In the circuit’s first nighttime Grand Prix, three-time Olympian Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany and Calle 67 won the $70,000 Marshall & Sterling Grand Prix CSI 2* at the Winter Equestrian Festival on Saturday, Jan. 20.
Out of a starting field of 45 entries, nine found the way to a clear round to advance to the jump-off over a course set by Oscar Soberon. Coming back sixth in the jump-off, it was Michaels-Beerbaum and Calle 67, a nine-year-old Westphalian gelding, who had the fastest clear round in a time of 36.85 seconds to take the win.
“The course today was brilliantly set,” Michaels-Beerbaum said. “I think that the course itself was challenging, because there were some spooky fences at the beginning of the course, and then it got technical down the last line and careful. I was really pleased with my horse, because he’s relatively new to that speed. I think I’ve only done one other jump-off as fast as that, so he was a little shocked and surprised, but he’s so on my side. That’s really what it takes to be a great horse.”
Second place went to 21-year-old Lillie Keenan and Chansonette Farm’s Skyhorse in a time of 37.01 seconds, while Emily Mason placed third in a time of 37.58 seconds with Explosion W, owned by Poden Farms. Fourth place went to world No. 1 rider Kent Farrington and Baltic Star 2, owned by Farrington and Tanma Corp., in 37.63 seconds.
While Michaels-Beerbaum and Calle 67 competed in the young horse classes under the lights at Aachen CHIO, last Saturday night’s event was a major step up for the horse. “He is a relatively new horse to my string; I’ve had him less than a year, but I adore the horse,” she said. “He’s got a wonderful mind and character, and he’s always on your side, so it gives you a good feeling as a rider.”
Keenan watched Michaels-Beerbaum from the in-gate and directly followed her in the jump-off, hoping to ride the same plan.
“It’s always nice when you get to see someone do what you’d like to emulate,” she said.
As a full-time student at Harvard University, Keenan took most of November and all of December off from competition, while her trainer Cian O’Connor competed Skyhorse, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding. She was pleased with a top finish in their first Grand Prix of the circuit.
“I was thinking maybe top five,” she said. “There were a lot of fast riders. My horse, I would describe him as a big, honest, almost like an equitation horse that can jump 1.60m and jump the moon if you wanted him to. He’s very smooth. He’s probably not the fastest horse. He proved everyone wrong with that tonight. He went I think faster than he thought he could go himself.”
It was a fantastic week for 26-year-old Mason, who was also presented with the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award. She has only been riding Explosion W, a nine-year-old KWPN gelding, for six months.
“This is the first night that he has been under lights, the first proper, big Grand Prix for him,” she said. “He jumped really good the first day this week, so we thought we’d have a bit of a go today to see how he was. We’re really happy with the way he reacted to the atmosphere.”
The “Saturday Night Lights” series continues throughout the 12-week WEF circuit, held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington. Hunter, jumper and equitation competition at WEF continues through April 1, offering more than $9 million in prize money. For more info., visit www.pbiec.com.