Wellington, FL – January 3, 2021 – Competition came to an end at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on Sunday in the International Arena with the $50,000 Equiline Holiday Finale Grand Prix. Thirty-four riders representing 11 nations competed over the course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA). Last to go in the jump-off, Matthew Sampson (GBR) piloted Gut Einhaus, LLC’s Paul Walker to the fastest time of the class to claim victory. Sunday’s classes concluded the ESP Holiday Finale Show as well as the ESP Holiday Series. Competition will begin again Wednesday, January 6, for the Premiere Week of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival, which will take place over 13 weeks and conclude April 4, 2021.
Matthew Sampson and Paul Walker, pictured with Kelly Molinari, Managing Director of Equiline America, took home the blue ribbon in the $50,000 Equiline Holiday Finale Grand Prix. ©Anne Gittins Photography
“He’s an incredible horse. He has jumped two classes since he’s been in Florida. That was two weeks ago before Christmas and he was clear in both,” Sampson said of the 2011 Hanoverian gelding by Perigueux x Cornet Obolensky. “It’s my first time in Florida, so it’s been a great start. The course was good, the first round was a long and really careful course, which suited my horse in particular because he is so careful.” The first course that the horses and riders were tested over consisted of 13 fences, and nine duos successfully completed the first round to advance to the seven-fence jump-off. Sixth in the original order, Sydney Shulman (ISR) and Jill Shulman’s J-Boston S.E. were the first to go clear, followed by Luis Pedro Biraben (ARG) aboard his own Chacco Bumpy to force a jump-off. The seven additional riders to join the jump-off were Molly Ashe Cawley (USA), Jessica Mendoza (GBR), Jacqueline Steffens (CAN), Mac Cone (CAN), Paul O’Shea (IRL), Simon McCarthy (IRL), and Matthew Sampson (GBR).
Matthew Sampson and Paul Walker ©Anne Gittins Photography
First to return to the ring over the short course, Shulman and J-Boston S.E. were able to produce a second fault-free ride to set the pace with a time of 39.42 seconds. Mendoza and Carly Day’s Casanova 499 soon took over the lead after stopping the timers at 38.86 seconds. The duo remained in first until the last rider, Sampson, sliced a full second off of Mendoza’s leading time, piloting Paul Walker to a winning time of 37.52 seconds to secure the lead spot in the victory gallop. “I always know that Jessica Mendoza is fast because I’ve been riding against her all our lives, so I just tried to do as much as I could without doing anything crazy to knock a fence down, and luckily it paid off!” Sampson commented regarding his plan for the jump-off. “I got six strides to the double which is quite a long distance. Jessica did seven and then I got one less stride to the last fence. Jessica did do one less stride than me to the second fence, but I think the one less stride to the double was what probably helped us out.”
Second-place honors went to Mendoza aboard Casanova 499, a 2011 Holsteiner mare by Clarimo x Contender, with a double-clear ride and jump-off time of 38.86 seconds. Less than a second behind, Shulman and Jill Shulman’s 2009 BWP gelding by Boris van het Kluizebos, J-Boston S.E., stopped the clock at 39.42 seconds to round out the podium.