Nona Garson and George d’Ambrosio, whose home farm, The Ridge, is located in Lebanon, N.J., hosted a 13-week series of horse shows on Tuesdays in Wellington, Fla., all on grass, as well as shows on Fridays or Saturdays at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, which has a covered arena and a number of all-weather rings.
The 2017 Palm Beach Series included 13-weeks of hunter, jumper, dressage, and equitation competitions, including national, international and pony hunter derbies, plus weekly 1.40 and 1.45M grand prix classes and USEF Equitation Tuesdays hosted at The Ridge at Wellington.
This marked a major expansion from previous years.
“Our goal is giving competitors the chance to experience everything, from riding on the turf polo fields to showing under the lights in an indoor arena,” said George D’Ambrosio, co-organizer of the Turf Tour with Olympian Nona Garson.
“It’s a really unique way to do things,” said Garson. “Riders can sharpen their skills riding against Olympians on exceptional footing and over expertly designed courses, but all at their own pace and in a beautiful setting. Our open in-gate allows flexibility with other events and schedules, and we are really looking to offer a way for developing horses and riders to hone their skills without a major expense or the stress and atmosphere of a large show grounds.
“In 2017 we launched full jumper divisions at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center, as well as hunter derbies, equitation events and dressage, which all follow in the vision of the Turf Tour,” said Garson. The open in-gate means that riders can show up whenever they have the time and complete their rounds.
DURING THE final weekend of the series, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle rode Fortis Fortuna to win the $24,999 Grand Prix on April 1 at Polo West.
Venzuelan Emmanuel Andrade on Nokia De Brekka was second in 34.015 with Coyle also taking third on Ridley, finishing in 34.544.
"We come down to Wellington every year, and ironically she doesn't much prefer to jump on the grass," said Coyle of the 12-year-old Belgian warmblood mare. "As we are aiming for Spruce Meadows in the summer we didn't want to stress her by jumping on the sand all the time. But she's a fantastic mare, and it was great for her to win today as we continue to build her strength for the summer.”
“The Ridge's Turf Tour dates are a great opportunity to get off the farm and in a new environment, and especially to be able to jump on something other than sand,” said Coyle. “Not every horse likes to go on sand, and the grass is a nice change to keep them fresh."
In previous shows, U.S. Olympic Team Gold Medalist Laura Kraut won the $15,000 1.40m Turf Tour Grand Prix, held on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, beating a large field of competitors on the grass field at Carben Farm in Wellington.
In the second to last week of full competition, Friday's Turf Tour had a morning 1.25-1.30m class topped by Andrew Bourns and Charming Girl, then Todd Minikus and Maharaja Del Juncalpace won the afternoon's 1.40m Grand Prix,, going double clear with a jump off time of 39.419.
In the 1.40m Grand Prix, the course set by Leopoldo Palacios yielded a total of nine first round clears and four double clears.
Coyle on Farona and Canada's Jaclyn Duff on Pater Noster went double clear to finish second and third, but no one could catch Laura Kraut and Deauville S, who streaked around the course to capture the win on a jump off time of 35.014.
McLAIN WARD won one of the first grand prix classes in the series.
“It’s a nice quiet atmosphere for the horses and allows riders to focus, and the courses and footing are good,” said Ward. “It was a legit 1.45m today, but because of the reduced numbers, elements like the time allowed are a little more straightforward, and I think for preparing horses for bigger things down the road that’s a big help. “
“For Tina, I wanted to jump big to get her back in top form but didn’t want to take her to the FEI ring just yet, and Quinta and I are in just the first few shows of our partnership, so we are just trying to figure out what she is all about,” said Ward. “This is also a great event for young and advancing grand prix riders and horses, to get basic experience at this level but with enough of a challenge to allow them to develop.”
Callan Solem of Chester Springs, Pa., also won one of the early grand prix classes.
"It was fantastic to bring him (VDL Torlando) somewhere a little different,” said Solem. “This week was our first time here this year, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for the horses to get out and jump with a little less pressure and stress. It’s a great venue to practice being very competitive, or to try out a new riding style or piece of tack. It’s very representative of proper show jumping, and the footing was perfect.”
THE SECOND of The Ridge Palm Beach Series’ Hunter Derby Days was Feb. 10, featuring a $15,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby held under the covered arena at Jim Brandon.
Kelly Farmer of Keswick, Va. won the Derby on Because, and she also placed fifth on Scripted.
Louise Serio of Kennett Square, Pa., and Rock Harbor, January’s USHJA International Hunter Derby champions, placed second.
Because, a Dutch-bred gelding, was purchased in Ocala about a year ago by Jane Gaston, who has ridden him to many championships and to Horse of the Year in the Amateur Owner division.
“He is an extraordinary animal, with potential to be one of the best Derby horses I’ve ever ridden,” said Farmer. “He usually pulls double duty with me and his owner, and he has won in everything, now from the derbies to the greens, 4-foot, and amateurs.”
“Nona and George do a great job, they’re very accommodating, and this is a great venue and show for a young horse to learn what horseshows are without getting thrown into a very intense environment,” said Farmer. “This, for a derby horse, is a bit like starting a grand prix horse. They get to jump at a real horse show on nice footing, real jumps, nice course designers, and they’re still doing the real thing without the pressure. Nona and George have done a beautiful job creating the perfect conditions for effectively bringing along horses.”