February 3, 2017 -- When people refer to an afternoon of show jumping, they usually mean a class that starts at 2 p.m. and finishes with a victory gallop around 4:30 p.m. But today’s $35,000 competition at the Palm Beach Masters ran from 12:30 to nearly 5:30 p.m. by the time it was pinned. A total of 111 horses were entered, though in the end, a “mere” 97 competed.
Amazingly, only a dozen were clear to make the jump-off, a tribute to the prowess of course designer Alan Wade, the same man who will be designing the routes for this spring’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Omaha.
“The course was not easy,” said Ian Millar, aka Captain Canada, who had the fastest time of 38.26 seconds on Dixson in a tie-breaker that wound up with nine competitors, as three other riders decided to sit it out and save their horses for Sunday.
“It was big enough, it was technical, it was certainly careful enough,” said Ian of the first round.
“It had all the ingredients. This is one brilliant course designer He’s extremely well-regarded worldwide.”
The first-round’s time allowed of 82 seconds also was tight, and top riders found themselves accumulating unaccustomed faults on the clock that often dashed their hopes of making the cut for the top 40 that will go on Sunday.
The class was so big that it was pinned as a “California split,” with two first place ribbons, two second place ribbons, etc. down to 13th place.
Beezie Madden, who had the second-fastest time of 39.80 seconds in the tiebreaker on Breitling, also got a blue ribbon and shared a fist bump with Ian. Since she wasn’t thrilled with her trip in the first round, even though it was fault-free, Beezie decided not to skip the jump-off.
She is definitely interested in going to Omaha, for which Sunday’s class is the next-to-last qualifier. The final chance will come next month in Ocala at the Live Oak show.
Ian never had plans for to the final, though he noted with a smile that having won two Cups with his legendary Big Ben in 1988 and 1989, perhaps he should try again at some point. But for now, he’s just happy to be riding Dixson, who sat out much of a last year with a sinus problem that kept Ian from his 11th Olympics and raised the fear that the horse might not compete again.
“It could have been career-ending,” said Ian, who noted at the Cornell University veterinary school, they named a procedure after Dixson when a vet there was able to figure out how to operate on the condition.
Laura Kraut earned second place for her 41.06-second trip on Zeremonie, and a red ribbon also was pinned on the bridle of Taylor Land’s For Edition, clocked in 41.37. Laura is doing well in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League standings, but she doesn’t want to take a chance of not being able to go to Nebraska.
“I’ve never had a horse that jumps like her,” she said of Zeremonie, noting the gray mare clears fences “like an airplane.”
Some big names were left off the list of the 40 who will be competing in Sunday’s class, including McLain Ward, world champion Jeroen Dubbeldam and Charlie Jacobs, co-president of the show with his brother, Lou.
Callan Solem, seventh in the final last year, is ranked at number 41, just missing the cut. With the way things go in the horse world, though, if someone drops out, there is a chance she might have a shot at getting in.
Yesterday, she shared some of her thoughts about Omaha and the process of not only getting there, but also doing well in such a competition. Click on the right-pointing arrow to watch the video.
Another who didn’t make the cut was rising star Daniel Coyle, even though he made the jump-off with Grafton today and finished eighth after uncharacteristically dropping two rails.
Daniel, a Canadian-based Irish rider who was first and second yesterday in one of the welcome/warm-up classes, explained that through a paperwork mishap, the wrong horse was entered as a contender for Sunday’s qualifier. He has recently taken over Grafton and several other horses from veteran Conor Swail, and shows great talent.
We talked a bit about his background today. Click on the right-pointing arrow to see the video.
The Palm Beach Masters presented by SOVARO®, , which made its debut in 2016, is held on the 300-acre Deeridge Farms estate of the Jacobs family, a five-minute drive from the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, where the Winter Equestrian Festival is held. Riders were going back and forth between the two today. How amazing to have such incredible shows running at the same time in the same town.
For Sunday’s class, the Masters moved its start time back to noon, which will allow some of the riders to also participate in the WEF’s 3 p.m. feature.
Last year, the Masters was plagued by rain that forced the big class to move off the turf and into an all-weather ring. This year, it has been blessed by sunshine and great weather. Lou Jacobs and I talked about its development. Click on the right-pointing arrow to hear what he had to say.
Tomorrow, I’m switching gears entirely and going to the Wellington Eventing Showcase at the Global Dressage Festival grounds, located between Deeridge and PBIEC. There’s even one rider, Marilyn Little, who rode a jumper at the Masters and an eventer at the Showcase. In fact, after today’s eventing dressage, she’s leading the standings of the $100,000 Showcase with RRF Scandalous.
Check back tomorrow night and I’ll fill you in on the eventing, and Mark Phillips’ spectacular course that features a jump in the middle of the VIP tent—unlike last year, when riders only had to gallop through the VIP tent and jump out into the ring!