USA's Paige Johnson and Dakota were the big winners in the $127,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix CSI 4* at "Saturday Night Lights" in week 11 at the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Competing in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), Johnson won a four-horse jump-off, beating out trainer Kent Farrington (USA) with Gazelle in second. Ramiro Quintana (ARG) and Whitney placed third; Lisa Goldman (USA) and Centurion B were fourth.
Forty-three horse and rider combinations showed over Saturday night's course, set by Olaf Petersen Jr. of Germany. Four made it through to the jump-off, where Johnson and Farrington were the only two to clear the second round course.
Goldman was first to jump-off with Mary Goldman's Centurion B with one rail in 49.06 seconds. Quintana returned next aboard St. Bride's Farm's Whitney and also brought down one rail in a faster time of 45.41 seconds. Johnson and Salamander Farm's Dakota followed with the winning clear round in 47.47 seconds. Last to go, Farrington and Robin Parksy's Gazelle were clear, just shy of Johnson's time in 47.95 seconds.
Johnson and Dakota began their 2015 season with great results, including a win in the $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup in week six of the circuit. That win was in a speed class in daylight, but the pair stepped up to the plate showing in a major grand prix under the lights as well. Competing in the impressive atmosphere of a night class with an arena full of cheering fans, Johnson and the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Calvados Ex Sable Rose x Cash) thrived.
"I came into this circuit hoping to win a WEF (Challenge Cup), and I did that week six. My next goal was to win a grand prix. I had no idea it would happen (in) the same season," Johnson remarked. "You can imagine that I am super excited and happy. Kent is my trainer, so it feels like the hard work and the team and everything around us is really paying off, and that is a great feeling."
Commenting on her round, Johnson detailed, "I was not as fast as Ramiro. I thought I would go what speed I was comfortable. For me it was not all out, but I did not want to be too slow because if I had a late rail, I would be third or fourth. I thought I needed to go fast enough to have Kent try to chase me. No, I did not think I was probably fast enough to beat him, but I knew he had a young horse, so that played in my favor tonight."
"I think at night horses tend to be a little sharper, in a good way," Johnson said, comparing her win under the lights to her week six victory. "It is definitely a different feeling and obviously the grand prix is bigger. The WEF I won was a speed, so it was a true 1.45m. This is scopier, and it rides differently under the lights. The horse usually needs more leg across the oxers because you have shine on the jump and what not. It is a different feeling, but a great feeling. I love showing under the lights."
Farrington was aboard a young, less experienced horse in his mount Gazelle, and was proud of the way the mare performed on the bigger stage as well.
"She is a young horse, so my plan for the circuit was to build her up here. I started in the 1.45m and I was hoping by the end of the season to have another grand prix horse, and I think I have done that," Farrington stated. "I thought she jumped fantastic tonight. I watched Paige go, and I wanted to give the horse a nice experience and try to compete at the same time without taking any huge risk. I knew it would be close and I was hoping it would be enough, but it was just a little off the mark."
Farrington was also proud to see his student get an exciting win. Johnson has trained with him for almost three years.
"This is a huge moment," Farrington smiled. "I am really excited for her tonight. She and a lot of my students have all had a great season. To see Paige have the biggest win of her career tonight was huge. We started a couple years ago and set out on some goals, and we are slowly checking them off one at a time. This was a big one tonight."
Third place finisher, Ramiro Quintana, has ridden his horse for three years and knows the mare well. The pair had consistent results throughout the circuit and earned one of their top placings Saturday night. Despite a case of pneumonia that set the rider back for two weeks, Quintana returned rested, and Whitney was ready to go.
"She is a seasoned mare, and she knows the ring really well," Quintana noted. "Unfortunately, I have been sick, but I am really happy to be back in the show ring feeling 100%."
Quintana spoke of the evening's course and his round, stating, "I thought it was a pretty fair track. Olaf knows what he is doing. He is one of the top course designers, so it is good to come to Saturday night knowing what to expect. All the horses jumped well and I was happy with my mare; she jumped the first round really well. The jump-off, I tried to go really fast to try and put the pressure on. I had Paige and Kent behind me, so I was really trying to lay it down and close all the doors. Unfortunately, it did not work out for me in the rollback to the second to last jump."
Sponsors Amy Carr and Carol Sollak of Engel & Völkers were on hand for the class and were thrilled with the competition and the exciting evening.
"Our main office is here in Wellington. The majority of our clientele are equestrians, and we certainly love the sport," Carr stated. "We like to give back to the sport because we enjoy it, and it means a lot. It is a really fun thing to be able to sponsor this."
"We are very excited to be a sponsor of this class and be a part of the whole horse show," Sollak added. "To have this group that won tonight that are our friends is great for us. We look forward to a great season next year too."Two special awards were also presented during Saturday night's competition. For her success throughout the week, Paige Johnson was named Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider, an award presented by Martha Jolicoeur in memory of Dale Lawler. The Potcreek Meadow Farm Junior Sportsmanship Trophy was presented to Lucy Deslauriers in memory of Candida C. Forsmann.
1. DAKOTA: 2003 Belgian Warmblood mare by Calvados Ex Sable Rose x Cash
PAIGE JOHNSON (USA), Salamander Farm: 0/0/47.47
2. GAZELLE: 2006 Belgian Warmblood mare by Kashmir Van Shuttershof x Indoctro
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parksy: 0/0/47.95
3. WHITNEY: 2003 KWPN mare by Indoctro x Concorde
RAMIRO QUINTANA (ARG), St. Bride's Farm: 0/4/45.41
4. CENTURION B: 2002 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Rebel Z I x Indoctro
LISA GOLDMAN (USA), Mary Goldman: 0/4/49.06
5. COMANCHE 28: 2006 Oldenburg gelding by Coupe de Couer x Baloubet du Rouet
MEREDITH MICHAELS-BEERBAUM (GER), Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC: 1/85.02
6. SHORAPUR: 2005 Hanoverian mare by Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II
KEVIN BABINGTON (IRL), Shorapur LLC: 1/85.83
7. QUABELLE: 2004 Selle Francais mare by Helrios de la Cour II x Kannan
BLYTHE MARANO (USA), Riverview Farm LLC: 1/87.21
8. AD RACKHAM'JO: 2005 Selle Francais stallion by Diamant de Semilly x
ATHINA ONASSIS DE MIRANDA (GRE), Athina Onassis de Miranda & Victory Equestrian Sport BV: 2/89.72
9. DON VHP Z: 2004 Zangersheide stallion by Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire
HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED), Copernicus Stables LLC: 4/79.91
10. FIRST CHOICE 15: 2003 Hessian Warmblood gelding by For Keeps x Angard
YANN CANDELE (CAN), Janice Aron: 4/80.85
11. CHAVENTYNO: 2006 Oldenburg gelding by Chacco-Blue x Aventyno
BEN MAHER (GBR), Legacy Stables LLC: 4/81.51
12. DEAUVILLE S: 2006 Holsteiner gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Lux
LAURA KRAUT (USA), Julius Peter Sinnack: 4/81.56
Source: Press release from Jenifer Wood Media, Inc.
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