WELLINGTON, Fla.--Beat Mändli of Switzerland and Simba, owned by Grant Road Partners LLC, flew to the win of the first grand prix of the 12 week WEF season, the $75,000 Grand Prix at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
There were 37 entries in the Sunday afternoon grand prix, competing over a course set by Eric Hasbrouck, but only six found the key to a clear round and returned for a jump-off.
First in was Mändli on Simba, and, as one of three clear rounds, they set an unbeatable time of 37.539 seconds to secure victory.
“I think he’s naturally a fast horse, he’s a really blood horse, he wants to go,” Mändli said of his quick second round. “I don’t need to force him to go forward; it’s basically just braking. He did the two turns very well to the wall and everything came together.”
THIS IS the pair’s third season together. After a full schedule of European competition last summer, Simba rested for three months leading into the winter circuit.
“That’s his first coming out, and he actually surprised me a little bit because he was really honest and he really wanted to do it today,” said Mändli of the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding. “He made my job real easy for today, and it wasn’t the goal to win today. I just tried to have a good round, or two good rounds, and it turned out like this which makes me very happy. It’s a good start for the season.”
Daniel Coyle of Ireland and Ariel Grange’s Farrel were the only ones to come close to Mändli’s time, finishing clear in 37.769 seconds for second place.
Coyle, who has been riding Farrel for three years, was pleased with the 9-year-old KWPN gelding’s move up to a higher level.
“He’s really proven to me and everyone else that he deserves to be jumping this level because he can," said Coyle. "I think after today there’s good things to come,” he said.
Taking it slower and counting on a clear round were Tiffany Foster of Canada on Donjo, another Ariel Grange-owned entry.
They stopped the timers in 44.64 seconds for third place.
“After I watched Beat’s round I knew I had no chance, so I decided at that point I knew there had been a few people with a pole down, and I knew Daniel was coming behind me on a super-fast horse and is a super-fast rider, so I thought I would kind of hedge my bets and be double clear,” said Foster. “My horse is very, very careful so it’s usually a pretty good gamble to try and go that way.
“I could use his stride in a few places, but I was only seven seconds slower than these guys, so pretty close,” she joked.
For her consistent success at WEF 1, Foster was presented with the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Award, presented in memory of Dale Lawler.
Slotting into fourth place with four faults in a time of 39.122 seconds was Adrienne Sternlicht on Quidam MB, owned by Starlight Farms LLC.
Kristen Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Faustino de Tili were fifth with 14 faults in 52.012 seconds, and Kevin Babington, who competes for Ireland but lives and trains in Gwynedd Valley, Pa., placed sixth with 15 faults in 49.803 seconds.