The first week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) wrapped up on Sunday afternoon with the highlight class of the week, the $75,000 Rosenbaum Mollengarden PLLC Grand Prix. A large starting field of 52 entries contested the first round course, and 17 of those advanced to the jump-off. It was the always speedy Laura Chapot (USA) who came out on top of the results with Quointreau un Prince, owned by Chapot and McLain Ward. Abdel Said (EGY) and AS Sport Horses' Hope van Scherpen Donder were second, while Molly Ashe (USA) rode Balous Day Date for Louisburg Farm to third place.
In the grand prix jump-off, Chapot counted on her long partnership with Quointreau un Prince, a 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Rosire. She has ridden him since he was seven years old. With age, Quointreau has learned how to go fast.
"Now he's a real competitor," Chapot said. "We did the 1.40m jump-off class the first day, and he hadn't jumped since Harrisburg. He walked in the ring, and he felt like he was right back in the game from the start. He really stepped up today and was right there every step of the way."
The riders were competing over a course designed by Eric Hasbrouck (USA). With the large jump-off field, Chapot said, "It kind of throws any kind of strategy out the window." She added, "You just have to go the best you can. There were no playing games; everyone was giving it a go. The leader at the time was already very fast."
Chapot and Quointreau lowered the winning time to 26.265 seconds in the jump-off for victory. Said and Hope van Scherpen Donder were second in 27.082 seconds, while Molly Ashe and Balous Day Date were just behind in 27.694 seconds. Fourth place went to Filip de Wandel (BEL) on Gentley in 28.156 seconds, while Andrew Kocher (USA) rounded out the top five in 28.509 seconds on Ora Del Te Di La San Giorgio.
Chapot and Quointreau won a 1.40m class earlier in the week, giving her a fantastic start to the circuit. "I'm just thrilled my horse started out the circuit so well. It's better than you could ever imagine, to anticipate that you're going to win the grand prix on the first week," she expressed.
For Abdel Said, competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival is a brand-new experience. The rider, who is based in Belgium, first came to WEF last year to watch and decided he had to compete in 2016. "I have a lot of friends and business partners over here. It's a very famous tour actually," he related. "We always follow it. Even when I was in Europe at the Sunshine Tour, I always watched the classes live on the Internet if the time difference would allow it, or I would follow the results. It's very interesting, with a lot of good riders and horses. Last year I just came to visit for five days to watch my friend Cian (O'Connor's) horse Good Luck. I had so much fun over here, and I said, 'Wow. Why are we freezing in the cold in Belgium while this exists?'"
He added, "Everybody is so nice, and I feel very welcome here. I have a business back home and I've sold a lot of horses to here. It's very interesting to come see the horses and follow up. I'm really enjoying it."
Said brought two horses to WEF and will travel back to Belgium regularly to oversee his operation of 18 horses at home. Hope van Scherpen Donder, a nine-year-old BWP mare by Quadrillo x Balou du Rouet, seemed to fit easily into the Florida scene.
Said has owned her for two years and described her as "an athlete." He continued, "She's very fast, and she really thinks with me. She makes my life easy, and she's very easy in the ring. If I think left, she goes left, and if I think right, she goes right. I think she really enjoys jumping because she's easiest to ride in the ring. If you see her in the warm-up or flatting at home, it's not her cup of tea."
The typey little mare, who stands just 15.2 hands high, takes the grand prix jumps in stride. "She feels big when she goes to the jumps! She thinks she's big," he said with a smile.
Ashe compared Balous Day Date, an 11-year-old Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Linda-Dolores, to Said's horse, and it turns out they are related through Balou du Rouet. She noted that their heart, speed, and energy helps them in the show ring. She has been paired with Balous Day Date for one year.
"We've gotten to know each other quite well," Ashe said. "Once she gets aimed at the first jump, she's point and shoot. I'm very lucky and happy to have the chance to ride her. I'm grateful to Beth (Johnson) and Louisburg Farm and Paul (Butterfield) for giving me the chance."
Sponsor Dan Rosenbaum of Rosenbaum Mollengarden PLLC spoke to their involvement at the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. "We represent the Wellington Equestrian Partners. In late 2005, Mark Bellissimo walked into my law office. We have had the pleasure of not only being a sponsor, but also being the attorneys to help build the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. When you see a jump-off in a grand prix like we had today, with tremendous sportsmanship, tremendous talent, and excellent riding abilities and the horses, it makes you really proud. What it's like to be a sponsor in my situation is really unique, but it's the tenth year now that I've had involvement, and I hope to be here ten years from now with the same type of wonderful people that I'm sitting with here today."
Source: Press release from Equestrian Sport Productions News // Picture © Sportfot
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