Alex Granato (USA) scored the weekend double, beating two former FEI World Cup champions to win the $208,200 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Wellington at the CP Palm Beach Masters Winter Classic CSI4*-W presented by Suncast®. Riding Carlchen W, Granato also won the FEI $71,200 Suncast® Palm Beach Masters World Cup Qualifier on Friday.
“It’s all just very surreal. It’s been an amazing week,” said Granato. “It’s a privilege to get to ride at a venue like this and against riders like these whom I have looked up to for a long time. To have a week like this is amazing.”
The jump-off read like a who’s-who of international show jumping with Olympic veterans and FEI World Cup™ champions among the nine who jumped in the second round on the Alan Wade-designed course. Conor Swail (IRL), was the pathfinder in both rounds and rode the first clear in the jump-off in a time of 44.68 seconds on GK Coco Chanel, which resulted in fourth place. Granato and Carlchen W shaved off nearly two seconds with a time of 42.70 to take the lead with a slew of stars yet to jump.
“I have a naturally fast horse, so for both classes I got to play that to my advantage and try to let him run at this pace and stay focused on my track and my turns,” said Granato. “I think I got lucky here and there with a rub in each jump-off, but the horse is very fresh. I’ve been gearing him towards this week and I think he came out really fresh and strong and ready for it.”
Photo credit: Kathy Russell Photography
Olympic veteran Mario Deslauriers (CAN), the 1984 FEI World Cup winner, and Bardolina came close with a jump-off clear round time of 43.48 for second place. “My horse is at a point where she’s got to learn to go a little faster. She’s got a big stride so sometimes it’s a little more complicated to maneuver, but she’s learning to turn better. Today and even on Friday we tried to go a little faster to give her that experience and half a second faster today would have done it, but I was happy with the way she handled herself.”
The crowd held its breath as last to go was 2007 FEI World Cup Champion and Olympic veteran Beat Mändli (SUI) raced around the course on Dsarie and was on track to take the win, but missed with 44.16 seconds for third place.
Granato will long remember his time at Deeridge Farms. “It’s a beautiful venue, I can’t say enough nice things. They do a great job. It’s so great of them to open their facility for us to come over. It’s an energizer in the middle of the circuit for us as riders and for the horses to get to jump at this kind of venue.”
This is the fourth year for the Palm Beach Masters at Deeridge Farms and if the riders have any say, the series will continue for a long time.
“To see the level of competition here is extraordinary. That was the most gratifying to me that people plan their year and bring their best horses here,” said Lou Jacobs, series co-founder along with siblings Charlie Jacobs and Katie Robinson. “As a family the best times we’ve had have revolved around horses. It brings us closer together as a family. It’s a love that we all share and we’ve got some great memories. This is a special place for us. We’ve spent a lot of happy times here as a family. It’s wonderful now for me to enjoy it with my daughter and extended family. It’s been really very much a labor of love.”