Andres Rodriguez and Caballito. (Photo © Sportfot).
Venezuela’s Andres Rodriguez and Caballito emerged victorious in Saturday night’s $127,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3* during week ten of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). The pair topped a six-horse jump-off with Juan Ignacio Rojo (ARG) and Percine Dream in second and Meagan Nusz (USA) with SRI Aladdin third.
Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) set the course for Saturday night’s grand prix at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) with 45 competitors and six clear rounds. In the jump-off, Rojo guided Gianni Gabrielli’s Percine Dream to the first clear round in 48.38 seconds to eventually finish second. Freddie Vazquez (PUR) and Messenger Hill’s Zippo Z followed with four faults in 52.47 seconds to place fifth. Nusz and Amalaya Investment’s SRI Aladdin were clear in 49.12 seconds to end up in third.
Ali Wolff (USA) and Blacklick Bend Farm’s Casall placed sixth after a refusal and a rail down on the short course in 57.78 seconds. Kent Farrington (USA) and Robin Parsky’s Blue Angel followed with the fastest time of 46.94 seconds, but knocked a rail at the final fence to finish fourth. Last to go, Rodriguez and Arao Enterprises LLC’s Caballito cleared the track in 48.13 seconds for the win.
“I’m very happy,” Rodriguez said of his victory. “I saw the jump-off start. Juan was pretty fast, but I knew Kent was going to go faster than him. It is a very lucky night when you have Kent in front of you in the jump-off. I was thinking something good was going to happen. He was just in front of me, so I was going to watch him from the gate and he had an unlucky rail down. I had a plan for jump three. That was a hard jump for me in the first round. I rubbed it pretty hard. I knew I needed to take a little bit there and I did. Coming in the last line there was either the seven strides or the eight and I thought I was faster than Juan already, so I went for the eight and then I looked at the clock. This is my first grand prix win at WEF and I have been here for six years, so this is a big night for me.”
Rodriguez has had a great winter in Wellington, including back to back wins in week eight’s $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 8 and $34,000 Nutrena CSIO 1.45m Classic with his mount Fifty Fifty 111. Saturday night it was Caballito’s turn, and the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Contendro x Argentinus) earned the biggest win of his career.
“My horses are really jumping great,” Rodriguez acknowledged. “This week is interesting for me because I entered in two 1.45m classes. I have always had Caballito as my main horse and this year I have had more horses coming, so I said this week I was going to use him in the two 1.45m classes and try to get some world ranking points. I entered the first class, and jump one was in the corner and he really did not want to go to it. We managed to get there and he had a rail and I was a little bit upset with him. I said, ‘Ok, I’ll put him in tomorrow in the WEF (Challenge Cup).’ Then he was fourth, qualified for the grand prix and this is the best result of his career.”
“He is very special,” Rodriguez added. “He sometimes will not like a jump and he will be funny about going to it, but most of the time he goes and gives big results. I really do not worry anymore when he does something funny because really going at him does not make a difference. You just let him be and the next time he might win you the class. The perfect example is this week.”
“I bought him at the end of his eight-year-old year and I won international classes with him four years ago, and he is still winning,” Rodriguez continued. “We always try to buy new horses and think that they are going to be way better than him, and then championships and big shows come and we look at the barn, and the one who is ready to go is him. He is the one we can count on.”
Placing second, Juan Ignacio Rojo had a great night with Percine Dream and has also done well with his mount throughout the circuit. Originally form Argentina, Rojo lived and showed in Europe for many years and then moved to Venezuela. He got Percine Dream from a horse dealer in France.
“He said he thought she was a horse that can jump any class, and he was right,” Rojo detailed of when he got Percine Dream. “The mare went to Venezuela and was national champion. Then this is the first time she got a chance to go in big sport and she is coming up with all the solutions. She was clear in a 5* grand prix already, so my hopes are very high. She keeps developing. I am really happy with my horse, and I am happy that a friend of mine won tonight.”
Third place finisher, SRI Aladdin, is a horse that Meagan Nusz bought in Wellington last year and has taken some time to get to know.
“I have kind of taken it slow with him. I think he has all the talent and all the scope to be a top horse, but he is a little bit unrideable,” Nusz stated. “He is quite strong and he likes to go very downhill, which is not ideal for adjustment in lines. He is also very straight, so he doesn’t really move with the lines. You have to be very accurate and set him up way before the fence so he can give it a good jump. He has a lot of scope and he is learning how to use his body more, which is what we want. I let him do his thing a little bit and that will never change. That is just the horse, but he is getting there and I can’t complain.”
“Every time I get on him I know that I am so lucky to have one like that in my string,” Nusz continued. “Tonight is the first of many for that one I think, and I am sure he has a win in there somewhere. He has really stepped up for me. This is only his second night class. He is really a trier, and I trust him so much. He is such a fun horse to ride.”
In addition to the night’s third place prize, Nusz was presented the award for Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider (presented by Martha Jolicoeur in memory of Dale Lawler) for her success throughout the week.
Tom MacGuinness, owner and founder of Horseware Ireland, was also on hand for the evening and detailed his company’s long-term involvement with the horse show, having first come to WEF in 1987 to visit. MacGuiness saw the huge changes at PBIEC when he returned seven years ago, which is when Horseware Ireland became directly involved at WEF.
MacGuinness recalled, “I could really see that this was going to be the number one venue in the world and that is when we got serious about sponsoring here. I don’t think we were wrong. Mark (Bellissimo) and his team are doing a hell of a job, and I think they are going to make show jumping into a spectacle like Formula 1 or the Indy 500. They have a good thing going here and we are happy to support them.”
Also showing in the International Arena on Saturday, Alexandra Crown and Von Cim won the $15,000 SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic, Kelli Cruciotti and Serenity Equestrian Ventures’ Wallenberg won the $10,000 Sleepy P Ranch High Junior Jumper Classic, and Hilary McNerney and Balans topped the $1,500 Animo USA Medium Amateur-Owner Jumper speed class.
Final Results: $127,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3*:
1. CABALLITO: 2002 Oldenburg gelding by Contendro x Argentinus
ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Arao Enterprises LLC: 0/0/48.13
2. PERCINE DREAM: 2003 Selle Francais mare by Jarnac x Alcamera de Moyon
JUAN IGNACIO ROJO (ARG), Juan Ignacio Rojo: 0/0/48.38
3. SRI ALADDIN: 2005 KWPN gelding by Quasimodo Z x Burggraaf
MEAGAN NUSZ (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/0/49.12
4. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/4/46.94
5. ZIPPO Z: 2002 Zangersheide stallion by Zandor Z x Rebel I Z
FREDDIE VAZQUEZ (PUR), Messenger Hill: 0/4/52.47
6. CASALL: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Casall x Capitol I
ALI WOLFF (USA), Blacklick Bend Farm: 0/8/57.78
7. ZARA LEANDRA: 2004 KWPN mare by Metropole x Ahorn
PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), ZL Group, Inc: 1/84.04
8. CARISSIMO: 2000 Holsteiner gelding by Calando I x Silvester
MOLLY ASHE (USA), Olivia Jack: 4/81.15
9. GRAFTON: 2006 Selle Francais stallion by Calvaro x Vondeen
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Ariel & Susan Grange: 4/81.44
10. VANILLA: 2002 Danish Warmblood mare by Nabab De Reve x Clinton
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 4/81.59
11. NOUVELLE: 2004 KWPN mare by Solitair x Contango
LAURA KRAUT (USA), Evita Group: 4/82.19
12. VEYRON: 2006 Oldenburg stallion by Conterno Grande x Heartbreaker
LJUBOV KOCHETOVA (RUS), Ljubov Kochetova: 4/83.19
Source: Winter Equestrian Festival