The $25,000 New Year’s Grand Prix, presented by Vita Flex, took place on Sunday, December 20, the final day of the ESP New Year’s Show at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Forty-one entries hailing from 12 nations competed for the lion’s share of the prize money over the course designed by Mauricio Garcia Ballesteros (PUR). After a 13-horse jump-off, Darragh Kenny (IRL) continued his winning streak at PBIEC as the fastest of the class riding Vlock Show Stables LLC’s Scarlett Du Sart Z. Sunday’s classes concluded the ESP New Year’s Show, and competition will resume again Wednesday, December 30, for the first day of the ESP Holiday Finale Show, which will finish on Sunday, January 3, as the final event in the ESP Holiday Series. The 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival will take place from January 6, 2021 to April 4, 2021.
Darragh Kenny and Scarlett Du Sart Z claimed victory in the $25,000 New Year’s Grand Prix, presented by Vita Flex. ©Anne Gittins Photography
“I’ve had Scarlett Du Sart Z since she was six-turning-seven. Teddy Vlock owns her; he bought her as a six-year-old and we’ve been producing her and bringing her along the whole time,” Kenny said of the 13-year-old Zangersheide mare by Stakkato De Hann x First Bride. “I think a lot of her. She’s a very, very good grand prix horse. She didn’t do much this summer, and I wanted to get her fit and ready in the fall for the bigger shows after Christmas.”
For the first round of riding, Garcia Ballesteros created a pattern of 13 fences, which was successfully completed by 13 pairs who advanced to the jump-off. The first two entries, Chris Ewanouski (USA) aboard Vagabon De La Vallee, owned by Ewanouski and Cavalli Reale, and Wilhelm Genn (GER) and Van Gogh, owned by Wilhelm and Patty Genn, both produced fault-free rounds to start the class. Ewanouski and Genn were joined in the jump-off by Kenny, Grace Debney (USA), Tiffany Foster (CAN), Taylor St. Jacques (USA), Natalie Dean (USA), Spencer Brittan (USA), Christian Coyle (IRL), Hilary McNerney (USA), Liza Finsness (USA), and Emily Ward (GBR).
Of the 13 riders that advanced to the seven-fence jump-off, seven riders continued to put in a second clear round. The first horse-and-rider combination to go clear was Genn and Van Gogh with a time of 42.13 seconds to set the pace. Foster and Artisan Farms, LLC’s Vienna then took the lead after stopping the timers at 39.19 seconds, slicing three full seconds off the clock. Kenny and Scarlett Du Sart Z were the seventh pair to return over the short course, where they took the lead and held onto it with a foot-perfect round in 39.04 seconds.
“I know she has a massive stride, and she’s very, very careful. I knew I could take a lot of risks with her, so I took one less stride in the first line, and I knew the last line would be easy for me to do the eight strides,” Kenny commented regarding his plan for the jump-off. “She’s just such a good horse that it’s easy to go fast with her. I think that she has such a big stride and she’s so quick across the ground, so I think that’s where I got [the advantage] today.”
Darragh Kenny and Scarlett Du Sart Z ©Anne Gittins Photography
Mere milliseconds behind Kenny, Debney rode Temple Equestrian LLC’s Zarina De Vidau, a 2011 Spanish Sport Horse mare by Diamant de Semilly, to a time of 39.07 seconds a few trips after the winning pair to claim second place. Third place honors went to Foster and Vienna (Valentino x Lordanos) with their time of 39.19 seconds.
Kenny has had a successful ESP Holiday Series circuit, having earned multiple wins on several horses. During the ESP Year End Awards Show, Kenny rode Oakland Ventures LLC’s Belo Horizonte to victory in the $25,000 Year End National Grand Prix, presented by #1 Education Place, as well as the $10,000 1.40m Open Stake, presented by #1 Education Place. Additionally, the Irish rider and Belo Horizonte also took home the blue ribbon in the $37,000 JTWG, Inc. 1.45m CSI4* during the ESP Holiday II CSI4* show.