The main feature at the Winter Equestrian Festival on Saturday, March 23, was the $209,000 Wellington Agricultural Services Grand Prix CSI 4*, held on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Emil Hallundbaek of Denmark and Chalisco raced to victory in the field full of top competitors.
There were 45 entries that went to post in the event, and five of those recorded a clear round and advanced to the jump-off.
The first to return was Lorcan Gallagher riding Dacantos Group’s Hunters Conlypso II. He and the 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding had a rail during the “bogey” double combination for four faults in 45.35 seconds to finish in fifth place.
Hallundbaek and Chalisco were next in, and they galloped around the field and cleared every jump presented to them, crossing the timers clear in 42.37 seconds.
“It started off from one end of the arena to the other, so of course you got a lot of speed at the beginning. I have a very careful horse, and for me, I used the fence to push him up there,” said Hallundbaek of his jump-off ride and the double combination. “It was a tight turn back. He cleared it super, but it was a difficult combination.”
They were followed by world number three Harrie Smolders, who piloted Evergate Stables LLC’s Une de L’Othain. They had a rail at the double combination as well, giving them four faults in 41.02 seconds for third place.
“I think that the course was not huge, but it was the first class on the grass in the ring,” Smolders noted. “My horse has never competed in this ring, so I didn’t know what to expect today. But she really did a very good job.”
Taking note of the double combination, Rodrigo Lambre piloted Chacciama carefully through the turn and was able to stay clear in a slightly slower time of 42.75 seconds for second place.
“I think I was lucky to go after [Harrie] so I saw that they were having that rail, and I lost a little bit more time to do it better. Of course, maybe there I lost the class,” Lambre said.
Lambre has ridden the 12-year-old Oldenburg mare for two years. “She’s a very sensitive mare,” he said. “It took me a while to connect with her. I think I finally understood her, since then, I’ve been very happy. She always tries really hard.”
The final combination into the ring were Jessica Springsteen and Fleur de L’Aube, Stone Hill Farm’s 14-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare. They, too, had a rail at the double combination to finish in 41.97 seconds for fourth place.
Hallundbaek, who is just 21 years old and now based in Aachen, Germany, has won 14 CSI 2* and 3* classes, but this is his first 4* win. Setting that victory in the Grand Prix made it that much more special with Chalisco, who has been in his family for six years. It is their first Grand Prix win together at any level. “This is a peak in my career,” he said.
Hallundbaek will take that consistency and apply it toward the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, which highlights the final week of WEF this weekend.
Jose Gomez, owner and CEO of sponsor Wellington Agricultural Services, was thrilled with the competition.
“Wellington Agricultural Services is one of the largest agricultural services provider in the Palm Beach area… We’ve been around for more than 30 years, and our main focus is the environment. Our drive is to one day take 100 percent of all the waste from Wellington and the Palm Beach area and convert it into bio-fuels and anything energy efficient for our community as well,” he explained. “Regarding our event today as a sponsor, it could not turn out any more beautiful than this day that we have out in the green field. It goes with our initiative, our brand, so I’m very excited to be a sponsor. I look forward to many more years of doing the sponsorship at the derby field.”
Also last Saturday, Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya scored a comeback victory in the $134,000 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Jumper Series Final during Saturday Night Lights after a six-month recovery from ACL knee surgery.
Moya bested a field of 60 entries over tracks designed by Steve Stephens and Nick Granat in the International Arena by posting one of only three double-clear performances riding his own MHS Attraction.
The top fifteen horse-and-rider combinations based on faults after the first round of the CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Jumper Series Final advanced to a second phase to decide the ultimate winner, and faults were cumulative through the two rounds. Moya crossed the final timers in 49.59 seconds for the win over Lorenzo de Luca aboard Soory de l’Hallali.
“From the first time I rode her, I thought she was really special,” said Moya of his winning mount, a nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare that he purchased from the Bourns family in Ireland just over a year ago. “She was just in light work at home while I was out, but my people did a great job and that work paid off.”
After suffering a fall from a young horse, Moya underwent surgery in Spain and only returned to riding six weeks ago. “I started in Wellington pretty late, and I didn’t know if I could ride or not. But I had a very good doctor,” he said.