It was a sweet victory for Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Volage du Val Henry in the $137,000 Grand Prix CSI3* at “Friday Night Stars” in the Global Ring at Equestrian Village (home to the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival) during week six of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Friday, February 14.
WEF continues through March 29 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, with 12 consecutive weeks of world-class competition and $13 million dollars on offer. The sixth week of competition runs February 12-16, and features World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) events, as well as CSI3* jumper competition.
Highlights of the week still to come include the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular on Saturday, February 15, at 6:35 p.m. in the International Arena during “Saturday Night Lights.” Sunday, February 16, will welcome the $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix and $25,000 CP Grand Prix, on the grass Derby Field.
North American ladies dominated the podium in the pinnacle jumper event of week six with Canadian rider Rachel Cornacchia finishing the runner-up aboard Valkyrie de Talma and U.S. rider Ali Wolff rounding out the top three riding longtime mount Casall.
From a starting field of 37, nine horses advanced to the tie-breaker over tracks set by course designer Ana Catalina “Catsy” Cruz Harris (MEX). With only one to follow behind her, Springsteen wowed the crowd by taking over the lead by less than one-hundredth of a second in 36.04 seconds.
“I thought I would still try to go fast in case I knocked one down because she’s such a fast mare,” said Springsteen of her plan for Volage du Val Henry, an 11-year-old Selle Français mare (Quidam de Revel x Cassini I), owned by Stone Hill Farm. “I thought I had fence one down and got really distracted, but she jumped amazing. I’m really lucky to have her; she’s such a talented mare, and she really tried her heart out tonight.”
Springsteen has had the ride on Volage du Val Henry since the mare was eight years old and knows her inside and out. “In the beginning, she was a little bit difficult; she had a tricky mouth, and it took me some time to get to know her,” said Springsteen. “Things really clicked this fall, and she’s just been jumping unbelievable – clear round after clear round. She’s so consistent, and I can really rely on her. She’s careful, but she has a lot of heart and always tries so hard to win.”
Springsteen is in the middle of a WEF season marked with consistent top finishes, a highpoint on her road to the short list for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. “My dream is always to represent the United States in championships, so I am definitely always working toward that. I feel like I have a really good group of horses jumping great right now, so I am hoping to make that short list. I will just keep doing my best.”
Springsteen’s performance bumped Cornacchia to a close second in her debut season at WEF. She and Valkyrie de Talma, an 11-year-old Selle Français mare owned by Eventyre Farms, stopped the clock at 36.13 seconds.
“This is actually my very first time in Florida,” said Cornacchia, who hails from Calgary, AB. “So far I am loving it, and this was a great start! We felt like we had the horses and wanted to step it up a little bit this winter, so we decided to make the trip here. It’s just an amazing venue, the whole concept of this horse village is incredible.”
Celebrating her third anniversary with Valkyrie de Talma, Cornacchia believes that the mare is really coming into her own of late.
“I didn’t watch anybody go; I just stuck to my plan, and it worked out,” she said of the only double-clear performance behind Springsteen’s. “I jumped my very first 1.40m junior/amateur class on this horse, and now we’re at this point. It’s pretty exciting. She has a lot of heart. She’s a super talented mare, and I feel incredibly lucky to have the ride on her.”
Cornacchia will compete at WEF for the remainder of the season with a goal to compete in the CIS5* ranks.
Posting the fastest four-fault jump-off round of the evening, Wolff and Casall rounded out the podium. Their eight-year partnership has produced many top finishes with more to come. “I know him pretty well; we try to use him sparingly, but he still has a lot left in the tank,” she said of the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding. “I always have to go in riding my own ride, and he’s gotten quicker and quicker through the years.
“I should have added one, but I kind of went for it because I knew there were a lot of strong competitors behind me,” continued Wolff of her heartbreak rail that fell in the double combination. “We’ll practice that for next time. [Casall] gets a little bit of a break and will come back out at the end of the circuit.”
Both finishing on four faults over the short course, Todd Minikus (USA) placed fourth riding Amex Z, owned by Bit By Bit Group, in 33.95 seconds, while Jim Ifko (CAN) rounded out the top five on Un Diamant des Forets in 33.98 seconds.
In a special award presentation, Canada’s Vanessa Mannix was named the Martha W. Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider after consistent top finishes in the Equinimty WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 and the Grand Prix CSI3* aboard Catinka 25.
For full results, visit www.PBIEC.com.
Final Results: $137,000 Grand Prix CSI3*
1. VOLAGE DU VAL HENRY: 2009 Selle Français mare by Quidam de Revel x Cassini I – JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN (USA), Stone Hill Farm: 0/0/36.05
2. VALKYRIE DE TALMA: 2009 Selle Francais mare by Diamant De Semilly x Reggae De Talma – RACHEL CORNACCHIA (CAN), Eventyre Farms: 0/0/36.13
3. CASALL: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Casall ASK x Capitol I – ALI WOLFF (USA), blacklick Bend Farm: 0/4/33.19
4. AMEX Z: 2009 Zangersheide Mare by Andiamo Z x Landaris – TODD MINIKUS (USA), Bit By Bit Group: 0/4/33.96
5. UN DIAMANT DES FORETS: 2008 Selle Francais stallion by Diamant De Semilly x Grace Des Forets – JIM IFKO (CAN), Eventyre Farms: 0/04/33.99
6. STALANDO 2: 2008 Oldenburg gelding by Stakkatol x Landlady 55 – MARTIN FUCHS (SUI), Gospodardstwo Rolne Andrezej Oplatek: 0/4/34.405
7. HH CALLAS: 2007 Oldenburg mare by Albatros x Quattro B – MEGAN MCDERMOTT(USA), Counter Balance LLC: 0/8/38.22
8. TRADITION DE LA ROQUE: 2007 Selle Français mare by Kannan x Oberon du Moulin – LAUREN FISCHER (USA), Lauren Fischer: 0/12/39.96
9. TOY BOY: 2008 BCP gelding by Unknown x Unknown – JORGE MATTE CAPDEVILA (CHI), Jorge Matte Capdevila: 0/EL
10. CATINKA 25: 2009 Oldenburg mare by Catoki x Luxano- VANESSA MANNIX (CAN), Vanessa Mannix: 1/75.64
11. VERTIGE DE VIGNUEL: 2009 Selle Français gelding by Ogano Sitte x Axion du Gue – NICOLETTE HIRT (USA), Nicolette Hirt: 1/75.84
12 CACHAREL: 2007 KWPN mare by Vingino x Clinton – KELLY SOLEAU-MILLAR (USA), Bridge Brook Arms and Donna Vanderwoude-Dyment: 1/76.39