It has been over a decade since Mida Farm has heard the sound of galloping hoof beats on its grass field, but today marked a page in history for this prestigious location. The Ridge at Wellington was welcomed to "The Topps Field" for the $175,000 1.40m Invitational Grand Prix series. The grass arena offered the epitome of footing for the horses as top riders from across the globe gathered to compete for the weekly $15,000 purse leading up to the $24,750 Grand Prix Invitational Series Finale. It was McLain Ward and Coco 135 who dominated the standings, laying down a double-clear effort in a speedy 29.97 seconds, taking the third week of the series' victory.
Pierre Jolicouer's beautifully designed fences contrasted against the green landscape of the equestrian oasis. Only two years ago, Victoria McCullough purchased half of the property, and after hard work and with the help of Jan Topps, the once polo field was turned into a magnificent grand prix field. The course consisted of 12 obstacles including an opening oxer-vertical bending line, a triple bar, double combination, liverpool and an oxer-vertical-vertical triple combination. Eric Hasbrouck designed today's course, mastering the task of technicality, testing horse and rider alike, as his obstacles asked simple questions of the teams. Fourteen horses completed the first course within the 81 seconds time allowed and left all rails in place, but only seven went double clear over the short track.
Jackie McQuade was the first of the riders to successfully navigate the course. She piloted her own Copilot to a time of 38.843 seconds, leaving all rails in their cups. As the pathfinder, she wore a target on her back as the other riders tried to catch her time, but there was a clear correlation between accuracy and speed, with many earning faults when they took their turn at the jump-off. McQuade eventually netted the sixth place ribbon for her efforts.
"It felt amazing out there. It is a beautiful day, the grass is beautiful, the jumps are really bright, and the course was great," McQuade described. "It wasn't too difficult, but it was definitely still technical, you have to be on it. It's like a breath of fresh air to come here on a Friday and ride in an atmosphere like this, where it is not so stressful, it is relaxed and a bit more casual, but if you want to win you have to ride. This is extremely beneficial for everyone, it keeps the horses and riders entertained and sharp, and it is great preparation for the Winter Equestrian Festival and really complements it."
McLain Ward entered the ring with clear fortitude aboard Coco 135, owned by Tequestrian Farms. After clearing the first round, he moved the bay gelding into a smooth pace, and took his try at the short track. He sliced the turns with ease, and broke the beam in only 29.97 seconds. His blazing time sealed the victory for the day. "It was a nice course, very straightforward, the jumps look nice, and the old polo field ground was excellent," Ward explained. "He is a very fast horse, and he has a lot of experience going fast, so I used that to my advantage."
As the day continued, the competition heated up. Alise Oken, trained by last week's winner Laura Kraut, rode Kaid Du Ry to the speedy time of 33.548 seconds. Oken used her mount's speed to her advantage, closing in on McLain's time; however, she still fell 4.578 seconds shy.
"I just heard about this event, and Laura told me I should do it since the prize money is high and he is a fast horse. We trailed right here, the grounds are amazing, the footing is really good, and the course was really nice. Everything walked exactly how it rode, so I was very happy," Oken described. "I saw McLain go, which was crazy with all of his short turns, so my goal was to just get close to him. It ended up really well, and I am happy with how it went. I am definitely going to come back. It is a great idea and good money."
Toward the end of the class, Andrew Bourns and Gatsby stole the third place position from Oken, forcing her into fourth with their time of 32.982 seconds. Andy Kocher slid into the fifth place position with Vantos V, and Vanessa Paschini tripped the timers in 41.088 seconds with the last of the double-clear efforts. It was Peter Wilde who left his mark on the competition, piloting Zidane to the second place position with a time of 32.385. His turn to fence seven was flawless, shaving seconds and ranking him behind Ward for the red ribbon.
"Zidane is a superstar horse, he is always at the top of the results, and I am really happy with him-he's a real competitor," Wilde said. "I am very grateful and happy to Missy Clark and John Brennan from North Run who have facilitated my move back here. We have been working together as a team, and the results are showing that the team is working really well. They have been fantastic, and being part of North Run has been so far, so great."
Mida Farm will once again host the Friday 1.40m Invitational Grand Prix on February 1, 2013. Andres Rodriguez continues to lead the rider standings due to his placings during the first two weeks of the series. Although he once again showed Elatrice, owned by Arao Enterprises, an unlucky rail left him out of the jump-off for this week. Rodrigo Pessoa also showed several mounts, disclosing that he will return next week for another go on the grass.
"I think it is a really nice initiative to be able to come out of the show grounds a little bit and see something different. I like being able to give a little experience to a younger horse, and give them the opportunity to jump on the grass," Pessoa explained. "It is a very friendly event, and it doesn't harm anybody. I think the course was good. When you are doing something like this, you try to create a course to educate the horses, and I think Eric succeeded in that. I plan on coming back next week and definitely showing again."
1.40m Invitational Grand Prix III Results
1 MCLAIN WARD COCO 135 000 000 29.970
2 PETER WILDE ZIDANE 000 000 32.385
3 ANDREW BOURNS GATSBY 000 000 32.982
4 ALISE OKEN KAID DU RY 000 000 33.548
5 ANDY KOCHER VANTOS V 000 000 37.633
6 JACKIE MCQUADE COPILOT 000 000 38.843
7 VANESSA PASCHINI NEOLISTO VAN HET MIERENHOF 000 000 41.088
8 RODRIGO PESSOA PALUCHIN 000 444 32.115
9 PAUL HALPERN VIA VENETO 000 444 32.851v
Source: pressrelease by Phelps Media Group.
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