Also competing on Saturday, Victoria Colvin won the 2015 WIHS Equitation Finals, presented by SAP. Katherine Strauss and All In were victorious in the $15,000 SJHOF Ambassador’s Cup High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, sponsored by Staysail Farm, and Sima Morgello and Zopala topped the $7,500 Senator’s Cup Low Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, sponsored by The Strauss Family. Competition concludes on Sunday with the Pony Hunters, WIHS Pony Equitation Finals, and WIHS Regional Finals.
Course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) set the tracks for jumper competition throughout the week at Verizon Center. In Saturday night’s grand prix, D’Ambrosio saw 28 entries with six clear rounds. Only two were able to clear the short course without fault.
Nicola Philippaerts was first to go in the jump-off, clocking the fastest time of the night in 38.17 seconds, but dropping one rail along the way riding Ludo Philippaerts and Frans Lens’s H&M Forever D Arco Ter Linden. Jos Verlooy (BEL) jumped the short track next, also dropping one rail in 40.07 seconds to eventually finish fourth aboard Axel Verlooy and Euro Horse Bvba’s Sunshine. Victoria Colvin (USA) was fast with Take the High Road LLC’s Cafino in 38.93 seconds, but brought down two rails along the way to place fifth. Hardin Towell (USA) also had two jumps down in a slower time of 41.91 seconds to place sixth with Jennifer Gates LLC’s Emilie de Diamant AS.
Callan Solem and Horseshoe Trail Farm LLC’s VDL Wizard and Harrie Smolders aboard Axel Verlooy and Euro Horse Bvba’s Emerald were the only two pairs to clear the jump-off course without fault. Solem’s time of 39.43 seconds settled for second place in the end, as Smolders and Emerald were still to come. They cleared the track just faster in a time of 39.32 seconds for the win. Smolders also won the competition in 2006 aboard Exquis Oliver Q, and was pleased to take home this year’s top prize with Emerald, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago).
“I think the first time I was here was 2006 and that year I also won the (President’s) Cup, so I am very pleased to be back and to do it over again,” Smolders stated. “Emerald is 11 now, and I have had him since he was six years old. He has always been a fantastic horse with a lot of talent, but I think this year he made his breakthrough. He was very consistent this year. He did Nations Cup shows and (more), so his talent came. He is more mature now; he shows in his results that he is in the best of his life I think. He’s a bit of a stallion, a character, but his talent and technique are endless. He has the experience, and now it is time to win something.”
“I must say that Callan did a super round,” Smolders noted. “On one hand, she put some pressure on so it was not a present today, but on the other hand I was also a bit pleased that I knew what I had to do (in the jump-off). If there was no one clear, you had to decide what you were going to do, but I had no choice. I had to go.”
Solem’s second place finish was a big result for the American rider and her mount VDL Wizard. Solem had help from two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time President’s Cup winner McLain Ward (USA) as she went into the ring for her jump-off.
“I was fortunate to have the counsel of McLain and he said, ‘Callan, you have to try to win. Harrie’s going to be so fast.’ He encouraged me to do four strides in the first line and he said, ‘You’re third a lot. Try to win this class,’” Solem recalled. “I really appreciated that encouragement. Going to these shows on my own, I’m trying to find my way a little bit. In producing the horses, I always try to leave them better than I found them and sometimes it is nice for me to have a little push. It is nice for someone to say, ‘Come on, you’re good enough, go ahead and try.’”
“I feel very lucky to have him (Wizard) and every day that I ride him it is such a pleasure,” Solem said of the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Gentleman x Ahorn). “He loves this sport so much. He had a really rough start. We got him as a seven-year-old and he was riddled with this, and that and the other sickness. He really did not do much for the first three years, so even though he is 12, he is more like a 10-year-old. He is just getting fit and strong, and ready to peak in this next year I hope. He is a great horse.”
Nicola Philippaerts concluded a great week with his third place finish aboard H&M Forever D Arco Ter Linden. He has had the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Darco x Tenor Man) since the horse was six years old and explained that his mount has also improved a lot this year.
“He was always a good horse, just a little bit strong and quite hot,” Philippaerts detailed. “Now through the years he gets better and better. He had a few good results this year, and I am happy he was good today.”
Philippaerts also won the $50,000 International Jumper Speed Final on Friday with his second WIHS mount, H&M Harley vd Bisschop.
“I think it is now the fourth time we have come to the show here, and we are always pleased to come back,” the rider remarked. “We always do the three World Cup shows, here and then Lexington (KY) and Toronto (CAN). For us, it is quite nice if we can get some points here for Europe when we go back. I like to be here. There is not so much space because we are in the middle of the city, but they do a good job and I am happy to be here.
“I think the field was strong this year. This is my third visit here to course design in the last four years and I have watched the field of horses and riders steadily strengthen through the years, so the riders are liking the competition and I thought they did a great job,” D’Ambrosio stated. “I thought it was not an easy course. They did a great job, and for me, I think it was very entertaining and I think the crowd would agree. It was a very good competition.”
WIHS was extremely honored that this year’s competition was selected as one of seven events to comprise the East Coast division of the all-new Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping North American League. WIHS President Victoria Lowell commented on the honor of hosting such an important event on the competition calendar each year.
“I think it is very important for us to be a part of the league,” Lowell noted. “WIHS has such a huge history in the sport and has been a World Cup qualifier for a number of years. With the league consolidating this year, it was important to us to maintain that status, so we were thrilled to be part of the league when it was slimmed down to 14 events. We could not be happier to be a part of the Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping North American league.”
Concluding a fantastic evening of competition, Erik Moses, Senior Vice President of Events DC, remarked on the impact that WIHS has had on the local sporting industry.
“Having had this event here since 1958, it really is a sporting and a cultural institution for Washington D.C.,” Moses stated. “We have every other major sport represented in this city and this one means so much to the city because of the President’s Cup with the presidential seal on it. I was looking at one of the films that showed the original horse show in the U.S. National Guard Armory, which is another one of our buildings. This event is inextricably linked to sports in this town, so we think it really rounds out our portfolio in a unique way.”