Wellington, Florida, USA – March 12, 2022 – The penultimate day of the ninth week of competition at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded with its highly-anticipated “Saturday Night Lights” event. A large crowd flocked in for the $406,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5* on Saturday evening. The night finished with Abdel Saïd (BEL) repeating his victory from 2021, but this time with his own Arpege Du Ru.
WEF 9, sponsored by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, hosts international five-star and two-star competition, sponsored by Corro, as well as hunter, jumper, and equitation divisions at the national level. The 13-week series features weekly shows through April 3, 2022.
The event featured 41 of the world’s best equestrian athletes spanning 13 different nations and a significant track by world-renowned course designer Alan Wade (IRL). Wade’s test for the first round included a triple bar and a triple combination early on in the course as well as an open water obstacle.
2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team silver medalists McLain Ward (USA) and Contagious, owned by Beechwood Stables, were the class trailblazers, and they initiated the challenge with a clear round. Twelve pairs eventually found their way to a fault-free finish to contest the jump-off. The course’s time allowed of 81 seconds only kept one combination from advancing to the second round, and six entries had their night cut short by a lone rail tipped out of the cups.
As the first of the 12 to return, Ward once again led the charge but an unfortunate miscommunication at a vertical left him and Contagious on a four-fault final score for sixth place. Saïd’s (BEL) performance with Arpege Du Ru produced the first double-clear effort of the class and bumped the pair into the top spot with a time of 38.58 seconds. Ten more world-class athletes gave it their all, but Saïd was determined to repeat his victory of the same class that he won during WEF 2021 aboard Bandit Savoie.
“I’m really delighted with my mare because all season she has been developing,” detailed Saïd. “Every year we come to WEF, I find my horses develop further, and I’m thrilled it came together tonight. I really enjoy being here. I don’t think there are many better venues in the world, especially at the beginning of the year, to set your horses up so well.”
According to Saïd (BEL), he and his 12-year-old Selle Francais mare (Apache D’Adriers x Quat’sous) have been inching closer and closer to a win throughout the season, and it seems only fitting that he went two-for-two in this particular class.
“I had a time fault in the first five-star grand prix we did [at WEF],” added Saïd. “Tonight, I said, ‘I will not be too slow.’ I thought I might be too fast and have a rail, but the plan from the beginning was to go for it. I really wanted and needed that win for our whole team.”
Following the class, the Herman ‘Kappy’ Kaplan Perpetual Memorial Trophy was presented to Abdel Saïd (BEL). The trophy was established for Kappy with fondness by the Farriers of the 1995 WEF.
Thursday’s $75,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round IX CSI5* winners Kent Farrington (USA) and Orafina secured another memorable ribbon for the week as they put their name on the board for the runner-up honors. Farrington chased Saïd down to the wire with Kent Farrington (USA) LLC’s 10-year-old KWPN mare (For Fashion x Canturo) but stopped the clock still almost two seconds off of the top time to take the red ribbon on 40.42 seconds.
“This is only [Orafina]’s second time jumping in a five-star class, and for that I thought it was a tremendous result,” stated Farrington. “It always feels better to win but I think Abdel had an incredible result, and that was going to be tough to beat on any horse.
“I like to take my time producing young horses that have a lot of talent, and I am very excited about her future,” he continued of the mare he has competed internationally for one year. “She proved a lot to me here in this class, and I am hoping for big things going forward. I think we all had tremendous athletes under us, and it is unique they all happened to be mares tonight. I have had a lot of success with great mares because they have heart and a ton of try.”
Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) joined his fellow countryman in the victory lap after piloting his 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Katanga V/H Dingeshof (Cardento 933 x Tornedo FCS) to the third-fastest double clear time of 41.65 seconds.
“My mare is feeling great at the moment,” said Philippaerts. “She doesn’t have the biggest stride, so it is not easy to go flat out in the jump-off, but I did my best. She is special because she can somehow always give something extra in the moment that it matters most.”
Don Langdon, Managing Broker of Wellington, Palm Beach, and Jupiter for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, echoed the sentiment of many when he told the top three: “I’ve always admired your athleticism. To be able to step aside and quiet your mind to have a peak performance at a time like this is something to be incredibly proud of.”
The final double clear ride of the night was Katherine Dinan (USA) aboard Brego R’N B, owned by Grant Road Partners LLC. They were steady in 44.25 seconds for fourth place.
Final Results – $406,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI 5*
1) Abdel Saïd (BEL) & Arpege Du Ru – 0 / 0 – 38.58
2) Kent Farrington (USA) & Orafina – 0 / 0 – 40.42
3) Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) & Katanga V/H Dingeshof – 0 / 0 – 41.65
Source: Press Release from ESP – Equestrian Sport Productions
Photos: © Sportfot