It was a celebratory weekend for Erynn Ballard (CAN) during the ESP Holiday Finale at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center thanks to wins in two separate grand prix classes, which closed 2021 on a high note and began 2022 even better. In one of the first classes of the new year, Ballard and Nanini Van D’Abelendreef, co-owned by Ilan Ferder and Esperanza Imports LLC, galloped to the top of the leaderboard in the $50,000 Equiline Grand Prix as the fastest over designer Anthony D’Ambrosio’s (USA) courses. On New Year’s Eve, Ballard navigated Comedia De Talma, owned by Esperanza Imports LLC, to first prize in the $25,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic Grand Prix.

“I feel like I ended the year on the right foot and now I’m starting the year off in an amazing way. [Nanini Van D’Abelendreef] is nine now; she won a class in Vegas, and she was strong enough to start in California, so now with the win here today I think her resume is looking pretty good,” Ballard commented after the win. “We are feeling pretty strong going into the winter season. I can never really plan too far in advance with so many horses and so much going on, but I think she’ll definitely be able to step up to the 1.50m. She’s one of my top five horses right now, and I’ll use her accordingly for a nine-year-old. She’s ready to move up, but I don’t want to over-face her.”

During the first round of riding, four competitors made it around D’Ambrosio’s pattern without lowering any fences or accruing time faults to qualify for the jump-off. The group represented an international field, with all four contenders hailing from different nations, namely the United States, Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand. Though Ballard was fourth in line for the jump-off as the final rider to qualify riding Nanini Van D’Abelendreef, she ultimately rode first over the short course due to another contender’s horse losing a shoe. The Canadian pair quickly made their way around the ring, breaking the beam in 35.48 seconds without any faults to set the pace.

“I thought the course today was perfect. There were four clear, so I think the course designer did a perfect job. The class was maybe a little tougher than Friday’s, which makes sense since there’s more prize money on the line,” Ballard remarked. “I was supposed to go fourth in the jump-off, but Giavanna [Rinaldi’s horse] lost a shoe and everyone was waiting, so I decided to just go for it. I knew I needed to be fast and I don’t think I could have gone any faster, even if I had gone last with the jumps being that big. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter when you go. If there’s an inside turn option, sometimes it matters, but the jump-off was pretty straightforward today.”

Watch the winning jump-off here! Brought to you by Assets Risk Management

The three other challengers chased the time set by Ballard and her mount, but none were able to catch it, securing the win for Ballard and Nanini Van D’Abelendreef. The only other double-clear combination, Thomas Thomas McDermott (NZL) and his own Alpha Activity clinched second place in a time of 36.07 seconds. Giavanna Rinaldi (USA) rode Anton Marano’s Cosmona to third position in 36.50 seconds with one rail down.

Prior to the start of the class, Filip de Wandel (BEL) was awarded with a $1,000 check as the winner of the Assets Risk Management National Grand Prix Rider Bonus. The Belgian rider accrued the most points in grand prix classes over the course of the ESP Holiday Series, with results including first place in the $50,000 Vita Flex Grand Prix riding Manhattan Van’t Leeuwerikenhof, second place in the $25,000 Omega Alpha Grand Prix on Nanking VD Donkhoeve, and second place in the $25,000 Elite Horse Transport Grand Prix on “Manhattan.”

Additionally, two Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider Awards were presented. Ballard earned the distinction for the ESP Holiday Finale week, and Catherine Tyree (USA) was honored as the Martha Jolicoeur Overall Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider thanks to her series of showings that earned her enough points for the top of the leaderboard.

For the full results of the $50,000 Equiline Grand Prix, please click HERE.

Friday showcased efforts from 24 horse-and-rider combinations in the $25,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic Grand Prix. Out of that group, six exhibitors representing four countries, including the United States, Canada, Colombia, and Brazil, qualified for the jump-off. As the first clear duo from the initial round, Ballard and Comedia De Talma laid the gauntlet down with a double-clear effort in 35.45 seconds, which would keep them at the top of the standings as the class victors.

“I’ve had Comedie for a little over a year. I jumped her at the last Winter Equestrian Festival and I’m now starting to bring her back for this season. During WEF 2021, I jumped some CSI5* speed classes with her, so we’re building towards that,” Ballard remarked. “She’s a really fast horse, and obviously very competitive. To be able to have her in my string as one of my 4* or 5* horses, depending on the week, makes me feel very lucky. I’m excited for the start of the winter season! We spend a lot of time here and jump a lot of classes here, but I don’t think there is a better way to end the year. Hopefully on Sunday we can start the year equally as well.”

Though five partnerships tried to surpass Ballard and Comedia De Talma as the leaders, none could catch their time, and only one other pair finished double-clear. Riding Windsor Show Stables’ Glen, Jonathan McCrea (USA) grabbed the runner-up spot as the final fault-free pair after crossing the timers in 38.73 seconds. The fastest of the four-faulters, Santiago Lambre (BRA) and Dingeman, owned by Integrated Services Florida LLC, rounded out the podium with a time of 36.54 seconds.

For the full results of the $25,000 Palm Beach Equine Clinic Grand Prix, please click HERE.

Twenty competitors vied for the lion’s share of the prize money in the $5,000 Laura King – The Power to Win 1.35m Jumper Stake on Saturday. Eleven pairs made it into the jump-off, where Tony Cadet (FRA) and Etonemoi Del Cabalero, owned by Shore Acres Farm LLC, led the pack with a double-clear time of 37.03 seconds to win the class. Second place was earned by Alberto Michan (ISR) on his own Nabel De Trivera without faults in 38.07 seconds, while James Billington (GBR) riding Samantha Mackenzie’s Halifax Des Rosiers WB nabbed third position with a foot-perfect time of 38.53 seconds. Saturday’s results, combined with a win in the division earlier in the week, pushed Michan and Nabel De Trivera to the top of the overall scorecard to earn the championship, while Cadet and Etonemoi Del Cabalero tied for the reserve championship.

Thursday featured the Bainbridge Companies 1.40m Open Stake, which saw nine pairs out of the field advance to the jump-off. Of those, seven finished the class without faults and only four seconds separated them in the standings. Leading the way, Thomas McDermott (NZL) and his own Alpha Activity earned first place in a fault-free time of 41.15 seconds, followed by Marie Hecart (FRA) riding Normandie Connection’s Nickel De La Roque in a foot-perfect time of 41.33 seconds, just milliseconds off the pace. Jad Dana (LBN) and Hoar Hound, owned by Peter Howard and Laure Subreau, claimed third position with a double-clear trip in 42.21 seconds.

On Sunday in the High Junior/Amateur Jumper Stake, presented by Noltrex®Vet, just two pairs advanced to the jump-off, and two more kept all the rails up but were kept out of contention by time faults. Though they incurred four faults, David Oberkircher (USA) and Southfields Farm LLC’s Vulkato were the quickest over the 1.40m fences with a time of 41.93 seconds to take the win. Michelle Navarro-Grua (PER) and her own Sadhguru earned second place with a four-fault time of 45.07 seconds, trailed by Tessa Brown (USA) and Equipearl LLC’s Mystique VH Kijkvrerdriet with one time fault in the first round.

Immediately following, the Gochman sisters of Mimi and Sophie dominated the $2,500 Medium Amateur/Junior Jumper Stake, presented by Palm Beach Equine Clinic, by claiming all three podium spots. Finishing the 1.30m course in the swiftest time, Mimi Gochman (USA) piloted Dolores BH, owned by Gochman Sport Horses LLC, to first place in a double-clear time of 38.29 seconds. Sophie Gochman (USA) was close behind, earning the reserve spot aboard Gabbie BH, owned by SMG Sport Horse LLC, as the final fault-free duo in 38.41 seconds. Sophie added to her success with third place on Gochman Sport Horses LLC’s Carola BH, the fastest of the four-faulters in the jump-off.

As the final show in the ESP Holiday Series, the ESP Holiday Finale featured the Parade of Champions to honor the horses and riders that earned the most points over the course of the circuit.

The ESP Holiday Series is now concluded, but in a few short days the equestrian action will resume with the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s flagship event, the Winter Equestrian Festival. The horse show will begin on January 5, 2022, and conclude after 13 weeks of competition on April 3, 2022.