Events at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Saturday, March 19, culminated in the $216,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI4* during the “Saturday Night Lights.” WEF 10, also sponsored by Horseware Ireland, is the fourth week of the FEI-rated four-star competition hosted throughout the circuit. At the night’s conclusion, Olympic team gold and silver medalist Laura Kraut (USA) took home the top prize with her long-time partner, Confu, owned by St. Bride’s Farm.
In addition to the variety of national hunter, jumper, and equitation classes, WEF 10 will shine the spotlight on the up-and-coming stars of show jumping on Sunday, March 20, in the $50,000 Hermès Under 25 Series Final Grand Prix.
Forty-five entries from 14 nations across the globe contested Michel Vaillancourt’s (CAN) opening course. His challenge for the riders included two double combinations, a triple combination, and a triple-bar early on at obstacle three. The first clear-round came as the fifth rider on course, Ashley Vogel (USA), produced a top ride aboard Madiba AG Z. Two horses later, Sweden’s Petronella Andersson put in her bid for the top title and ensured a jump-off. As the class neared its halfway mark, the field of returning riders grew with Mark McAuley (IRL), Lillie Keenan (USA), and Ben Maher (GBR) adding their names to the coveted list. Belgium’s Abdel Saïd put forward a heroic effort to repeat his winning performance in the WEF 9 Grand Prix but tipped just over the time allowed of 83 seconds and incurred a single penalty.
A final tally of 10 world-class pairs set the stage for an exciting jump-off across the evening’s final short course. Vogel led the charge but would not see the top of the podium as she accrued four faults. Andersson was the first to put in a successful double-clear, but McAuley was quick to up the ante. The night looked to be in the bag for the Irish as McAuley sat in second and Conor Swail put in a blazing round as the second to last to go into the lead, but Kraut and Confu clearly had other plans as the last to go in the jump-off.
The duo proved they are never a pair that should be counted out. Kraut and the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Contact Me x Cambridge 8) exploded into action, finishing with a final time of 36.44 seconds.
The luck of the Irish was clearly still strong during the penultimate day of the Horseware Ireland week as both Swail and McAuley joined Kraut in the lap of honour. Swail once again locked in the honours of the runner-up position, this time with his own 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding Vital Chance De La Roque (Diamant De Semilly x Rivage Du Poncel) after flying over the final fence in 37.10 seconds.
McAuley and SNC McAuley Equestrian’s 13-year-old BWP gelding Jasco VD Bisschop (Dulf Van Den Bisschop x Krunch De Breve) duplicated their third-place finish in a four-star Grand Prix when they stopped the clock mere milliseconds behind Swail for a finishing time of 37.55 seconds. The pair were previously second-place recipients as well in the $216,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI4* during WEF 3.
Photo by Sportfot