New horses, new riders seemed to be the theme for the first day of Turf Tour competition this week, as a bustling day of show jumping at Polo West offered all levels of riders the foundation to build the repertoire between themselves and their horses and develop their skills over fences. The last ride in a class of over 30 entries, Venezuela’s Angel Karolyi swept the field with Chablis De Mirland to clinch Wednesday’s headline $5,000 1.30M Rising Star Classic on a jump-off time of 35.189. The pair just edged out Ireland’s Willie Tynan and Dominique, who held the lead most of the day on 36.878 seconds, with third going to Samantha Wight aboard Imagine Van De Hermitage on 35.692 seconds.
Hosted by The Ridge at Wellington, the Turf Tour runs every Wednesday through Friday at spectacular venues around Wellington and Palm Beach. With the goal of offering superior footing, a variety of classes, and a selection of venues and atmospheres to assist in the development of advancing horses and riders, the Turf Tour and Palm Beach Series are a unique compliment to the Florida winter equestrian season. Wednesday’s classes, headlined by the Rising Star Classic, continue on Friday with the $15,000 1.40M Grand Prix in addition to full divisions of show jumping on the grass.
Karolyi and the chestnut gelding, owned by David Esparza Perez, are a new combination and chose to take advantage of the Turf Tour’s relaxing atmosphere and open in gate policy to make the most of their show experience.
“I’ve only been riding him a few months,” said Karolyi. “This is our second show together and he’s naturally a very fast horse over the ground. I had already ridden the jump-off once before that day with River Farm Sporthorses’ Chento, and I decided to make a good effort of it and try to top the current leader with Chablis. The course was very nice, straightforward and not too difficult but also asked a few questions and presented a few angles to allow for a challenge.”
Karoyli and his first mount Chento finished in 4th place overall, and were the first pair to overtake US Olympic Medalist Ann Kursinski and Armado’s first double clear effort in the class.
The shift from all-weather footing to the springy turf was a change that Karoyli noted as being beneficial for both himself and his horses: “We are all so used to riding on the completely flat, all-weather arenas; coming out here and jumping on the grass adds a unique factor. I think it makes you ride better, makes the horses jump better, and makes you ride sharper lines to the jumps. Nona and George do a great thing in hosting these great venues to jump on the grass and get out there with a new horse. These Grand Prix courses and other classes are fantastic for building up the horses towards bigger classes, and it doesn’t hurt that you can win some prize money along the way.”
Despite holding the lead for most of the class with Dominique, Willie Tynan had no real goals of being exceptionally fast or competitive with his three mounts. Dominique, a coming ten-year-old mare owned by Shannon Hughes, was just getting back into the show ring for the first time since May and Tynan has only been riding her for the past few weeks.
“We brought her out today just to get a little experience together as I’ve not been riding her very long,” said Tynan. “She likes to jump on the grass, and the course was very good and straightforward so I felt comfortable getting a feel for her at the show. The other two horses also jumped very well, with just a single rail down for both of them.”
Another relatively new pairing, Samantha Wight and the black stallion Imagine Van De Hermitage, have been together about 8 months but recently took some time out of the show ring to go back to basics and strengthen their synergy for the show ring.
Training with Daniel Bluman and with their sights set on the Grand Prix, Wight stated that she chose the Turf Tour because of its laid back feel. “This is our first show back after a little break to fine tune our basics,” she stated. “I love how The Ridge’s shows are super relaxed; it gives your horse a breather and allows the time for the rider to really learn the horse and become comfortable with your own riding. It’s really a place for horsemen. Showing on the grass is a new experience for us, and offers a whole new dynamic to test your skill. We are trying to get the most out of the footing Wellington has to offer and the Turf Tour has really delivered a great option and experience for us.”
With the inviting courses, spacious warm-ups, and beautiful jumps set on the verdant fields of Polo West, it isn’t surprising to see some of the world’s top riders enjoying the ambiance of the Turf Tour each season. Ireland’s Daniel Coyle, who is fresh off an impressive Sunday victory in the $220,000 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier at the Palm Beach Masters and the reigning 2017 Turf Tour Finale winner, took a few horses and students for relaxing rides in Wednesday’s 1.20-1.25M. Multiple Olympic Gold Medalist Ben Maher is another name frequently seen on the Turf Tour’s sheets, along with other top international riders who compete side by side with advancing amateurs and juniors in the utopian atmosphere.
“That was really our vision when we began this,” stated co-founder of The Ridge and US Olympian Nona Garson, “to create a welcoming environment where all levels of riders could come out and enjoy the show and their horses. As we evolve and add more shows and more ways to experience equestrian competition, we still focus on that goal of catering to riders and owners who put their horses first.”
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