The conclusion of the South African Outdoor Grand Prix competition hosted at Kyalami Equestrian Park allows many competitors times to reflect on the week of jumping that lies behind them. Several riders will be feeling quite ecstatic with their performances and their decisions made. With riders like Desiree Davidson and Ada-Raine Ferguson taking their first step up to the 1.50m ranks, Barry Taylor’s return to competition at the 1.50m ranks and Tamara Rueda debuting AAN Equine L’adorado FG in the 1.50m ranks, the event was full of excitement for all onlookers. The Bob Charter was a hive of activity for the open grades, culminating in the crowning of a new SA Outdoor Grand Prix champion.
The Scotsman SA Adult 1.35m Championship:
The Scotsman SA-sponsored 1.35m championship saw the most competitive field, with 32 riders qualifying for the final from more than 80 original entries. Those who qualified brought their A-game on the final day in order to claim the victory, but as we all know, there could be only one winner. Run as a traditional one round with a jump-off, the first round saw just how strong the field was as 19 combinations secured the clear round. With a slightly generous time-allowed set by FEI 2* designer, Brett Webber, the 19 combinations made their way into the jump-off with determination and eyes firmly on the top podium position.
As the rider’s prepared for their final challenge, the jump-off track allowed riders opportunities to drop strides, cut corners, and search for any available inside turn. Coming in at number 28, the 4th highest qualifier, Jacqui Cochrane and Beauty van de Pannenburg Hoeve set off at a blistering pace as only Beauty can but with marginally wider turns to the fences, the pair completed their round in a time of 39.98 seconds and would have to wait and see what became of the remaining combinations.
Tamara Rueda stepped into the arena with her trusty steed JK Callaho Liantos, whose nimble stature, competitive nature, and agility enabled Tamara to ask tricky questions with full confidence that Liantos would be able to deliver. As the pair raced down to the final fence, Tamara rebalanced Liantos and they successfully navigated the fence clear to come home in a time of 38.37 seconds putting themselves ahead of Jacqui and Beauty. Stacey-Lee Weston, the 2nd highest qualifier, started her round with incredible pace onboard her loyal partner, Weston Farrier’s Frischgewaagd Billabong, A.K.A Bobby. As they clipped a rail at the 3rd fence, Stacey knew the victory was out of her reach and decided to call it a day and retire.
The final combination to step into the arena was the highest qualifier from the previous competitions, Shari Michaelis and Tack N Togs Cupidor. Both parties are formidable competitors and deceptively quick against the clock and they started the track the same way they intended to finish it – fast. With each turn being executed tightly, the pace on point when necessary, and carefulness over every fence, the pair strode through the finish beams in a remarkable 38.14 seconds and claimed the victory and title of 1.35m Champions.
|1st||Shari Michaelis and Tack N Togs Cupidor||38.14 seconds|
|2nd||Tamara Rueda and JK Callaho Liantos||38.37 seconds|
|3rd||Jacqui Cochrane and Beauty van de Pannenburg Hoeve||39.98 seconds|
The ONE Insurance Adult 1.40m Championship
The 1.40m competition, sponsored by ONE Insurance, was nail-biting to observe as the field sported top-level athletes with the likes of Grant Langley, Oliver Bishop, George Philippides, and Thomas Triggol, who were all capable of claiming a podium position. The slightly generous time provided by the course designer enabled the competitors a little breathing room to ensure that they successfully cleared the tracks. Set up in the daunting Bob Charter arena, the 26 athletes were likely grateful for the opportunity to think their rounds through without the added time pressure.
With the conclusion of the first round, 9 combinations used the opportunity presented to them and secured clear rounds. As they prepared for the jump-off, the track set before them required a great length of stride and pace in order to claim the top spot. With only a handful of available turns, the victorious rider would be the one who got the best pace throughout the track and had the fastest gallop between fences.
The top spot was hard fought for as the 3 podium riders were separated by the narrowest of margins. Chris van der Merwe and his most recently acquired open horse, Quidchin Bellignies Z, provided a stellar round with all the turns executed perfectly and the gallop strides available to him when requested and as he crossed the finish line, he looked set to have the victory in the bag with a time of 40.86 seconds. The next rider to follow him was Anne-Marie Esslinger and Alzu Oregon. A top-level partnership that had previously been victorious in the 1.50m ranks, the pair set their eyes on the track knowing what needed to be done. While they looked to start the track at a slower pace than Chris, the 2nd half of the jump-off proved otherwise as Anne-Marie and Oregon galloped to the final fence and crossed the beams in a time of 40.84 seconds.
A margin of 0.02 seconds, although not big, proved irrelevant as Anne-Marie squeezed past Chris and into the top spot. With 1 final competitor left to take on the challenge, Heather Mostert and Summer Bridge Cruise strode into the competition arena confidently as they had the advantage of going last due to their top qualification. The partnership started with great gusto and raced through the course as quickly as they were able and with the final fence cleared, they raced through the beams to conclude their round in a time of 40.87 seconds. A fraction of a second off the top spot and 0.01 seconds behind Chris van der Merwe who had done enough to claim the 2nd place position.
|1st||Anne-Marie Esslinger and Alzu Oregon||40.84 seconds|
|2nd||Chris van der Merwe and Quidchin Bellignies Z||40.86 seconds|
|3rd||Heather Mostert and Summer Bridge Cruise||40.87 seconds|
The Equine 74 Adult 1.50m SA Outdoor Grand Prix Competition
The final competition for that Easter Monday afternoon was the main event, the South African Outdoor Grand Prix. Run as a traditional Grand Prix class where riders compete over 2 rounds and potentially go through to a jump-off should there be an equality of penalties for first place, 23 riders started the class focused and determined to fight their way through the field and claim the victory and glory of the South African Outdoor Grand Prix title.
The first round appeared rather easy for the very strong group of riders as 6 combinations secured a clear round while a further 9 completed their round with a single rail down and 4 penalties – including newcomers to this level, Desiree Davidson and Le Cadeau. With 3 eliminations from the first round and 3 riders electing not to take part in the 2nd round, 17 athletes returned for the second track. Over a shortened track of only 8 fences, although the time allowed was tighter this time around, of the original 6 riders who went into the 2nd round clear, 5 managed to provide faultless rounds again and force a five-way jump-off.
Stepping into the arena first for the jump-off was Ronnie Healy and Blue Turtle Catweazle. After a stellar 2 rounds of showjumping, Catweazle looked well prepared to earn his rider his first South African title. As they began their round, the pair were unable to continue their run of form as 2 rails fell thus leaving them in 5th place with a time of 36.37 seconds. Govett Triggol was the next athlete to step into the arena of his highly competitive mare, Wolke 334, and as they made their way around the track, the pair ended their round with zero penalties in a time of 37.85 seconds. At this early stage, the pair would move into the lead and be left on the sidelines to watch what the remaining competitors could do.
Coming into the arena next was Nicole Horwood and her most recent top-level addition, Mark White Nissan’s Capital Chantilly. With her previous rider, Chris van der Merwe, Chantilly was the reigning champion of this title event. Nicole Horwood is no stranger to the Outdoor GP, either, having previously won the prestigious event twice. Together, the pair has already formed a strong bond and have a great track record together after their victory at the 2020 South African Championships, and spectators looked on with great expectations. As they rode through the track, their pace was not apparent, but being deceptively quick, the pair crossed the finish line with a time of 35.58 seconds to put them on top for the time being.
With 2 more combinations left to go, Gareth Neill with Dartoli and Lisa Williams and Campbell, the wait for Nicole was tense. Gareth Neill was the next rider aiming to challenge Nicole’s time but was unsuccessful as he completed his round in a time of 37.13 seconds – enough to secure a podium position; 3rd. The last combination to go, and the highest qualifiers for the competition, were Lisa Williams and Campbell, A.K.A. Dennis the Mennis. Notorious for their incredible pace and ability to pull off seemingly impossible turns, Lisa chose an inside line to an oxer that had not been done before in the class. While the turn was successful and inspiring to onlookers, it, unfortunately, did not save enough time and the pair completed their turn with a time of 36.12 seconds to finish second.
With the conclusion of the event, not only did Nicole Horwood claim her second South African title in six months, but she claimed her third SA Outdoor GP title after having won back-to-back with Capital Colnardo and Capital Don Cumarco previously.
|1st||Nicole Horwood and Mark White Nissan’s Capital Chantilly||35.58 seconds|
|2nd||Lisa Williams and Campbell||36.12 seconds|
|3rd||Gareth Neill and Dartoli||37.13 seconds|
South Africa’s top showjumpers now look ahead to the next event, the Midrand World Cup Qualifier, sponsored by Reonet and hosted by Kyalami Equestrian Park.
Congratulations to all the winners and good luck for the next one.