Riding through a downpour, it was Daniel Coyle of Ireland riding Cita, owned by Ariel Grange & Lothlorien, who came out victorious in the $384,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, March 10 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington.
The rain started early on Saturday evening and never let up throughout the entirety of the class, but it was still a highly competitive Grand Prix. Out of 40 entries, six went clear and advanced to the jump-off over the course designed by Alan Wade of Ireland, who is also tapped to design at this year’s FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.
As the only double clear in the class, Daniel Coyle and Cita, a 12-year-old Holsteiner mare, secured the victory in a time of 42.51 seconds.
“I suppose I had a big advantage tonight,” said Coyle of his second-to-last position in the jump-off. “My plan was to be clear no matter what because there weren’t any at that time, so it worked out well for me.”
Second place went to Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil on Chaganus, owned by Pessoa Stables. They had a rail in the double combination and finished in a time of 39.59 seconds.
“Going in the beginning of the jump-off, you kind of have to risk a little bit because there are still really good riders to come,” Pessoa said. “This is a fence in particular that I’ve had a little bit of problems with him — the combination vertical and oxer. I thought that was a little bit dangerous, but I had to risk it and try not to leave the door open.”
“He’s a very keen horse,” said Pessoa of the 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding. “He’s a real trier, and he’s very, very careful. He has a big heart. The only thing that was difficult with him was that he was a little bit tense, and then in the ring, he got a little bit quick. So that’s why I started kind of slow with him during WEF here and doing some smaller classes and figuring out the bridle. For a couple of weeks now, he has been going well.”
Riding Mario Onate’s Coleman, Rodrigo Lambre of Brazil finished third with four faults on a time of 41.62 seconds.
“It’s a shame that I had that rail, but I’m really happy because of all the opponents and the high level we have here,” Lambre said.
Lambre started riding Coleman, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding, last summer.
“He was ridden by Mario Onate, my partner and boss,” Lambre said. “My first good result [with Coleman] was in Ocala in the Nations Cup. I was clear and one down in the second round. That proves that he has what it takes.”
This is only the second time that Lambre has competed at the Winter Equestrian Festival, but he came prepared with a string of competitive horses.
“For sure I wanted to come here because I have my eye on the WEG also,” he said. “So [I need] to prove myself. I’m really happy that [my horses] are jumping like this.”
The rain played an obvious part in some riders’ rounds in the Grand Prix, but Coyle was not one to let it bother him too much.
“It’s different conditions, but when you go in the ring, you kind of forget it,” he said. “Then when you come out and go back through your round, yeah, it probably does play a part. But at that time, you have to forget about the rain; forget about the conditions and try to get on with the job that you’re trying to do.”
“The rain was a little bit distracting,” Pessoa said. “It was not torrential rain, but it’s a little bit distracting for us and for the horses as well. Despite that, the footing was really good.”
The joy on Coyle’s face was evident following his winning ride. “It’s really exciting,” he said. “It probably hasn’t sunk in yet, but that is, I think, my first Grand Prix five-star win. There’s nowhere better to do it than here.”
Don Langdon, managing broker Florida for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, was thrilled with the competition. “We’re very happy to support this five-star event,” he said. “We do a tremendous amount for the equestrian world, and we support it all over. We’ll continue to support you for years to come.”
Danielle Goldstein was named the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider, presented in memory of Dale Lawler, for WEF week 9.
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.