Wellington, Florida, USA – February 20, 2022 – The sixth week of the 2022 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), sponsored by IDA Development, concluded on Sunday, February 20, with a day full of show jumping on the grass Derby Field at Equestrian Village while hunters continued on the main stage of the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Olympian Bertram Allen (IRL) sped to victory for the second year in row in the $140,000 IDA Development Grand Prix CSI 3*, this year riding his own Harley VD Bisschop. WEF continues with world-class jumper, hunter, and equitation competition through April 3.
Forty-five entries took to the field to contest the three-star grand prix over a course designed by Ana Catalina Harris Cruz (MEX). Fifteen competitors found the key to a clear round, and with one retirement from the jump-off, 14 contested the short course.
2020 Tokyo Olympic Games individual gold medalist Ben Maher (GBR) and Oakingham Stud’s Faltic HB were the eighth to go in the jump-off list, chasing a time of 42.47 seconds set by Harrie Smolders (NED) and Monaco, owned by Evergate Stables, LLC. Maher galloped through the course and set the new time to beat at 40.92 seconds.
Maher’s partnership with Faltic HB, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion by Baltic VDL x Concorde, only began in October of 2021. They were double clear in the World Cup Grand Prix at the London International Horse Show in December before crossing the pond to Wellington.
“Thank you to Oakingham Stud for believing in me and giving him to me,” expressed Maher. “He had a great upbringing in his life and jumped up to the three-star level. He had a little bit of a break with COVID being in Europe, so he still just has to learn this next level and faster jump-offs, even though he’s 12. I was really happy with him today.”
This was the first time that Maher has really pushed Faltic HB for speed in a jump-off. They had an unlucky four faults in last week’s five-star grand prix at WEF, and Maher decided to step him down to the three-star this week to keep him “mentally confident.” Maher plans to use Faltic HB in the Nations Cup at WEF 8.
Of his ride through the jump-off course, Maher said with a smile, “It was a little bit scary jumping the double [combination] there. I was full commitment and nearly bounced it, but in the end was just not quite fast enough. I thought Bertram’s jump-off was perfect, fluid, and much faster at the end of the course than I was able to do today.”
The two subsequent riders made a good bid for the lead but finished just off the pace; Conor Swail (IRL) and his own Count Me In were double clear in 41.84 seconds for fourth place, while Nayel Nassar (EGY) and Coronado, owned by Evergate Stables, LLC, finished in 42.30 seconds for fifth place. Barnmate Smolders ended up in sixth place.
Following Nassar in the ring was Olympian Eduardo Pereira de Menezes (BRA) with H5 Sport Horses LLC’s H5 Elvaro. They slotted into third place with a final time of 40.95 seconds, just three-hundredths of a second off Maher’s time.
Menezes has enjoyed a nearly five-year relationship with H5 Elvaro. While the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion by Calvaro F.C. x Heartbreaker competed with Menezes’s sponsor Carlos Hank Guerreiro (MEX) in 2019, he has ridden the horse since 2020. Menezes and H5 Elvaro racked up wins at WEF; Valkenswaard, The Netherlands; St. Tropez-Grimaud, France; and Knokke, Belgium in 2021.
This was H5 Elvaro’s first grand prix back after an injury in August. “I was pretty pleased with his performance,” said Menezes. “I knew we needed to take care of the double combination. I think I lost time there, and then I tried to recover, but it wasn’t enough.”
With the best position in the order, Allen and Harley VD Bisschop were the final combination into the jump-off. With a giant gallop and flowing rollbacks, the pair flew through the timers in a class-winning 39.66 seconds.
“For some reason or other, I don’t always get the nicest jump-offs on Harley,” admitted Allen of the 15-year-old Belgian Warmblood by Dulf van den Bisschop x Coronado. “I was just going to have my round, and if it all came off, I knew he could be fast enough, but I wasn’t going to force anything. And then right from the start, I caught one to two good, the double [combination] good, and just kept going from there.”
“Harley” has been in the family since November of 2018, having previously been ridden by Nicola Philippaerts (BEL). Bertram shares riding duties with his brother Harry.
Allen explained, “My brother rode him at one or two shows at the end of last year, and he’s in Spain now with a lot of the other horses. He came out here [to Wellington] the first week, so I thought it would be nice for him to ride him and see how it’s done over here, because it’s different in Europe. It was a good experience for him, and obviously it didn’t do the horse any harm.”
Allen won this same grand prix at the 2021 WEF with Castlefield Vegas. For Harley VD Bisschop, that pre-qualification into the grand prix and the grass venue made it an “encouraging” decision to enter the horse.
“It’s great to be a winner anytime, but to do it two years in a row, and also last to go, is that little bit sweeter too,” he said.
Final Results – $140,000 IDA Development Grand Prix CSI 3*
1) Bertram Allen (USA) & Harley vd Bisschop – 0 / 0 – 37.95
2) Ben Maher (GBR) & Faltic HB – 0 / 0 – 40.66
3) Eduardo Menezes (BRA) & H5 Elvaro – 0 / 0 – 41.56
Source: Press Release from Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Sportfot