pressure on him to have to really chase me, as his horse is probably faster in this type of arena.”
But Lamaze, winner of Thursday’s $130,000 Ruby et Violette Challenge Cup CSI5*, would have an uncharacteristic rail a the A element of a double combination in the jumpoff, leaving him in an eventual 4th place.
Landing in 2nd place with a time of 45.69 seconds was 32-year-old Luiz Francisco de Azevedo of Brazil and Comic, a 10 year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Verdi x Heartbreaker). The finish marked the Brazilian rider’s first, top 3 finish in a grand prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival, and he didn’t hold back when asked to speak on his latest accomplishment.
“My goal was to be here at this level, and I’m really happy with my horse because we bought him when he was just six-years-old and built him up,” said Azevedo. “I’m very happy, because for me it’s like a win to be 2nd behind Kent Farrington.”
Catherine Tyree of the USA was the first to go clear in the jumpoff. The 23-year-old rider piloted Bokai, her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Up to date x Olympic Ferro) to a 3rd place finish with a time of 48.29 seconds.
“I had Kent and Eric behind me so chances were they were going to go quicker,” said 23-year-old Tyree. “It’s my first five star with this horse and it’s my top finish. It’s a relatively new partnership as I got him in July, so I really tried to just go in and have a smooth jump-off. He jumped a great clean round and was fantastic.”
For her efforts, Tyree earned the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Award of WEF 5, her second time this season picking up that honor. she was previously awarded during week 1 of WEF. “It’s always been a dream of mine to jump Saturday nights, and to be sitting here in the company of these riders is something I’ve always wanted and worked towards,” said Tyree. To have accomplished it is an absolutely amazing feat and it takes an entire team. The past year was a little rough but it’s been a fairytale in the end.”
For the full results, visit this link.