Wellington, Florida, USA – December 10, 2020 – The ESP Holiday II CSI4* hosted its first FEI classes of the week on Thursday, December 10, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Serving as the featured event of the day, the $37,000 Vobev Holiday II Opener CSI 4* attracted 69 horse-and-rider combinations to the International Arena to vie for the top prize and FEI ranking points. Always a speedy pair, McLain Ward (USA) and Catoki (Catoki x Cartello B), the horse he co-owns with Bob Russell and Marilla Van Beuren, galloped to first place to commence the week on a high note. Competition will continue at PBIEC for the ESP Holiday II CSI 4* through Sunday, December 13, when the show will conclude with its highlight event, the $214,000 Spy Coast Farm Grand Prix CSI 4*.
Run under a modified power and speed format, the class featured a pattern by course designer Héctor Loyola (PUR) and challenged exhibitors to jump clear over the first nine fences and then immediately continue on to the final six obstacles, regardless of whether or not faults had been incurred in the initial phase. The time for the latter portion of the course served to rank competitors.
The group of contestants included representatives from 11 countries, including the United States, Ireland, Great Britain, Israel, Mexico, Egypt, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Russia, and Switzerland. Third to go, Santiago Lambre (MEX) and Cetano Van Aspergem Z (Clinton x Ahorn Z) set the pace with a quick, clear round in 30.38 seconds, which held until the 30th duo entered the ring.
Always formidable, Kent Farrington (USA) and Austria 2 (Casall x Corrado I) upped the ante with an expedient, fault-free ride in 29.73 seconds to capture the lead with nearly 40 duos still remaining.
As the fourth-to-last out of the starting order, Ward capitalized on Catoki’s quick footspeed and a bold inside turn option to just barely edge ahead of the frontrunners, crossing the finish line in 29.67 seconds to jump to the top of the leaderboard by mere milliseconds. The final challengers could not catch the leading combination, solidifying Ward and the 2009 Westphalian gelding (Catoki x Caretello B) as the victors in the $37,000 Vobev Holiday II Opener CSI 4*.
“He is so fast, so it’s kind of his job to try to win these classes and to pay for the others to show,” commented Ward of the 2009 Westphalian gelding. “Kent had a great round on a very fast horse, and I was a little concerned the course didn’t actually suit Catoki because they were doing a leave-out in one line in the speed phase, and I really didn’t think I could do that. But, he’s a quick enough horse even without that, and he really jumped great.”
“I think great efforts are being made for this to go on,” noted Ward of competing under a COVID protocol. “We’re all welcoming a vaccine and some normalcy, and being able to be outside and compete with, obviously, the right precautions is great. It feels as close to our normal life as we can get right now.”
Farrington and Austria 2, owned by Take The High Road LLC, retained second place while Darragh Kenny (IRL) earned the final podium placing riding Oakland Ventures LLC’s Belo Horizonte with a fault-free time of 29.99 seconds. In total, 31 partnerships finished the class without any faults to their name.
For full results, please click here.
Source: Press release from ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Anne Gittins Photography