October 30, 2016 -- Ohlala!
The speedy mare with the catchy name tied her time at the Washington International Horse Show into a tidy package, starting out Thursday with a win in the $35,000 International Welcome Stake. Last night, she went on to wrap up the biggest prize of the six-day competition at the Verizon Center, the $130,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Washington.
Rider Lauren Hough utilized experience and self discipline for her victory that earned the coveted gold President's Cup trophy. It has been a highlight on the resume of such great riders as Rodney Jenkins, who took it twice with the immortal Idle Dice, and once with Number One Spy; Michael Matz with Jet Run and Olympic double gold medalist Joe Fargis aboard Touch of Class. Winners also included current U.S. show jumping team coach Robert Ridland, who was on hand in that role last night, and a former coach, the late Frank Chapot, who was inducted into the show's Hall of Fame shortly before the class got under way.
The goal for top riders around the world in the 2016/2017 season is a trip to the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Omaha, Nebraska's Century Link Center next March, and many of the 28 starters invested hope in the Washington fixture for adding to their qualifying points.
The stage was set for excitement before an enthusiastic crowd in the arena that usually hosts basketball and hockey in the nation's capital. The electricity in the air was felt by spectators and athletes alike, heightening the drama in the premier competition of the show.
Hough enjoyed a great advantage in going last in the first round, giving her the same spot in the seven-horse tiebreaker, so she didn't take unnecessary risks. Her toughest competition would be Rio Olympic reserve rider Laura Kraut aboard the 9-year-old Holsteiner, Confu, and the flashy chestnut Creedance, another 9-year-old, with silver medal Olympic team member Kent Farrington in the irons.
Fourth to go in the jump-off on a horse that had never jumped indoors until this week, Kraut pulled off the first clear round of that barrage with her gray gelding, clocked in 37.80 seconds.
“My ultimate goal was to finish third,” said Kraut, recalling her thoughts after seeing the line-up and acknowledging the speed of Hough and Farrington's mounts.
“I knew these two were for sure faster than he can be,” she said of Confu.
“I ended up getting lucky because he (Farrington) had one down. Hopefully, the three of us will be at the World Cup.”
As she knew, however, her time was beatable, and Farrington demonstrated by how much, coming through the Longines timers in 34.28 seconds with a pull-out-the-stops performance that left the fans breathless. But he dropped a rail at the first element of the red and blue WIHS double in the beginning of the last line during a ride that, as he reflected later, should have been a bit more conservative for “a very special horse” that is not yet a totally seasoned performer.
He explained his strategy this way: “You had one of the fastest indoor horses going last, so at that point, I was trying to do a very competitive round and put a lot of pressure on Lauren at the end of the class.”
His reaction was a mixed bag: “I'm disappointed with the result and very happy with my horse.”
Hough watched Farrington go, noting he “took every risk I thought, and ended up having one down. I saw the difference in time between Kent and Laura, and I thought it was smarter to ride the round that I thought suited my horse.”
After having been a runner-up but never previously able to claim the Cup, Hough noted, ““Being second a couple of times makes you a bit hungry for it.”
On the first long galloping line, she added a step to what Kent had done, and proceeded the same way on the homeward line, filling in seven strides rather than six and finishing with the faster clear in 36.56 seconds.
Ohlala handled it neatly because “she is very quick across the ground. All the stars were lined up for me this week, so I’m thrilled,” said Hough, after being draped with ribbons for a bouquet of titles, including Leading International Rider, International Jumper Champion and Leading Lady Rider. Not surprisingly, Hough had a wonderful time overall in Washington. Click on the right facing arrow below to see what she had to say about her week.
Beezie Madden had the slower of the 4-fault rounds on Quister to wind up fourth, followed by Aaron Vale, fifth on Finou with 8 penalties.
The class ended in disappointment for several other big names, however, including Farrington's Olympic teammate McLain Ward on 2014 Cup winner HH Carlos Z and two-time President's Cup winner Todd Minikus with Quality Girl. Both horses refused at the skinny fence five and their riders decided to go no further that evening.
It was Hough's first outing of the season in the Longines FEI WORLD CUP™ Jumping 2016/2017 North American League, where Farrington is tied for the lead in the East with Audrey Coulter on 42 points, and Kraut is third with 30.
Those looking ahead to handicap the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals can consider that Ireland's Alan Wade, who did the courses in Washington, will be handling the routes in Omaha as well. He's a rider favorite, a thinker who sees the big picture and lays out routes that are comfortable for horses at a variety of levels, while testing the best.
Assessing, the grand prix, he said, “I had the feeling the horses mightn't be fully warmed up when they got into the ring and they came from the warm-up into the crowd and the lights and the razzmatazz,” said Wade.
“The problems appeared at certain fences I was quite surprised at. I think it was fair. There were a lot of people, I think, that had an unlucky 4 faults and would feel if they got a second shot at it they would have been clear, too.”
Understandably, Hough said, “I am a big fan of Alan's, I think he does a great good job.” She pointed out there were some less-experienced riders in the line-up, with two of them, Catherine Tyree on Enjoy Louis, who was sixth, and Lauren Tisbo, seventh on Entre Nous, making it through to the jump-off.
“Nobody got into trouble, which is a sign of a very good course and the jump-off was exciting for the crowd,” Hough continued.
Added Kraut, “You could bring a younger horse here with confidence and know you weren't going to encounter a course that would scare your horse or set it back.”
Assessing Wade, Farrington concluded, “He's a good horseman, intelligent building, and I think he showed that here.”