Lauren Hough led the victory gallop in an exciting top four finish for the ladies of the red, white and blue in Saturday night's $100,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix CSI4* at the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF). The lovely Lauren Hough and Böckmanns Lazio topped a six-horse jump-off over Laura Kraut and Nouvelle, who finished second, and the young talent Lucy Davis and Barron, who finished third. Lillie Keenan and Pumped Up Kicks finished in fourth while Live Oak Grand Prix winner of the day Ben Maher and Urico finished fifth, and USA's to-ranked Kent Farrington and Blue Angel finished in sixth position.
Olaf Petersen, Jr. (GER) set the track for 45 competitors that qualified to compete in Saturday night's $100,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix CSI4* with seven entries jumping clear to qualify for the jump-off. The time allowed was certainly the great obstacle to overcome of the evening, with seven combinations finishing the course with just one time fault including top contenders Reed Kessler and recent World Cup winner Rodrigo Pessoa.
21 year old Lucy Davis finished third aboard her very own Barron. "My horse jumped incredible, again, and I am really lucky to have him."
Argentina's Ramiro Quintana and St. Bride's Farm's Whitney were the first pair to jump clear in round one, making the course look like a walk in the park, the recent proud father executed a flawless first round but elected to withdraw from the jump-off, leaving 17-year-old Lillie Keenan of the USA to blaze the trail over in the jump off. Fresh off wins in the Equitation ring if you can believe, Keenan set the time to beat at 49.27 seconds, and eventually finished fourth. Twenty-one-year-old Lucy Davis (USA) jumped next and upped the ante with Old Oak Farm's Barron in 47.13 seconds to earn third place honors.
Hot off of a win with Aristo Z in the $50,000 Live Oak Grand Prix CSI-W 2* earlier in the day, Great Britain's unbeatable Ben Maher took to the course next with Jane Clark's Urico. With whispers of making history, Ben looked very well placed to take the win to earn his second Grand Prix win of the day. Looking for his sixth grand prix win of the FTI WEF circuit, Maher did earn the fastest time of 44.46 seconds, but had a rail down at the second to last fence and would have to settle for the fifth place prize. Sighs of relief could be heard from the sidelines as fellow contenders felt an ease of pressure after the rail fell for Maher and Urico.
Next to go was the USA's Lauren Hough with Karina Rotenberg's Böckmanns Lazio. Hough knew that Kent Farrington and Laura Kraut would follow, so a fast and competitive round would be required to earn any hopes of a win this evening. Lauren did her best to ensure a top time, taking every possible risk on course, blazing through the course in 45.64 seconds for what would become the winning round. After such a stellar performance, Hough is certainly looking at an exciting 2014 season with a strong fleet of talented horses including Ohlala, Reconnaisance and of course her top-mount Quick Study.
Keeping to their well-earned reputation, top-ranked US rider Kent Farrington (USA) and Robin Parsky's Blue Angel were of course very fast, but also had a rail to finish sixth with a time of 46.44 seconds. The pair who were undeniably eyeing up tonight's title, would certainly have been disappointed with the rail but will be looking to next week's final week to go for gold. Last to go, USA's 2008 Olympic Gold medallist Laura Kraut and the Evita Group's Nouvelle jumped into second place with a clear round in 46.66 seconds. A rising mount for Kraut, no one was happier with the big bay mare than Laura as the pair crossed the finish line, 1 second behind Hough and Bockmanns Lazio. An impressive feat for the rising international prospect.
Lauren Hough and Bockmann's Lazio jumped text book to win in a time of 45.64 seconds. "I've been getting a lot of red ribbons lately, which I am very grateful for," she said. "I am very happy to be second with these kinds of riders and this caliber, but it was a little bit of a relief when (Ben) had that one down tonight. I still had a lot of fast riders coming after me though, so I knew I had to hit the gas and not let up."
This was Hough's second win of the circuit with Böckmanns Lazio, a 14-year-old Westphalian stallion by Lancer II x Cor de la Bryere. Hough started riding the horse in the fall of last year and kicked off the circuit with a win in week one's $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Since then the pair has had several top finishes in a quickly developing competitive partnership. The stallion, previously ridden by the Ukraine's Cassio Rivetti and Gilles de Balanda of France, looks to be settling into Lauren's program very well. The pair will be competitive for teh 2014 season, and the stallion will make a nice addition to Hough's team of horses which include the adorable Ohlala and of course her famous mount Quick Study.
"He is a wonderful animal, and I am really lucky to have the ride on him," Hough praised. "He is 14 now, so he has been around for a while, and he has had quite a lot of success from other riders. I acquired him in October and did a couple of shows in the fall and then started straight away having success down here. He has just been very, very consistent. It was a very good jump-off for him tonight; I could sort of just keep galloping him all the way around. He has a very big stride."
"When it's over nine strides I don't actually like to count," Hough detailed. "Missy Clark, who has been really helpful to me this winter, said, 'You can do nine to the last.' I think Ben did it slowing down, but it looked really far away, so I thought, 'I better keep kicking and not pull.' I think last week I went one too many to the last jump."
Hough breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Maher have a rail right before she went in the ring. "I've been getting a lot of red ribbons lately, which I am very grateful for," she said. "I am very happy to be second with these kinds of riders and this caliber, but it was a little bit of a relief when he had that one down tonight. I still had a lot of fast riders coming after me though, so I knew I had to hit the gas and not let up."
Hough plans to show Böckmanns Lazio in next week's $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5* and looks forward to a great final week of competition at this year's FTI WEF. With plenty of mileage and success under the lights, the horse will rest up and then jump one class during the week in preparation for the circuit's finale event.
Finishing a close second to Hough on Saturday night, Laura Kraut has had great results with her mount Nouvelle this year after the marecame back from an injury last season. The pair also finished second in week eight's $150,000 CSIO 4* Grand Prix, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty, and had a fantastic finish Saturday despite the fact that Kraut was briefly not quite sure where she was going in the jump-off.
"I'm so happy with her," Kraut smiled. "This was her second time under the lights. Last week I had a couple down, but they were green mistakes, and tonight she came out and seemed to have it figured out. I'm really pleased with her."
Kraut was overjoyed with her second place finish aboard Nouvelle. "This was her second time under the lights. Last week I had a couple down, but they were green mistakes, and tonight she came out and seemed to have it figured out. I'm really pleased with her."
"I rode a little bit slow to the vertical, the last one, because to be fair, I kind of wasn't sure that was the right fence," Kraut laughed. "I didn't get a chance to watch any go because she was a little upset with the music and having just come out of the ring, so I had to stay on her and circle. I was looking at the jump and thought, 'It just doesn't look right,' but then I looked at the number, and said, 'Yeah, it's #6.' I don't think I could have beaten a horse with so much experience though, and Lauren was fast. I think I still would have been second, so I'm very thrilled."
California's Lucy Davis, who was also awarded the Leading Lady Rider award prior to the prize giving, proved that she is a force to be reckoned with when the young rider earned the biggest victory of her career this past September in the Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Lausanne. Davis and Barron also finished third during FTI WEF week five in the $370,000 FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix CSI-W 5*, presented by Rolex, just behind the number one and two ranked riders in the world.
"I was really pleased with the performance tonight," Davis said after the class. "My horse jumped incredible, again, and I am really lucky to have him. In the jump-off, we were just focused on being smooth. Sometimes I get a little excited and things get hectic, but my trainer Markus (Beerbaum) told me to have a nice, smooth round and I think that is what we did."
"I thought it was a good course, but the time was very tight," Hough noted. "I don't know how many were clear with time faults, but obviously that was the biggest factor tonight. We have shown a lot, and we have a big class coming up next week. Some younger horses are coming out, some are preparing for next week, so I think he did a good job. Yes the time was tight, but I think it was doable."
"The course took a lot of concentration," Kraut added. "If you wanted to be under the time, you didn't have three strides to spare. You had to be on it. Every step of the way, to the end and through the timers, there was no letting up. There was no taking a breather. Everyone was pretty tense about how tight the time was. It definitely added an element of difficulty that sometimes is annoying, but I think for tonight it was a good test for the horses that went, and I think it was good."
Source: Equestrian Sport Productions
Final Results: $100,000 Engel & Völkers Grand Prix CSI4*
1. BÖCKMANNS LAZIO: 2000 Westphalian stallion by Lancer II x Cor de la Bryere
LAUREN HOUGH (USA), Karina Rotenberg: 0/0/45.64
2. NOUVELLE: 2004 KWPN mare by Solitair x Contango
LAURA KRAUT (USA), Evita Group: 0/0/46.66
3. BARRON: 2004 Swedish Warmblood gelding by For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve
LUCY DAVIS (USA), Old Oak Farm: 0/0/47.13
4. PUMPED UP KICKS: 2003 Brandenburg gelding by Levisto x San Juan
LILLIE KEENAN (USA), Chansonette Farm LLC: 0/0/49.27
5. URICO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor
BEN MAHER (GBR), Jane F. Clark: 0/4/44.56
6. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/4/46.44
7. WHITNEY: 2003 KWPN mare by Indoctro x Concorde
RAMIRO QUINTANA (ARG), St. Bride's Farm: 0/WD
8. CARISMA: 1999 Swedish Warmblood mare by Cardento 933 x Maraton 600
DANIELLE GOLDSTEIN (ISR), Israeli Equestrian Partners: 1/85.42
9. TINKABELL 12: 2005 KWPN mare by Casco x Ekstein
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Rodrigo Pessoa: 1/85.59
10. CYLANA: 2002 Belgian Warmblood mare by Skippy II x Darco
REED KESSLER (USA), Kessler Show Stables: 1/85.69
11. MAKAVOY: 2003 KWPN gelding by Hors La Loi II x Ahorn
BEN ASSELIN (CAN), Attache Stables: 1/86.38
12. WITH WINGS: 2003 KWPN gelding by Larino x L. Ronald
KAREN POLLE (JPN), Karen Polle: 1/87.39