The ESP Holiday II CSI4* at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) came to a close on Sunday after a week of international show jumping competition. The $214,000 Spy Coast Farm Holiday II Grand Prix CSI4* took place in the International Arena with 45 riders fighting for the top spot, which was ultimately claimed by Laura Kraut (USA) and St. Bride’s Farm’s Confu as the most efficient jump-off challengers. Sunday’s competition concluded the ESP Holiday II CSI4*, but showing will continue from Tuesday, December 15 to Thursday, December, 17, with the ESP Holiday III Show, followed by the ESP New Year’s Show from Friday, December 18, to Sunday, December 20.
Laura Kraut and Confu, pictured with Lisa Lourie of Spy Coast Farm, won the $214,000 Spy Coast Farm Holiday II Grand Prix CSI4*. ©Carly Nasznic Photography
“I have to say, I don’t know what year I’m on with him, maybe my fifth or sixth, but he has just been such a great partner for me,” commented Kraut of Confu, a 2007 Holsteiner gelding by Contact Me x Cambridge. “He’s like my security blanket. Whenever I need one to come out and do something well, it’s him. I appreciate him every time I get to jump him and when he performs like this it just makes everything wonderful. Now I can rest easy for a few weeks and be happy with that! It was great. Anytime you win a class like this, it’s why we do it.”
The international field of 45 entries in the $214,000 Spy Coast Farm Holiday II Grand Prix CSI4* represented 10 nations, including the United States, Israel, Ireland, Great Britain, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Switzerland, and Colombia. For the first round of riding, course designer Héctor Loyola (PUR) crafted a track of 17 efforts, which tested challengers throughout the contest. It took until the 16th in the order of go to see a clear round, which came from Bliss Heers (USA) and Bridgeside Farms LLC’s Antidote De Mars, and Schuyler Riley (USA) and Katherine Gallagher’s Robin De Ponthual eventually forced a jump-off with their fault-free round as the 21st in the start list.
“This will be my third season with this horse. She’s great, and very, very careful,” noted second-place finisher Daniel Bluman (ISR) of his ride, Colestina H. “Her job normally is the 1.50m classes, as those are where she excels the most. That being said, sometimes she has to step up depending on how the calendar goes. This week she had to, and she delivered. She jumped amazing. She nearly won, so I’m thrilled with her. She gave an incredible effort.”
Already with two recent CSI4* successes under their belt as the winners of the $214,000 Holiday & Horses Grand Prix CSI4*, presented by Palm Beach County Sports Commission, on November 29, and the $73,000 Sweet Oak Farm 1.50m Qualifier CSI4* on December 11, Lucy Deslauriers (USA) and Hester continued their hot streak with a clear ride to add another contender to the jump-off list. Foot-perfect rounds then came in quick succession from Todd Minikus (USA) on Amex Z, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) with Akuna Mattata, Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Don Juan Van De Donkhoeve, Bluman riding Colestina H, and Kraut aboard Confu. The final pairs to qualify for the short course were Shane Sweetnam (IRL) on Alejandro, Harrie Smolders (SUI) aboard Monaco, and Margie Engle (USA) on Royce.
In total, 11 combinations qualified to ride over the shortened jump-off course, which had been trimmed to eight fences. First to tackle the track, Heers and Antidote De Mars once again served as the pathfinders with a clear trip in 40.15 seconds to set the pace. The lead changed hands a number of times before finally settling on the victors, first to Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata in a time of 40.13 seconds, just two-hundredths of a second faster than Heers and Antidote De Mars. Bluman navigated Colestina H to an even faster time of 39.93 seconds to up the ante, but Kraut and Confu sliced even more time off the clock as the fourth-to-last challengers with a clear result in 39.75 seconds.
Of her plans for the upcoming 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival, Kraut noted, “I think we are all appreciating what we can do more than we would have in years past, so I’m very much looking forward to that. I also have a string of horses that will be in Spain, so hopefully if everything works I will do a little bit of commuting back and forth. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my plan will happen, but if not, who can complain about being here?”