Wellington, Florida, USA – April 01, 2023 – Showtime showjumping at its finest is what spectators witnessed on Saturday night as great riders and their high-flying beasts took to the skies at the Wellington International, all in the feature class of the 2023 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Wellington CSI 5*.
Olympic course designer, Guilherme Jorge (BRA) set the test that was challenged by forty-entries representing Argentina (1), Belgium (1), Brazil (2), Canada (3), Colombia (1), Dominican Republic (1), Egypt (1), France (1), Germany (3), Ireland (5), Mexico (2), Sweden (1), Switzerland (1), the United States (16)), Venezuela (1), in the first round of the 1.60m contest. In addition to the demanding course that featured a triple, a double with two oxers and the river, inclement weather played an important role, adding another degree of difficulty most of the time.
Fast Combinations Guarantee a Thrilling Tiebreaker
Andrew Bourns (IRL) and Sea Top Blue were the first ones to enter the International Arena and the demanding course proved to be too much for them with three poles coming down. Despite being only the second pair to go, one of the most consistent riders of the twelve-week circuit, Richard Vogel (GER) overcame not only all the obstacles on Cepano Baloubet, but also the rain, being the first pair to master the course.
Two rides later, Bertram Allen (IRL) put on an acrobatic performance with Pacino Amiro, guaranteeing a jump-off. One of the favorites for a podium finish, Karl Cook (USA) and Kalinka van`T Zorgvliet joined the list of those returning for the tiebreaker.
More Inclement Weather
Soon after, it started raining cats and dogs, making things even a bit more difficult. Despite the young age and less experience compared to most of the other competitors, Carlos Hank Guerreiro (MEX) and H5 Just the Music were not fazed by the spotlight, nor affected by the adverse weather conditions, registering the fourth clean round.
Only 10 performances later, Roberto Teran (COL) and Dez Ooktoff closed out the first half of the order, doing so in great fashion, joining the other previous four finalists. The course and weather conditions seemed to have taken a toll on most participants in the second half of the draw, as only two other combinations were able to overcome all the obstacles. The rain decreased for a moment and another young rider put on a brilliant textbook round. Alessandra Volpi (USA) and Berlinda shone bright, qualifying for the tiebreaker in flawless fashion.
Rolex Major Winners Join the Battle
As back-to-back winners of the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping after having claimed both the $1,200,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva CSI 5* last December and the €1,000,000 Rolex Grand Prix of ‘s-Hertogenbosch CSI 5* three weeks earlier, McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur would be the final ones to qualify.
As experts analyzed the second starting list, a few things came to mind, the jump-off would be very fast! Three riders who are used to going all out, two young riders and one more experienced combination running as “dark horses” after them, and last but not least, a pair that is amongst the all-time greats of the noble sport.
Catch Them If You Can!
Despite having the disadvantage of going first and as several analysts had predicted, Richard Vogel (GER) and Cepano Baloubet (Chaman x Stakkato’s Highlight) laid down the gauntlet. The German and Veronica Tracy‘s 9-year-old chestnut German Sport Horse gelding dashed for the cash, using very tight turns while galloping when they had the room to do so, putting the pressure on the ensuing contestants with a time of 40.53 seconds.
Bertram Allen (IRL) and Pacino Amiro (Pacino x NC Amiro) followed, being neck-to-neck with the leaders much of the way. Unfortunately, a pole came down down the final stretch, eliminating them from conquering the coveted title. In the end, their time of 40.60 seconds would prove to be vital, securing podium finish for the pair.
Karl Cook (USA) and Carlos Hank Guerreiro (MEX) were slower and had penalty-points incurred to their score. Roberto Teran Tafur (COL) made the wise decision to go for the clean performance with Dez Ooktoff (Colandro x Lys Rouge) and it paid off. They were over 8 seconds slower than Vogel, taking over the second position in the provisional standings due to their time of 49.15 seconds.
In the biggest test of their career together, Alessandra Volpi (USA) and Berlinda put on a good performance, setting off in a fast pace before slowing down after only pole down, sliding just behind Karl Cook (USA).
Suspense in the Air!
One final pair to go and what a pair! There was much suspense in the air as McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur entered the arena to defy the leaders. In the beginning, it seemed they were just a little behind Richard Vogel‘s (GER) time and as the American accelerated, the first obstacle came down, then the second and later the third.
When it was all said and done, Richard Vogel (GER) and Cepano Baloubet had been victorious, Roberto Teran Tafur (COL) and Dez Ooktoff earned reserve honors as the only other double clear while Bertram Allen (IRL) and Pacino Amiro completed the podium as the fastest four-faulters.
Winner’s Circle – Richard Vogel (GER)
“My plan was not to risk too much in the jump-off, but also to put the pressure on the ones coming after me so they had to risk a bit more to be faster and I was lucky it all worked out,” said Vogel, who has earned four international wins during the 2023 season at WEF. “This horse did a great job and deserves a break, so he’s got a couple of weeks off.”
“I first rode this horse when he was six, and not too long after the horse came to our stable with the same owner and we were able to produce him. In January, they purchased the horse for me to keep it in the stable, so I’m lucky to have such good owners and so much trust in those people.
“Wellington has been very good to us; we’ve had a great season,” concluded Vogel. “Our horses jumped very well and gained a lot of experience also so yeah it was a super season.”
Final Results – $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix of Wellington CSI 5*
1) Richard Vogel (GER) & Cepano Baloubet – 0 / 0 – 40.53
2) Roberto Teran Tafur (COL) & Dez Ooktoff – 0 / 0 – 49.15
3) Bertram Allen (IRL) & Pacino Amiro – 0 / 0 – 40.60
Text: Jumper News, no reproduction without permission.
Interview – Source: Press Release from ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Snowmanview Magazine / Jeena Jah Photography
Categories: CSI 5*, English, Jumper News Deutschland, Winter Equestrian Festival