On the final day of week eleven of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Vertige De Galarzacs, owned by Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC, rose to the occasion, putting forth an impressive double-clear effort to capture the $50,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Grand Prix on Sunday, March 21, in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
The twelfth week of WEF, sponsored by Wellington Agricultural Services, begins on Wednesday, March 31, with CSI5* competition along with a concurrent CSI2* running through Sunday, April 4, the final day of the 2021 WEF. The week opens with the $1,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.40m CSI4* and the $10,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m CSI4* Qualifier on Wednesday. Thursday features the $50,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 12.
A busy Friday is highlighted by the $37,000 1.45m CSI2* Qualifier and the $73,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic Series Final. An exciting weekend of show jumping begins with the $214,000 Wellington Agricultural Services Grand Prix CSI4* on Saturday and concludes with the $50,000 1.45m Grand Prix CSI2* on Sunday. All feature classes can be watched for free both live and on-demand on the livestream.
A total of 43 horse-and-rider combinations contested the opening round over a course set by Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER), with just six pairs qualifying for the jump-off. The first to return was Canada’s Nicole Walker aboard Excellent B, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Berlin x Heartbreaker, executing the shortened track with ease to set the pace for the remainder of the field. Walker and the NW Stables LP entry finished fault-free in a time of 37.81 seconds, which would hold up for second place.
Next to challenge, David Oberkircher (USA) and Upper, owned by Southfields Farm, LLC, gave it their best effort but stopped the clock just off the mark as he and the 13-year-old Selle Français gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Nadir de San Patrignano crossed the finish line in 38.59 seconds for third place.
The next three riders would lower the fences in height, leaving the door open for one final rider to best the field, which he did. Kenny, the current overall leader of the CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Classic Series, proved once again why he’s at the top, picking up the win aboard the 12-year-old Selle Français gelding by Quaprice Bois Margot x Si Tu Viens, crossing the timers in 36.01 seconds.
“I didn’t jump him in any classes this week,” said Kenny of the winning gelding “Vince.” “I just went straight into the Grand Prix so he was a little bit more fresh. He jumped excellent and felt fantastic. He’s just a really, really nice horse.
“He was jumping really well so I didn’t have to worry about that so much,” continued Kenny. “He felt really good, I just wasn’t sure if the inside turn after the third last jump was going to be faster or not. It turned out to be faster so that was good.”
For Walker, the second-place finish marked a proud moment during a comeback of sorts after sustaining a knee injury over the summer that kept her out of the saddle. In August, the 27-year-old rider fractured her fibular head, tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), and suffered minor tears in her other ligaments. Her injury, coupled with COVID-19 restrictions in Canada, left her with a lot of work to do to get back to this level.
“I came into this circuit having not jumped too much so it took a bit of time to get both myself and the horses fit again,” said Walker. “He [Excellent B] has really only jumped three classes down here and was champion in the High Amateur Owners one week. We just aimed for this class. He’s been my partner for about four years now, and he’s just the easiest, coolest dude around. He’s so simple, and it has been a while since I’ve jumped the big classes. I just had so much fun with him today.”
Navigating the tough task of being first to go in the jump-off, Walker leaned on the expertise of her trainer, an Olympic veteran and regular winner at the 2021 WEF, to make a solid plan.
“With the help of Cian O’Connor, he said I should aim for the six [strides] after the combination so we took a risk there,” said Walker. “He’s got a massive stride so that worked out well. Where I lost it was not doing the inside turn to the last line, so I could’ve been quicker there, but I’m very happy with my second-place result.”
Oberkircher, who rides as an amateur while balancing a full-time job, was back at work for the past two weeks, only arriving in Wellington on Friday night for the weekend’s competition. The pair rounded out the podium with a third-place finish.
“I’ve had my horse for about four years now, so I know him really well,” he said. “He’s very straightforward and easy. He’s such a good sport, tries so hard, and I’m so lucky to have him. I knew there were some fast riders after me, and he’s a bit of a slower mover, so I just wanted to have nice clear round and go as quickly as possible. We ended up with a great result in third so I’m really happy.”
Final Results: $50,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m National Grand Prix
1. VERTIGE DE GALARZACS: 2009 Selle Français gelding by Quaprice Bois Margot x Si Tu Viens
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC: 0/0/36.01
2. EXCELLENT B: 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Berlin x Heartbreaker
NICOLE WALKER (CAN), NW Stables LP: 0/0/37.81
3. UPPER: 2008 Selle Francais gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Nadir de San Patrignano
DAVID OBERKIRCHER (USA), Southfields Farm LLC: 0/0/38.59
4. MADORADO DW: 2012 Belgian Warmblood mare by Breemeersen Adorado
ELLEN WHITAKER (GBR), Gerard O’Neil: 0/4/37.88
5. URIS DE LA ROQUE: 2008 Selle Français gelding by Capital x Quick Star
MARIO DELAURIERS (CAN), Aram Ampagoumian LLC & Mario Deslauriers: 0/4/38.07
6. ELDORADO V: 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Z x Epilot
CAMILA MAZZA DE BENEDICTO (BRA), Yuri Mansur: 0/4/52.28
7. HARVESTER: 2012 KWPN gelding by Dakar VDL x Labor’s VDL Indorado
ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 1/80.44
8. BETTINA DES CELTES: 2011 Selle Français mare by New Boy De Logerie x Cumano
ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 1/80.45
9. DIARADO’S FLYING DUTCHMAN: 2010 Oldenburg gelding by Diarado x Elfenland
LAURA CHAPOT (USA), Laura and Mary Chapot: 4/77.52
10. IRCOS IV: 2008 BWP gelding by Nabab De Reve x Echo De Thurin
KARK COOK (USA), Helen Signe Ostby: 4/77.56