Wellington, Florida, USA – December 17, 2020 – The $25,000 ProElite National Grand Prix took place on Thursday, December 17, the final day of the ESP Holiday III Show at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Thirty-eight entries took on the first course of 13 fences, designed by Mauricio Garcia Ballesteros (PUR), in the International Arena. In the end, Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Ilan Ferder’s Classic Penny proved to be the fastest in the 16-horse jump-off. Thursday’s classes concluded the ESP Holiday III Show, but competition will begin Friday, December 18, for the first day of the ESP New Year’s Show, which will finish on Sunday, December 20.
Sixteen riders representing five different nations successfully conquered the first round and took their turn at the trimmed, seven-fence jump-off. The fourth entry, Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Oakland Ventures LLC’s Go Easy de Muze, were the first clear round, closely followed by Kent Farrington (USA) and Orafina, owned by Kent Farrington LLC. An additional 14 riders qualified for the jump-off, including Paul O’Shea (IRL), Grace Debney (USA), Jessica Mendoza (GBR), Wilhelm Genn (USA), Nicholas Dello Joio (USA), Jonathan McCrea (USA), Rebecca Conway (USA), Christian Coyle (IRL), Santiago Lambre (MEX), Riley Newsome (USA), Hilary McNerney (USA), and Ramiro Quintana (ARG).
Fractions of a second behind Ballard, Paul O’Shea (IRL) and Eye Candy Jumper’s Chacanntus (Chacco-Blue x Kannan) took home second place after stopping the clock with no faults in 36.99 seconds.
Grace Debney (USA) and Temple Equestrian LLC’s Zarina De Vidau (Diamant de Semilly x Unknown) claimed third-place honors with a jump-off time of 37.78 seconds.
As the fifth-to-last to go, Ballard and Classic Penny, a 2012 Norwegian Warmblood mare, were up against a clear leading time of 37.87 seconds from Mendoza and Casanova 499, who had held the frontrunner spot for eight trips. Slicing more than a full second off the leading pair’s time, Ballard and Classic Penny kept all the rails up and crossed the finish line in 36.74 seconds to jump to the top of the standings and eventually capture the win.
“[Classic Penny] was amazing. These classes in between the big ones are so nice to make a young one up,” commented Ballard. “It was a nice opportunity for her to be in a big ring in a big class, and it’s a super nice win for her resume. I thought the course was really fair. There were plenty clear, but you had a huge group of horses in it, and some really big names. Our horse is only eight and moving up, so for her it was a step up and she handled it beautifully. She’s very fast.”
“I didn’t see [Jessica Mendoza], and I did so many strides from fence one to two,” Ballard explained regarding her jump-off. “If you counted, Darragh [Kenny] did seven strides and I did ten, so I didn’t think I could win because I did ten strides. I figured I would just stay going smooth and teach her how to go fast, but even when she adds strides she’s moving so fast. You’re not slowing down, so I think she’s just so fast [that it helped us to win today].”
“Ilan [Ferder] makes the plans, but I think you’ll see her start to step up and do some of the FEI classes, the speed classes, and probably some 1.50m grand prix classes,” remarked Ballard on her upcoming plans with the horse at PBIEC. “I have a huge amount of respect for the show manager, David Burton, and his team, and I think from June on they’ve done a phenomenal job. There’s no place I’d rather be!”
Source: Press release from ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Anne Gittins Photography