The eleventh week of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) opened with Harrie Smolders (NED) and Une De L’Othain, owned by Evergate Stables, LLC, claiming victory in the $37,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45 Jumpers CSI5* on Wednesday, March 24, on the grass Derby Field at Equestrian Village.
Jumping a 1.45m course set by 2016 Olympic Games designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA), 59 entries competed over fences one through 13 in a two-phase format. The best of the day, Smolders and the 13-year-old Selle Français mare by Conterno Grande x Cento completed their fault-free round in a time of 29.70 seconds.
“This week the plan was to only do this class with her because she usually does the bigger classes,” said Smolders of his winning partner. “With that plan in mind, I thought, “Why don’t we give it a go today?” She’s probably not a typical speed horse, but she went very smooth every turn and saw every distance fairly early so everything worked out according to plan. She’s good on all kinds of surfaces. She’s very scopey, very careful, and today I think it was my turn to win.”
It was a good day for the Mexican contingent as they rounded out the podium with Eugenio Garza Perez and Patricio Pasquel finishing second and third respectively. Garza piloted the El Milagro-entry Caracas, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Cachas, to a clear effort in 29.75 seconds. Pasquel was less than a second behind with his own nine-year-old mare, Yoga Santa Rosa, finishing without fault in a time of 30.18 seconds.Smolders, ranked 20th in the world, has been splitting his time between Europe and WEF throughout the winter but circled WEF 11 as an important week to attend.
“You can see that all the big guns are coming out; everybody has brought their best horses for the final weeks,” he said. “It’s going to be very tough competition. Today’s win is in the pocket, and anything else that comes this week is a bonus for me. It gives you extra motivation because you want to compete against the best in the world, and you want to prove that you belong here. I have a few new horses coming up but nevertheless, I’m going to try my best and give it a good shot.”Wednesday’s classes also marked the welcomed return of international competition to the grass Derby Field at Equestrian Village with three successful weeks earlier in the circuit already in the books on the beloved turf.
“I think for the horses it’s super to have different kinds of footing and different venues,” said Smolders. “It keeps them fresh mentally, and this is a fantastic field. It doesn’t get better anywhere else in the world.”To open the day, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor captured the $1,000 Bainbridge Companies 1.40m Jumpers CSI5* aboard Dourados, an eight-year-old Westphalian gelding by Diarado x Cornet Obolensky owned by Ronnoco Jump Ltd. The pair put forth a double-clear effort in the two-phase competition and crossed the finish line in 32.96 seconds.