Wellington, Florida, USA – February 12, 2022 – A picturesque South Florida night set the scene for the highlight event of the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival’s (WEF) fifth week, the $406,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 5* as part of “Saturday Night Lights.” WEF newcomer Philipp Weishaupt (GER) was victorious with Coby 8, owned by Mariko Kato, Noyuri Ko, and Beerbaum Stables. WEF features 13 weeks of world-class jumper, hunter, and equitation competition through April 3.
Forty of the world’s best show-jumping athletes including 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games medalists Ben Maher (GBR), McLain Ward (USA), Laura Kraut (USA), and Jessica Springsteen (USA) showed up to contest Kelvin Bywater’s (GBR) tall and technical track. Germany’s Daniel Deusser (GER) emerged as the pathfinder to a clear round aboard Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z, but was followed swiftly by Nayel Nassar (EGY) and Mario Deslauriers (CAN), which ensured a jump-off.
At the conclusion of the first round, eight representatives of seven different countries had successfully completed Bywater’s challenge. A historic number of spectators filled the stands of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) as preparations were made in the International Arena for the short track, and the remaining exhibitors geared up for their return.
Deusser re-entered as the first qualifier to contest the jump-off and put forth an incredibly efficient effort but finished with a four-fault score as the final fence toppled. As the third to return, Deslauriers and the Wishing Well Farm LLC’s 13-year-old Holsteiner mare Bardolina 2 were the first pair to go double clear.
The lead continued to change hands in quick succession, and just when it seemed Conor Swail (IRL) would add another victory to his growing collection, Weishaupt (GER) determined the final result. Weishaupt held the optimum position as the last entry to return and piloted the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding Coby 8 (Contagio x Escudo 19) straight to the top, clear in 40.96 seconds.
“I know how fast my horse is, and after many years of experience I know how quick I have to go to beat the time,” said Weishaupt. “That being said, I think all of us are very lucky that Daniel Deusser had the last jump down, because otherwise it would’ve been game over for all of us.”
While this is Weishaupt’s first five-star competition at WEF, he and Coby 8 have previously scored wins at this level, including a recent win in the $510,000 SAOC Grand Prix of Riyadh CSI5*-W in December of 2021.
“Competing here feels a bit like being at home in Europe actually,” described Weishaupt. “I feel like all of my colleagues from there are here now as well, and it is definitely not easier to win here than it is back home. We saw incredible sport tonight, and the atmosphere here is stunning. You feel the whole crowd behind you, and what makes that crowd here special is that they’re all really close with horses.They sometimes call out, ‘Whoa, whoa’ because they see a distance before you even see it. So it’s fun to jump in here and have such a crowd behind you.”
Swail’s efforts were good enough to keep the runner-up title. The ninth-ranked rider in the world and his rising star, the 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding Count Me In (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes), produced a time of 41.42 seconds.
“This was his first start of 2022, so I was a bit unsure about him going straight into the five-star,” described Swail of the gelding. “He jumped incredibly well, and as far as the jump-off goes, I think if I had to do it again I would’ve done a better job. I am delighted with the horse, and obviously it was a fantastic result. Kelvin [Bywater] built quite a nice course today. He asked enough questions without making it super difficult.”
Swail has been on a hot streak from the latter part of 2021 to now, having won the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Fort Worth in December and the $138,600 Sun Air Jets 1.55m Grand Prix CSI3* just last week in California.
“The ranking is a byproduct of being consistent, and that is what I’m aiming for,” said Swail. “I have a great group of horses at the moment, and they are giving me great chances to do well, which I am benefitting from.”
The top combination of Brian Moggre (USA) and 2021 US Equestrian International Horse of the Year, Balou du Reventon, ran third in the victory gallop. The young professional piloted Ann Thompson’s 16-year-old Oldenburg stallion (Cornet Obolensky x Continue) stopped the clock with a time of 41.58 seconds.
“What a great way to start out the season for Balou as well as myself,” stated Moggre. “This was our first five-star competition since last fall, so it was really an eye opener. As soon as I jumped the first jump, I kind of kicked myself into gear and I was like, ‘Oh here we go.’”
The fresh-faced talent served as the first reserve on the USA’s show jumping team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and has had several incredible finishes, including helping the U.S. win the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup at CSIO5* in Aachen, Germany, since pairing with the stallion only a year ago.
“I was very nervous when I partnered with him in the beginning, but now I trust him so much and I like to think he has that same trust in me,” continued the 20-year-old rider. “I know him so much better now; I wasn’t sure where he would be tonight after having a long break but he felt fantastic, and so I figured I might as well just give it a go in the jump-off.”
Final Results – $406,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI 5*
1) Philipp Weishaupt (GER) & Coby 8 – 0 / 0 – 40.96
2) Conor Swail (IRL) & Count Me In – 0 / 0 – 41.42
3) Brian Moggre (USA) & Balou du Reventon – 0 / 0 – 41.58
Source: Press Release by Summer Grace and Sabrina Schmidt / Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions / WEF – Winter Equestrian Festival
Photos: © Sportfot