Under the lights in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), Abdel Saïd (EGY) and his own Bandit Savoie stole the show with a stunning victory in the $401,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI5*, on Saturday, March 13, as part of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF).
Week nine competition concludes on Sunday, March 14, with the $73,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic CSI5* on Sunday afternoon as part of 12 weeks of international competition. Feature classes are available free live and on-demand on the livestream.
In the third CSI5* of the 2021 winter circuit, a field of 39 starters attempted the 1.60m track built by Ireland’s Alan Wade, with nine jumping clear to qualify for the jump-off. Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa set the pace early as the first to return aboard Carlito’s Way 6 owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm, LLC, with a clear jumping effort in a time of 41.45 seconds. Their pace was fast, but the door was left open and those who followed found a way in.
Fourth of nine to return, Cian O’Connor (IRL) and Kilkenny flew around the shortened track, electing to leave a stride out down the final line and the risk paid off. He and the nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Cardento x Mhs Pembrook Lady) owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd moved into the lead with a clear effort, crossing the timers in 39.09 seconds.
Next to go, Saïd piloted his 10-year-old Selle Français gelding (Qlassic Bois Margot x Falmera) around the track effortlessly, opting to make up the time through the turns, moving swiftly across the ground in nine strides to the final fence to take over the lead in 38.70 seconds.
It was the pair following Saïd that kept everyone on the edge of their seats as the quick combination of Daniel Deusser (GER) and Killer Queen VDM gave it their best effort. Deusser, ranked third in the world, guided the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Eldorado Vd Zeshoek x Derly Chin De Muze) owned by Stephex Stables to a clear effort, stopping the clock just one-hundredth of a second off the leading time in 38.71 seconds.
In the end, it was Saïd who prevailed to take the victory on the talented gelding he purchased in September from the number one ranked rider in the world, Steve Guerdat.
“He is a feisty little horse who is definitely a trier,” said Saïd of the winning gelding. “I love the fire he has in him. It was causing us to have some rails at the past few shows because I didn’t really know him, but I sold my two main grand prix horses earlier in the circuit, so he had to really step up.
“I must say today going into the jump-off after the first round I was so happy with how he went,” continued Saïd. “I just wanted to do my own round and see where I ended up. I didn’t really go until I really had to win today, but I like to go in the jump-off, and it just worked out today. Everything clicked a little more, and I was really happy.”
Deusser followed up on his fourth-place finish in the WEF 7 CSI5* grand prix ending the evening in second place.
“In the last couple of weeks, she has proven herself,” said Deusser. “She is a mare with unbelievable scope and she knows what to do with her range; she wants to leave the poles up. Today was a fantastic round for her. I didn’t get the best distance to the second to last fence. I was really planning to do the eight [strides] and she has a big stride, but I could not make her do it. I was so deep to the second to last fence, and that’s where I lost it.”
As the Irish continue to produce clear rounds at WEF, sweeping the top five spots in Thursday’s qualifier, O’Connor kept their podium streak alive as he landed in third in the grand prix.
“He’s a super horse,” said O’Connor. “I only got him last September when he was eight years old. It was really a night of firsts for me; first time under the lights, first time [in a] five star, first time jumping water in the big competition, so I didn’t really know what to expect. When I walked the course, I thought it was a very difficult test. The verticals were very tall. I must say the course was nice. This time of year, we’re all just getting up and running and the combinations were fair and Alan [Wade] did a super job with the course. I’m just thrilled with the horse. He was only half a second off my good friend [Abdel] here, so we’re really, really pleased. I couldn’t be happier.”
It was a historic night for Saïd as his victory marked the first time an Egyptian rider has won a CSI5* Grand Prix in the history of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
“I’m really, really proud,” said Saïd of the opportunity to represent his country in international competition. “Especially now because when my top horses got sold, I felt the pressure of the Olympics and whether or not it would happen. I really felt the pressure the last few shows, and I’m just happy that I have a horse that I can do this with. Obviously, this is a very, very high level and the Olympics aren’t too far away, but we will see where we end up.”
In a season filled with the challenges of navigating a global pandemic and protecting horses from the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV), competition has been able to continue at WEF with the health and safety of horses and riders as the number one priority. Many riders have expressed the utmost appreciation for the opportunity to compete at the CSI5* level.
“I think we are blessed,” said O’Connor of the current situation. “We spoke about it in the prize giving; to be able to compete here is extraordinary this time of year. The horse show here at WEF does a super job with the COVID protocols and to be able to jump at such a high level and be up and running so early on, we feel privileged. It’s a huge advantage for us because other people aren’t jumping, things are canceled and so on. It’s awful with this [EHV] virus in Europe as well, so we think about everyone who has been affected by that, but we feel fortunate to have planned to come here and that we are all able to jump in a very safe environment.”
Following the class, the Herman ‘Kappy’ Kaplan Perpetual Memorial Trophy was presented to Abdel Saïd. The trophy was established for Kappy with fondness by the Farriers of the 1995 WEF.
The Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award, in memory of Dale Lawler, was presented by Adrienne Sternlicht (USA), who placed fourth in the grand prix with Cristalline.
Four people were honored in special presentations prior to the start of the grand prix. David Distler and Leslie Howard were inducted into the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, while WEF show manager David Burton was presented with the new trophy in his honor, the David E. Burton Jr. Perpetual Trophy for Extraordinary Service and Equestrian Sport Productions President Michael Stone was awarded the Wellington Equestrian Lifetime Achievement Award for their incredible work in the past year to make horse shows possible at PBIEC.
$401,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI5*
1. BANDIT SAVOIE: 2011 Selle Français gelding by Qlassic Bois Margot x Falmera Savoie
ABDEL SAÏD (EGY), Abdel Saïd and AS Sport Horses: 0/0/38.70
2. KILLER QUEEN VDM: 2010 BWP mare by Eldorado Vd Zeshoek x Derly Chin De Muze
DANIEL DEUSSER (GER), Stephex Stables: 0/0/38.71
3. KILKENNY: 2012 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Cardento x Mhs Pembrook Lady
CIAN O’CONNOR (IRL), Ronnoco Jump Ltd: 0/0/39.09
4. CRISTALLINE: 2008 Bavarian Warmblood mare by Cristallo 1 x Caretello B
ADRIENNE STERNLICHT (USA), Starlight Farms 1 LLC: 0/0/38.52
5. KARLIN VAN ‘T VENNEHOF: 2010 BWP mare by Fantomas De Muze X Quasimodo Vd Molendreef
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Seabrook LLC and Shane Sweetnam: 0/0/39.83
6. CARLITO’S WAY 6: 2010 Holsteiner gelding by Casall x Lordanos
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC: 0/0/41.45
7. ARMIK: 2009 Oldenburg gelding by Armitage x Justinian xx
CAPT. BRIAN COURNANE (IRL), Brian Cournane and M/M Bob Stiller: 0/4/41.17
8. LEONE JEI: 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Baltic VDL x Corland
MARTIN FUCHS (SUI), Adolfo Jui: 0/4/42.04
9. PACINO AMIRO: 2012: Irish Sport Horse mare by Pacino x Carnone Dancing Queen
BERTRAM ALLEN (IRL), Aiden McGregory: 0/EL
10. GEMMA W: 2011 KWPN mare by Luidam x Unaniem
DANIEL BLUMAN (ISR), Blue Star Investments: 1/83.84