As part of the 12-week Wellington Turf Tour series, The Ridge at Wellington traveled to the Wanderers Club, an exclusive country club in the heart of Wellington, to wrap up its fifth week of competition. The change of venue was set atop a pristine polo field, surrounded by an array of palm trees and settled beneath a blue sky. The venue change for many riders was not only breathtaking, but also the setting of a memorable jump off where riders attempted to catch Laura Kraut and Constable's blazing speed, set early on in the day. It came down to the final moments of the event when Daniel Bluman took over the lead just two-tenths of a second faster, and then Lauren Hough followed consecutively to overtake Kraut's time and capture the second place with Paris Sellon's Street Hassle.
Nick Granat designed the day's courses, challenging 66 horse and rider combinations with a technical track. Faults were sustained throughout the entire course, with the triple combination proving the most difficult with riders finding fault in the vertical-vertical-oxer combination. The opening track featured the sponsor jump, Hollow Brook Wealth Management, as the third obstacle of the track with its colors and detailing acting as the perfect foreground to the expansive Wanderers Club House nestled just behind.
Today, only 16 horse and rider combinations would clear the opening track and move onto the shortened course. Of the top contenders, only 11 would ride to two clean rounds.
Mark Bluman was the first rider of the day to traverse the track and move into the jump off with Liverpool, owned by Daniela Stransky. They set the pace at 41.144 seconds without incurring any faults. Eight trips later, Olympian Laura Kraut of Royal Palm Beach, Fla., rode Constable, owned by Cherry Knoll Farm, to a clear opening round to move into the jump off as the second contender of the short track.
The 8-year-old gelding has turned heads at international competitions across Europe and North America. Kraut rode the jump off course smooth and with efficiency, tripping the timers in 38.798 seconds.
"He has been very good while down here," Kraut explained of Constable. "He is an 8-year-old, and normally they go through this phase where they think they know more than they do. When you step them up and they make a few mistakes, it allows for them to become more mature. I was really pleased today to come here, to new surroundings with a beautiful grass field, and he was wonderful. I think he liked having a change of scenery."
She returned to the ring five rounds later with Zeremonie, owned by Old Willow Farms, LLC. She duplicated her earlier efforts aboard Constable with 8-year-old mare, breaking the beam in 39.422 seconds with her second double clear ride of the day. She sat at the top of the standings throughout the day with Constable, and concluded the event with the fifth place aboard Zeremonie.
As a believer in young horses and educational programs, Kraut has supported The Ridge at Wellington events since its inception in 2013. The Turf Tour Series helps riders of all levels, as well as horses, gain positive mileage and experience at different venues throughout the Wellington equestrian community. This was the first weekend that the $15,000 1.40m Grand Prix was held on a Saturday, which proved convenient for many of the riders.
"I love this structure! I am definitely a proponent of this system," Kraut said. "I was so happy that they held an event on Saturday. I have 40 plus horses at the Winter Equestrian Festival, and it is difficult for me to get away on a Friday, though I would love to-I think the change of venue is great, they learn so much."
Viggo Bjorklund and Atheme Z, owned by Gyliebo Farm, tried to catch Kraut's pace, but they fell just shy of her time. He posted a double clear effort in 39.401 seconds, just two hundredths of a second behind. It was not until the end of the day, in the final moments of competition that the winner would make his way onto the field.
Daniel Bluman and Chandon Blue, owned by Andressa Quadros, blazed the trail during the short track to speed through the timers in 38.551 seconds to take over the lead. Their quick foot speed across the ground surpassed Kraut and Constable by two-tenths of a second, following a similar path to that of Kraut, angling number one and two, and duplicating the tight rollback to the final oxer.
"We had a little bit of luck, it was my first time ever jumping him in the ring," Bluman said. "He was here last year jumping in the High Amateur division with his owner, and then this year he was sent to me because she went to college. We are working on developing and seeing how far he can go. He definitely has a lot of quality and scope."
He continued, "The course is beautiful, it is an amazing venue, and it is very refreshing to come to a grass ring here in Wellington. It is convenient for us because our farm, Bluman Equestrian, is only two minutes away. It couldn't be any better here-the jumps are beautifully painted, it is quiet, relaxing, there is food and drinks, so everyone really likes it."
Lauren Hough followed only a couple of rounds behind Bluman with Paris Sellon's Street Hassle. The 9-year-old gelding followed a similar track to Bluman, keeping a consistent and speedy pace throughout the shortened course to finish in 38.694 seconds, knocking Kraut and Constable into the third place as the day came to a conclusion.
"Normally, Paris rides him, but she had to go to California for the weekend, so we thought we would give him a different venue," Hough said. "He has been doing the High Amateurs, and then we will be moving him up. I just stuck to my plan out there today; he is a fast horse naturally. The Turf Tour is a fantastic structure, this series provides fantastic opportunities for different venues and we are appreciative of it."
McLain Ward and Best Buy, owned by Ansgar Holtgers, ranked in sixth with a time of 39.457 seconds, while he also picked up the seventh place with his second mount, Azibantos, in an equally as speedy round. Lauren Hough and Upfront rounded out the top eight with a double clear posted in 39.658 seconds.
$15,000 1.40M Grand Prix - Table II Sec 2b
Place Entry Horse Owner Rider
1st 894 Chandon Blue Andressa Quadros Daniel Bluman
2nd 925 Street Hassle Paris Sellon Lauren Hough
3rd 906 Constable Cherry Knoll Farm Laura Kraut
4th 909 Atheme Z Gyliebo Farm Viggo Bjorklund
5th 903 Zeremonie Old Willow Farms LLC Laura Kraut
6th 694 Best Buy Ansgar Holtgers McLain Ward
7th 863 Azibantos Group C LLC McLain Ward
8th 924 Upfront Lauren Hough Lauren Hough
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group, Inc.
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