The excitement was palpable at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show as crowds filed into the stadium to watch the star-studded field of top international riders, including Olympic and World Champions, compete in the $85,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix de Penn National, a qualifying competition for the 2015 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas.
Olympic silver medalist Beat Mandli of Switzerland, proved unbeatable aboard Antares F, producing the only double clear round of the field of 32 riders to win the $85,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix de Penn National and the Harrisburg Kiwanis Club Challenge Trophy. In addition, Mandli won the Open Jumper Championship for the William J. Cawley and Brian G. Cawley Perpetual Memorial Trophy, and was presented with the Open Jumper Leading Rider Award and the Hunterdon, Inc. Challenge Trophy.
This is the first time that Mandli has competed in the US and he was impressed with the Pennsylvania National Horse Show and the facilities. "Everything is a bit new for me, but I'm having a great year with Antares. He makes everything quite easy for me," said Mandli. "It's a great facility and it's super for the horses."
A total of five riders made it through to the seven fence jump-off. Todd Minikus, who has competed in seven FEI World Cup Jumping Finals, rode Quality Girl and unfortunately dropped a rail, but the pair were the fastest of the riders with four faults and finished in second place. Ireland's Olympian Kevin Babington and Shorapur also dropped a rail but crossed the timers a little slower to take third place. Margie Engle and Indigo were also prey to a rail, finishing in fourth place, while Callan Solem and VDL Wizard had two rails down which put them in fifth place.
Well known international Course Designer Michel Vaillancourt created the course which was set at 1.60m and included 13 jumps with 16 jumping efforts in the first round. When he was asked prior to the start of the class about the course Vaillancourt commented, "I tried to build a balanced course that would suit different types of horses in different places."
After the class finished Vaillancourt stated, "I'm really pleased with the results. I thought I was going to get more clear rounds than that at the beginning. The lines were technical but nothing really rough, so it gave the horses the opportunity to really use themselves well. As a course designer it's my job to challenge the riders, and if I don't, you can bet they challenge me!" he said with a laugh.
When asked about his thoughts on the course Mandli commented, "The course was quite tough. Out of the turns there were a lot of questions. I think it turned out well though."
Minikus, who had one unfortunate rail down in the jump-off added his thoughts on the course. "I thought it was a nice course, and we got just the right amount of clears through. I don't know who thought it was a good idea to have that combination in the jump-off though!" he said joking with Vaillancourt.
Babington, who has never competed in a FEI World Cup Jumping Finals has his sights set on Las Vegas with Shorapur and is focusing on the qualifiers. The duo already won FEI World Cup qualifier at the Hampton Classic Horse Show just a few weeks ago. Commenting on Vaillancourt's course he said, "There were a lot of questions, but there was a nice flow to the course tonight. I actually liked it better than the Welcome course the other night. My horse is a 9-year-old and she hasn't had much indoor experience, so I was really pleased with how she jumped and how well she handled it."
The Leading Lady Jumper Rider Award and the Wissie Brede Memorial Challenge Trophy was awarded to three-time Olympic medalist Beezie Madden for her success at the PA National aboard Abigail Wexner's Simon. The pair won the 2013 FEI World Cup Jumping Final and now Madden has her sights set on competing in the 2015 FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Las Vegas. The pair had an uncharacteristic rail down in the first round of the qualifier and finished in 9th place.
Brian Reed, the groom for Antares F, received the Caretaker Award and the Moira Jane Caffarey Memorial Perpetural Trophy during the final award ceremonies.
Source: Press release PA National Horse Show
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