November 15, 2105—West Coast show-jumping fans are getting to know a lot of new riders thanks to the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League. They were introduced to another one Saturday night as Peter Lutz and the stallion Robin de Ponthual made a surgical-strike visit to the region and won the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas 2015.
Traveling from their New York State base, Peter flew with his horse into Los Angeles the previous Saturday, drove him to Las Vegas and got down to business a week later over Olaf Peterson, Jr.’s appropriately demanding course. One of eight pairs to go fault free in the first round, Peter and Robin omitted a few strides and clipped along to the speediest of four clears in the jump-off. After sailing over the final, light-railed vertical set abreast of the in-gate, they crossed the line at 33.21 seconds to win.
Those who do know Peter couldn’t be happier for him. A top Junior equitation rider under Andre Dignelli, Peter has been happily toiling away as coach and young-horse developer but not quite having a top mount stay in the stable long enough to campaign at the highest levels. At the press conference, he explained that the love he had for horses as a kid is still as strong as it was in his youth and that’s what has kept him in the sport.
With Robin, he has a few new incentives. The 10-year old Selle Français came by way of McLain Ward. The stallion and Peter began their journey in Florida at the start of the year and a solid spring followed. “We’ve been in the jump-off a few times, but now it’s all finally coming together,” Peter said. Coupled with a fourth-placed finish in their first foray into the league, the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping New York 2015 at the American Gold Cup, the 20 points earned in Vegas puts them in the thick of the East rankings.
One West Coast person who did know Peter occupied a place beside him on the winner’s podium. That was second-place finisher Audrey Coulter. Peter and his partner in Davenport Show Jumping, Mary Manfredi, had lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for a spell, coaching Audrey and her sister during their Junior years. So it was with a knowing eye that Peter watched Audrey’s round in the jump-off.
“Going so early in the jump-off, I wanted to be smooth and clear,” she said. “I played it a little safe and I know I left the door open a little, but I’m very happy with my horse.” Domino is a new ride for Audrey, who had taken some time off to finish her degree at Dartmouth University. Back and fully focused on riding, she is based part of the year in Belgium with top young Belgian star, Jos Verlooy. She purchased Domino from Jos and credited her fast partnership with the accomplished Belgian Warmblood to having Jos’ input at the ready.
Jos, meanwhile, was also clean in the jump-off but a tick slower than his part-time stablemate, finishing fourth aboard another Belgian Warmblood, Sunshine. (He won first place in my book when he handed his beautiful ribbon to a thrilled young spectator after the prize giving ceremony!)
Australian Matt Williams credited the good luck of Las Vegas for keeping the jump-off’s final vertical in the cups, and he was happy to clock in at 34.25 for third place. He’ll show next at the Winter Equestrian Festival, then focus his and Valinski S’s efforts on attempting to make the Australian Olympic team.
Watch the video below to hear Audrey and Matt discuss their jump-off rounds.
Of the remaining jump-off pairs, Kent Farrington, who is Number 2 in the Longines FEI World Rankings, and the appropriately named Gazelle were the fastest. After knocking down the narrow Longines oxer at the far end of the ring, Kent piloted the beautiful mare to a 32.90-second fifth-place finish.
Southern California-based Brazilian Eduardo Menezes and Quintol were the victors in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 1.45-meter Speed Classic qualifying class Thursday night, earning them the last-to-ride position on Saturday. Their effortless-looking clear go put them in the same position for the jump-off, where steering snafus and a rail left them in sixth. Simon Nizri, representing Israel, and E Muze Yek were seventh. Fresh from their win of the $350,000 Sunshine Circuit Five Star class in California the week before, Lucy Davis and Barron had lovely rounds but for a jump-off rail to finish eighth.
California-based French champion Eric Navet had an uncharacteristically rough round with Jonkheer Z, incurring 13 penalties in the first round. However, he received a warm reception from the crowd, an apparent expression of support for his countrymen the day after the attacks in Paris.
The crowd was a big part of the evening. They seemed as appreciative of the winning efforts as they did of those with unhappy outcomes. The Thursday qualifier whittled 57 riders down to the Saturday start list of 30 with the order of go a reverse of their Thursday finishes. Rails, and a few riders, fell liberally in the early going, but once Matt Williams logged the first fault-free run, going 10th in the order, things settled down. Around the middle of the class, Olaf Peterson, Jr., admitted he was “beginning to sweat it a little bit because there was such a stretch of good go’s.”
In the end, the course produced the results he had hoped. Like all of these indoor qualifiers, the jumps came up fast in the South Point Hotel & Casino Arena. Set on a diagonal just a few strides past the in-gate, the Longines triple was described as a “sea of poles” by the announcer, and it wound up drowning the hopes of many.
The Las Vegas National Horse Show was organized by Blenheim EquiSports. Chief Robert Ridland emphatically credited its success to his team, in particular show manager Stephanie Wheeler and marketing guru Melissa Brandes. He recalled that the show started with approximately 80 horses versus this year’s approximately 600 and more that had to be turned away.
The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas 2015 was preceded by colorful entertainment acts and an especially nice presentation of the riders on foot. They stood with the flags of the eight countries they represented and were introduced individually to the crowd.
The venue, the South Point Hotel & Casino is great. Its Equestrian Center has a main jumping arena and, for the second year, a separate hunter ring plus nice size warm-up rings. It is frequently used for big Western events and breed shows, so it’s well set up for our sport, too. The show venue and the hotel are adjoined, and we heard that you can watch the arena action on the hotel room TVs.
Interestingly, this fifth round of competition in West did not shake up the World Cup™ standings in this region very much. Karl Cook and Will Simpson had been tied at the top with Richard Spooner and Rich Fellers closely chasing them for the three spots available for a World Cup™ Final berth in Sweden in March. Karl, Will and Rich all had four-fault rounds last night, earning them single digit World Cup™ points that move them into the first, second and third rankings.
See the video below to hear Karl Cook talk about his “fiery redhead” mare, Tembla, and his coach Eric Navet.
Richard Spooner and Chivaz Z were victims of the aforementioned “sea of poles” and were eliminated in Las Vegas, but Richard still holds the fourth ranking, with 23 points. Amateur rider Allyssa Hecht is right behind with 22. Not sure if these contenders will make the trip for the next qualifier in Mexico in January, but either way, you can count on quite the showdown for the final qualifier in Thermal California, in February.
See you there!