Canadian Susan Horn was second.
Margie Engle (USA) and Royce dashed to a well-deserved victory in the $205,000 Holiday & Horses Grand Prix CSI 4* presented by Palm Beach County Sports Commission at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Engle and Royce were the only pair to finish the evening with a double clear effort, securing their win ahead of Susan Horn (CAN) and Lillyfee, who captured second place with a time of 60.14 seconds in the jump-off. Eduardo Menezes (BRA) and H5 Quintol rounded out the top three placings with four faults and a time of 49.32 seconds. Holiday & Horses competition concludes tomorrow with the $25,000 Omega Alpha Grand Prix followed by the $25,000 USEF Under 25 National Show Jumping Championship Final.
Engle and Royce are a notorious pair on the international competition circuit and with their win this evening, concluded one of their best seasons together yet as a partnership. Engle and Royce looked in top form, besting a class of 37 entries, finishing faultless in both the first round and the jump-off. The course, designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA), saw rails fall throughout class and proved difficult for most entries.
“He’s been showing lightly for the last few months and has really only done big shows, probably for the whole year. I think this is only his second show that wasn’t a CSI 5*,” explained Engle. “I’ve been able to save him a little bit with Dicas coming up and the young ones. He’s quite fresh.”
Emphasizing their attentiveness to flatwork over the past few seasons, Engle commented that their efforts are beginning to pay off in the ring, as Royce’s rideability has drastically improved as a result of their commitment to dressage work.
“It’s nice because he’s been home for a little over a month and Lisa Wilcox helps work with him on the flat and whenever she works with him he goes that much nicer,” she chuckled. “She helps me with the flatwork with quite a few of the Grand Prix horses. She does an unbelievable job and it makes my job that much easier.”
The duo is concluding a banner year together, which featured top results in nearly each of the major international competition they attended. With her new mount, Dicas, on the rise, the balance it has provided for Engle works in Royce’s favor.
“He’s felt great all week. Earlier in the week I was able to do him in the smaller class. I did the 1.45m and he was double clean and jumped great. I was able to save him and use Dicas in the qualifier and Royce jumped great under the lights and fresh. I honestly think he jumped better in the jump-off. The more I started kicking him at the jumps the higher he got.”
While the pair has been a staple combination for the United States for the past few years, Engle feels that her and Royce are beginning to hit their peak as a pair, both growing together and developing a much stronger bond in the past twelve months.
“He’s really matured. I know it sounds funny, but we’ve both matured a little late together. He’s just starting to get the rideability so nice. He’s getting more manageable and he’s really become seasoned and it’s made my job quite a bit easier. He’s always had the jump and been super careful, super powerful, but we lacked in the rideability, but now he’s riding nice so it makes my job easy.”
The two-round format of the class brought the top twelve combinations back to contest the short course and Engle knew that she sat in an enviable position with Royce heading into their final round.
“I knew going into it that there was only one more behind me that was clean and the one ahead of me that was clean had one down. I know Marilyn [Little] is very fast with Clearwater and I had better take a shot, so that even if I had one down I’d at least get a good piece of it. I was just going to go medium fast, but the further we got around course the better he felt, so I just went with it. It felt like he was getting into so I went with it and keep going.”
Click here to view full results for the $205,000 Holiday & Horses Grand Prix CSI 4* presented by Palm Beach County Sports Commission.