Wellington, Florida, USA – January 16, 2021 – In the first international grand prix of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) circuit, U.S. Olympic team gold medalist Beezie Madden (USA) and Abigail Wexner’s Breitling LS won the $137,000 Wellington Regional Medical Center Grand Prix CSI 3* on Saturday, January 16, at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
There were 44 entries in the grand prix, competing over a course set by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) and Andy Christiansen Jr. (ECU) consisting of 13 numbered obstacles. Just three were able to find the clear path to the jump-off in the first of four grand prix events under the lights for the 2021 circuit.
The clear round pathfinder was Sydney Shulman (ISR) on J-Boston S.E., a 12-year-old BWP gelding by Boris VH Kluizebos owned by Jill Shulman. With a rail in the double combination, their four faults in 48.86 seconds landed them in third place.
It was a solid start for Shulman and J-Boston S.E., who have been paired together for a year but have only competed at nine FEI-rated horse shows.
Additionally, Shulman noted, “Tonight was actually his second night class ever. I’d only gotten to do him one time in Tryon this summer, and we went at 6:30 in the first ten in the class, so it wasn’t really under the lights. This was his first class here under the lights.
“We’re just building up,” she continued. “I was thrilled with the way he jumped the first round. He made it really easy for me. He’s had a long break and is just getting back into the groove. I wanted to make it a confident experience this time so it can carry us through the rest of the circuit. I was really happy with that result.”
Next in was Adrienne Sternlicht (USA), a team gold medalist from the FEI World Equestrian Games Tryon 2018. Riding Bennys Legacy, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Lupicor x Acordia), owned by Starlight Farms 1 LLC, they put in a solid clear trip in a time 45.17 seconds for second place.
With an unfortunate slip in the jump-off in Thursday’s qualifier, Sternlicht returned to the grand prix jump-off planning on giving Bennys Legacy a confident ride.
“My horse jumped amazing this week,” said Sternlicht, who also won the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award, given in memory of Dale Lawler. “I knew there were places that I could open up his stride, like the eight [strides] across the middle came up naturally for my horse but I thought about being a bit conservative on the turns tonight to give him a conservative and confident ride with so much to look forward to this season. He responded really well, so I’m happy to be second tonight and always happy to be second to Beezie.”
Wrapping up the jump-off were Madden and Breitling LS, a 15-year-old La Silla stallion (Quintero x Accord II). They made quick work of the short course, coming home clear in 41.87 seconds.
Speaking of her plan for the jump-off, Madden said, “Adrienne [Sternlicht] is so good at working out of that big gallop and that horse is naturally quick anyway. I thought, ‘I’m not going to beat her on that part,’ so I tried to do it on the turns and just match her. The eight [strides] across the middle to the double looked a little risky from where I was sitting, but he did it well and I think I beat her from fence one to two and maybe the turn after the double [combination] as well. I thought those were the only places that I could try and catch her.”
While Madden believed that the course suited Breitling, an uncharacteristic “rocky” performance in Thursday’s qualifier led her to ride him “a little on the strong side.”
She added, “I thought I’d just have to have a nice, confident round, and he really responded to it and jumped well anyway. A lot of times it’s hard for them to concentrate when you’re riding them a little strong, but I thought he really rose to the occasion and did that well. I was really happy.”
Madden is known for giving her horses a lengthy winter vacation, but after so many cancellations in 2020 due to the pandemic, she was ready to bring out Breitling early.
“I’m going to pick and choose where I think he’s going to do well,” she said of her 2018 FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final and 2019 Pan American Games double bronze medal winner. “I think for his confidence right now starting out, he probably doesn’t need a five star right away. I’m going to pick some classes where he can get confident, and when he feels really good, I’ll slot him into a five star here and there.”
WEF 1 concludes on Sunday, January 17, with the $30,000 Pilates Rocks Grand Prix. International three-star show jumping and national hunter, jumper, and equitation competition continues at WEF 2, sponsored by Restylane, on January 20-24. WEF hosts 13 weeks of shows through April 4 in Wellington, Florida.
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions / PBIEC – Palm Beach International Equestrian Center
Photos: © Sportfot