Ocala, Florida, USA – March 04, 2023 – Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) competition culminated on Saturday evening at World Equestrian Center – Ocala with the $150,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSI 3*. Spectators were on the edge of their seats as 31 equestrian athletes representing ten nations put forth their best efforts over an exacting track designed by Alan Wade (IRL). Last to go, Samantha Schaefer (USA) expertly piloted the talented James Bond HX (Douglas x Cash) to a thrilling clear round and his very first grand prix victory.
Wade’s first round track proved challenging for even the most seasoned riders as just four starters returned for the jump-off including Sean Jobin (CAN), Alexa Pessoa (USA), Nikko Ritter (USA) and Samantha Schaefer (USA).
Welcome Prix top three finisher Sean Jobin (CAN) and Coquelicot VH Heuvelland Z (Catoki x Cassini II) owned by Foxridge Farms Stables were the first duo to return for the jump-off.
“Alan set a pretty challenging course tonight. The oxers were quite wide and I think the wall out of the corner was a unique challenge. Then you had to go straight to the triple combination with a big oxer in the middle. The horses really had to stretch and work hard in those spots, but I’m thankful for my horse for helping me out tonight,” said Jobin.
Sean Jobin (CAN) and the 11-year-old Zangersheide gelding were clear, setting the pace at 41.83 seconds for the remaining athletes.
Alexa Pessoa (USA) followed aboard Carlito’s Way 6 (Casall x Lordanos) owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC. The pair were quick in 40.55 seconds but with an unfortunate rail along the way.
Nikko Ritter (USA followed with his own Aquiles del Caribe Z (Action-breaker x Gerlinus). Ritter and the nine-year-old Zangersheide gelding gave the track their all, finding an even faster time in 41.02 seconds.
Ritter spoke about his new partnership with the skilled gelding, “This is his first three-star grand prix. I couldn’t be more ecstatic with how he jumped. He did everything I asked of him, and he rose to the occasion in that arena,” shared Ritter. “The ambience here helps all of the horses jump so well. They go out there and feel like a million bucks with that crowd.”
Samantha Schaefer(USA) and Bonne Chance LLC’s James Bond HX were the final pair to attempt Wade’s jump-off track. “I didn’t really walk the jump-off. I knew it was eight from one to two and another eight back to the combination. I was thinking a quiet 12 strides to the last, but he has a pretty big stride. I told myself if I caught the FEI oxer by the gate how I wanted, I would land and commit. I ended up doing ten.”
The pair soared over the Lugano Diamonds oxer stopping the clock at 39.37 seconds, nearly two seconds faster than second place, to secure the top place spot atop the podium.
Schaefer didn’t originally plan to compete James Bond HX in the Grand Prix “I never dreamed in a million years I would be using him in this class tonight and by a twist of fate and a touch of a mix up, here we are. This was the biggest track I have ever jumped on him, and I couldn’t be more proud. He has continued to surprise me in our short time together. At the beginning of circuit, I would have been happy to just compete him in the 1.40m speed class,” laughed Schaefer.
“He’s such an incredible horse and keeps proving himself more and more. His mother Trezebees was the horse that really got me into the jumpers and got me to a level that I’d never competed at before. It just makes him that more special to me and I know our partnership was meant to be,” expressed Schaefer.
Melissa Brandes, Director of Equestrian at Lugano Diamonds spoke about the exciting night, “We are so incredibly honored to be the sponsor tonight. It was an incredible competition. Congratulations to the top three riders; what a jump-off, what a class all around. We have been Founding Partners since day one and can’t wait to see what’s to come.”
“It has been a pleasure to welcome so many top riders to the venue for the first time and to host a week of exceptional show jumping competition,” said Vinnie Card, World Equestrian Center – Ocala’s Director of Operations. ”We are already looking forward to our four weeks of FEI competition during the 2023 Ocala Summer Series.”
Final Results – $150,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSI3*
1) Samantha Schaefer (USA) & James Bond HX: 2014 KWPN gelding by Douglas x Cash, Bonne Chance LLC: 0 | 0 | 39.37
2) Nikko Ritter (USA) & Aquiles del Caribe Z: 2014 Zangersheide gelding by Action-breaker x Gerlinus, Nikko Ritter: 0 | 0 | 41.02
3) Sean Jobin (CAN) & Coquelicot VH Heuvelland Z: 2012 Zangersheide gelding by Catoki x Cassini II, Foxridge Farms Stables: 0 | 0 | 41.83
4) Alexa Pessoa (USA) & Carlito’s Way 6: 2010 Holsteiner gelding by Casall x Lordanos, Artemis Equestrian Farm, LLC: 0 | 4 | 40.55
5) Tiffany Hammack (USA) & Verdini O’Merveilles: 2009 Selle Francais gelding by Verdi TN x Quick Star, Foxwood Farm: 1 | 79.12
6) Richie Moloney (IRL) & Coco Beach: 2012 Holsteiner mare by Casall x San Patrignano Corrado, Equinimity LLC: 3 | 81.05
7) Luis Sabino Goncalves (POR) & Vick du Croisy: 2009 Selle Francais mare by Lord Carthago x Vondeen, Sigma Stables LLC: 4 | 73.33
8) Todd Minikus (USA) & Amex Z: 2009 Zangersheide mare by Andiamo Z x Landaris, Bit By Bit Group: 4 | 73.53
9) Hunter Holloway (USA) & Eastern Jam: 2009 KWPN Gelding by Lexicon x Monaco, Hays Investment Corp.: 4 | 74.40
10) Santiago Lambre (BRA) & Casey: 2010 Hanoverian mare by Cartani 4 x Grannus, Santiago Lambre: 4 | 74.50
11) Rowan Willis (AUS) & Wellington Grey Goose: 2011 Warmblood mare by Corlensky, Rowan Willis: 4 | 75.08
12) Jacqueline Steffens Daly (CAN) & Freaky: 2010 KWPN Gelding by Darco x Litho X, Eye Candy Jumpers: 4 | 75.65
Source: Press Release from World Equestrian Center
Photos: © WEC – Andrew Ryback Photography