Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 3, 2017 – The 2017 CP Palm Beach Masters, presented by SOVARO®, highlighted the $35,000 SOVARO® Longines FEI World Cup™ Qualifier CSI3*-W on Friday in the Hollow Brook Wealth Management Grand Prix Field. Ninety-eight international horses and athletes vied for the top 40 spots to advance to Sunday's grand finale: the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington CSI3*-W, presented by SOVARO®.
Olympic silver medalist and four-time Pan American Games gold medalist, Ian Millar (CAN), also known as "Captain Canada," piloted veteran mount Dixson, owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, to the fastest jump-off time of 38.260 seconds to secure the win. After a sinus health scare that almost ended Dixson's career three years ago, Friday's win was all the more special to Millar.
"It makes [this win] obviously so much better," Millar said. "It gets quite personal and quite emotional at this point, because at one point I thought maybe I'd never ride the horse again, and that he'd never be able to do this. Then he gets out there, and he does it for fun. It's extremely rewarding. We live for these horses."
Twelve combinations jumped clear around the first round course, designed by Alan Wade and Nigel Jess, yet only nine decided to return for the tiebreaker, while others opted to save their mounts for Sunday's competition.
"It was a very good, timely jump-off, and I hope it was exciting to watch," Millar said. "The course was not easy. It was big enough, it was technical enough, it was certainly careful enough; it had all of the ingredients. This is one brilliant course designer, I might add. I didn't think the time-allowed was crazy. It was certainly demanding, but there are other course designers in the world that might have dialed it even a little harder. When you look at the results, nearly 100 horses through the gate and 12 clear and nine jumped off, he certainly got his numbers."
Due to the large number of entries in Friday's qualifier, the second fastest duo, Beezie Madden (USA) and Breitling LS, owned by Abigail Wexner, shared the top spot and prize money with Millar. They crossed the finish line in 39.800 seconds.
"I was trying to gallop along and get a good piece of it, but not trying to go crazy," Madden said of her round. "I wanted to work on turns and the pace between the fences and letting him back up a little by himself. I did the jump-off thinking it would actually help him for Sunday, and the footing was fantastic. I was really pleased; I thought he jumped even better in the jump-off."
Laura Kraut (USA) and Taylor Land (USA) took second place honors with their mounts Zeremonie, owned by Old Willow Farms LLC, and For Edition, owned by Jay Land. Kraut finished in 41.060 seconds, while Land tripped the timers in 41.370 seconds.
After a top finish on Friday, Kraut is looking to do the same on Sunday in an effort to gain valuable ranking points in order to qualify for World Cup Finals in Omaha. Currently Kraut sits in second in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American Eastern Sub-League rankings behind Kent Farrington.
"I was not trying to win; the first and foremost thing was to qualify for Sunday because I'm very interested in going to Omaha, and I really wanted the opportunity to get a few more points," Kraut said. "I never like to rest easy so I was thinking it would be nice to have the opportunity to jump Sunday. It was no small feat today with as many riders as there were. I was really pleased with the way Zeremonie jumped the first round; she's amazing. I've been so lucky to have such great horses, but I've never had a horse that jumps like her. It's easy for her."
A total of 14 athletes from the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League will qualify for the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Omaha, Nebraska, on March 29–April 2. The top seven athletes from the East Coast sub-league and top three from the West Coast sub-league, and the two best-placed athletes from Canada and Mexico, will qualify for the final, alongside winners from 14 other leagues around the world.
Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Katie Dinan (USA) rounded out the top three of Friday's class with Cynar VA, owned by Stone Hill Farm, and Dougie Douglas, owned by Grant Road Partners LLC. Springsteen rode Cynar VA to a time of 41.930 seconds, while Dinan finished in 43.100 seconds.
Millar is returning to the Palm Beach Masters for the second year, and is thrilled to be competing on the grass field.
"This year the field has really been brought up to modern standards, and it would be able to take serious rain if it had to," Millar said. "Look at the traffic the field has had in two days, and it looks pretty darn fresh. What do we know about the Jacobs? If they're going to something, they're going to do it right. Everything they do is done first class, and this is no exception."
See the top 40 riders advancing to Sunday's $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington CSI3*-W, presented by SOVARO®, here!
Earlier in the day in the Deeridge Jumper Ring, the $15,000 1.35m Jumpers once again went to Daniel Coyle and Luis Larrazabal in a California Split. They pair also claimed top honors together on opening day of the Palm Beach Masters in the $7,500 Trelawny Farm 1.30m Jumpers. Coyle rode Susan and Ariel Grange's Martha Louise to a time of 55.348 seconds, while Larrazabal stopped the timers with San Francisco Stables LLC's Champion For Volt in 56.028 seconds.
In the $2,000 1.10m Jumpers, Samantha Johnson and her own Gallant took the first place prize, besting a field of 14 in the jump-off, in 38.735 seconds. Wrapping up competition in the Deeridge Jumper Ring on Friday was the $2,500 1.20m Jumpers, which went to Jonathan Corrigan and Degenmoor Farm Inc.'s Coachella in 30.718 seconds, while Deeridge Farms' own Charlotte Jacobs and North Star's Cyrina Z took second place in 30.842 seconds.
Competition on Saturday, Feb. 4, will commence at 8 a.m. with the $2,500 1.10m Jumpers, $5,000 1.25m Jumpers and $10,000 Trelawny Farm 1.30m Jumpers in the Deeridge Jumper Ring. The Hollow Brook Wealth Management Grand Prix Field will kick-off at 12 p.m. with the $25,000 Upperville Colt and Horse Show 1.40m Jumpers, presented by Attention Span Media.