Thermal, CA – February 12, 2017 – Against a picturesque California desert backdrop, the USA’s Ashlee Bond and Chela LS marked their official comeback to the top of world-class sport, claiming the victory with the only double clear in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal.
While the slowly setting sun created the perfect golden haze for Bond’s return—from having her first child just four months ago—the challenging light could also be blamed for others’ course issues, including that of second-place finisher Audrey Coulter (USA) in the jump off. Shadows at the Longines oxer caused a miscommunication between Coulter and her horse Alex, forcing the fence down. The pair ended on four faults and a time of 45.29 seconds. Third place went to Lane Clark (USA) and Balu U with eight faults and a time of 40.10 seconds.
A technical course, designed by Brazil’s Marina Azevedo, met the day’s competitors. The first to go in the order, Bond showed the way without dropping a rail. She did originally accrue a single time penalty but soon after, the time allowed was extended from 75 seconds to 79.
In the four-man jump off, Bond once again rode first and delivered a smooth round that could not be caught. The California native’s performances aboard the chestnut mare reminded the crowd of their storied, longstanding record that includes a $1 Million Grand Prix win and a win in FEI Nations Cup™ competition in 2014.
Both Chela and Ashlee have been out of the sport a hot minute; Chela took off 18 months for a serious, life threatening staph infection in her hocks, and Chela took time time off during her pregnancy.
“I’m very overwhelmed. I’m trying not to cry. It’s been a really long road with Chela. That’s probably why that’s so emotional—and having a baby four months ago, I’m feeling really out of shape and a little heavier than normal. Getting back in, I’ve been feeling really rusty up until actually yesterday I started to feel better. Then today, in the first round, I was like, ‘Okay, maybe I’m getting all the kinks out.’ So it’s just being in this field and being able to have a good day today was a really good feeling.”
But while new motherhood has challenged Ashlee physically, mentally it’s given her a new boost and new perspective on life in the show ring which seems to have given her a new level of composure and mental strength.
“Having a baby puts everything into perspective. Show jumping was my entire life, and now it’s my daughter and my husband and my family and this is second. If anything, it takes a little bit of the pressure off. You realize what life is really about. Yes, this win means so much, but at the end of the day, if you have a rail but then you go home to your amazing family and it’s okay. I think in the end, it will help me to ride better, oddly enough. It’s been an amazing journey and I’m excited to have our daughter here. And hopefully by next year, she’ll be understanding this and it’ll be a joy if she wants to ride and do the ponies. I’m really looking forward to making it a family affair.”
Other top West Coast names missed the final round with unlucky rails that dropped throughout the course. Field favorites Christian Heineking (GER), Eric Navet (FRA), and Jamie Barge (USA) earned four faults apiece. But arguably the most heartbreaking first round came from Mexico’s Daniel Pedraza, who missed advancing to the jump off by 1/100th of a second.
Following today’s event, Nayel Nassar (EGY) continues to hold the lead in the Western Sub-League standings. In the Eastern Sub-League, Kent Farrington (USA) is in the first position. The final event for the Eastern Sub-League will take place in Ocala, Florida on 12 March 2017.
LONGINES FEI WORLD CUP™ JUMPING 2016/2017 NORTH AMERICAN LEAGUE, EASTERN SUB-LEAGUE:
Standings after Leg 6 in Wellington, Florida:
1. Nayel Nassar (EGY) – 55
2. Karl Cook (USA) – 51
3. Enrique Gonzalez (MEX) – 42
4. Christopher Surbey (CAN) – 41
5. Jenni McAllister (USA) – 36
6. Eduardo Menezes (BRA) – 32
7. Francisco Pasquel (MEX) – 28
8. Eric Navet (FRA) – 28
9. Patricio Pasquel (MEX) – 24
10. Jamie Barge (USA) – 21