Ocala, Florida, USA – July 09, 2023 – Fédération Equestre International (FEI) CSI 3* competition came to an exhilarating close on Saturday night as a stacked field of the world’s best show jumping athletes spanning 11 different nations vied for the top spot in the $150,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSI 3*. A thrilling eight horse jump-off had everyone on the edge of their seats, but it was Ashlee Bond (ISR) that dazzled the crowd aboard her tried-and-true partner Donatello 141 (Diarado x Lamoureux I).
The significant track built by FEI Level III course designer Peter Grant (CAN) was no match for top-level athletes, Ashlee Bond (ISR), Kelli Cruciotti Vanderveen (USA), Alberto Michan (ISR), Victoria Ketchum (USA), Gonzalo Busca (ESP), Erynn Ballard (CAN), and Kristen Vanderveen (USA) as they all found clear rounds to qualify for the jump-off, but by the end of the short course the race was between Israel, Canada and the United States.
Fifth to return to the jump-off Bond and Donatello 141 laid it all on the track, taking tidy turns while finding each fence on an open gallop to stop the clock at an unbelievable 35.97 seconds, which ultimately earned Bond the top spot on the podium.
“I’ve had Donny since he was six and he’s now 12. We have done this a lot and know each other inside and out. I know I can ask anything of him. I saved him specially for this class,” shared Bond about her partnership with the 12-year-old Westphalian gelding.
“Tonight, I could feel as soon as he walked in the ring that he was ready to shine. He loves night classes, he thrives in them. It was a great feeling to know he was feeling himself, and he proved it with his performance,” expressed Bond.
The 2023 Ocala Summer Series was the first time that Bond has competed at World Equestrian Center – Ocala, “It’s a beautiful venue. They’ve done an incredible job. We are calling it the Las Vegas Bellagio of Ocala. It has that feel and we love the Bellagio,” laughed Bond. “I love the hotel as a backdrop and it’s true that horses really thrive here. I hope it keeps getting bigger and more people come.”
The race wasn’t over yet, because Bond had three quick riders after her time. Gonzalo Busca (ESP) and Classifed gave a great effort but fell short in 37.80 seconds.
Erynn Ballard (CAN) was quick on his heels aboard the up-and-coming Coconet (Colman x Cornet’s Stern) owned by Wight Show Stables LLC. Ballard and the nine-year-old Oldenburg mare raced around the track stopping the clock at 37.50 seconds.
Ballard spoke about her new partnership with Coconet, “This is my first season with her. I usually don’t get the luxury of one year with a horse, I usually get the luxury of one week. But with her we’ve been able to take it slow. I’ve been able to jump some small and big classes to create a partnership, but her career starts here. What a venue and place to bring a nine-year-old to have great results and great success. She’s going to be famous when she grows up and it’s all starting here.”
Kristen Vanderveen (USA) was the final athlete to attempt Grant’s jump-off track with Bull Run’s Jireh (Uriko x Colman), a nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Bull Run Jumpers, Inc. The pair were slick, leaving out strides and taking a tight turn back to the second to last vertical to stop the clock at 36.73 seconds to slide into second place.
Vanderveen had a goal for her developing partner Bull Run’s Jireh, “I am not going to lie I was a little intimidated by Ashlee, but there’s no time like the present to learn how to go fast. So I wanted to go as fast as I felt was in reason for him. I wasn’t worried about catching Ashlee, I wanted to use this as a building block for his future career, and he jumped his heart out for me.”
Melissa Brandes, Director of Equestrian at Lugano Diamonds expressed her gratitude, “What an incredible ladies’ night. It is such a pleasure to have a partnership with World Equestrian Center – Ocala and support the athletes that come to compete. I am blessed to work for a company that believes in giving back to the sport and understands the importance of these partnerships. Congratulations to all competitors on a spectacular evening, we are proud to be a part of it.”
Final Results – $150,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSI 3*
1) Ashlee Bond (ISR) & Donatello 141, Ashlee Bond – 0 | 0 – 35.97
2) Kristen Vanderveen (USA) & Bull Run’s Jireh, Bull Run Jumpers, Inc. – 0 | 0 – 36.73
3) Erynn Ballard (CAN) & Coconet, Wight Show Stables LLC – 0 | 0 – 37.50
4) Gonzalo Busca (ESP) & Classified, Liliane Stransky – 0 | 0 – 37.80
5) Alberto Michan (ISR) & Itchcock Des Dames , Marco Zamudio – 0 | 0 – 38.39
6) Ashlee Bond (ISR) & Garfield , Aurora Farms, LLC – 0 | 0 – 38.72
7) Kelli Cruciotti Vanderveen (USA) & Gideon , Serenity Farm – 0 | 4 – 39.25
8) Victoria Ketchum (USA) & Extasy , Copperline Farm LLC – 0 | 30 – 68.55
9) Marcello Ciavaglia (BRA) & Premier 2S, Marcello Ciavaglia – 1 | – 81.01
10) Peter Petschenig (AUT) & Ennebel Van Het Posthuijs, Petschenig Showjumping, LLC – 4 | – 76.58
11) Kristen Vanderveen (USA) & Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili, Bull Run Jumpers Five LLC – 4 | – 76.83
12) Lauren Balcomb (AUS) & Verdini D’Houtveld Z, Lauren Balcomb – 4 | – 77.14
Source: Press Release from WEC – World Equestrian Center
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography