Ashlee Bond (ISR) and Donatello 141 flew to win the $137,000 Cleghorn Gun Club Grand Prix CSI 3* on a jump-off time of 37.447 seconds under the lights at Tryon International Equestrian Center & Resort (TIEC). Erynn Ballard (CAN) collected the reserve award after clearing the short track in a time of 39.849 with Gakhir, the 2011 Dutch Warmblood stallion (Spartacus x Indorado), while Sharn Wordley (NZL) and Verdini D’Houtveld Z, the 2011 Dutch Warmblood gelding (Verdi TN x Caretino 2), secured third with their 40.658-second performance over the jump-off course.
Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) tested 35 horse-and-rider pairs over the first round of his course design, with five pairs qualifying for the abbreviated challenge. Bond and the 2011 Westphalian gelding (Diarado x Lamoureux I) had a bit of a discouraging week to start Tryon Spring 5 competition, admitted the thrilled Bond, whose selective risk-taking over the short course worked out perfectly in her favor:
“I was actually feeling really disheartened after the last couple of days. ‘Donnie’ was good on Thursday, but we had one down and he was a little rusty, but I thought he should be good for Saturday,” she recalled. “I think the Nations Cup in Wellington was the last night class he’s jumped, so he hadn’t jumped under the lights in a while! He always does well, but my week has been not-so great. He felt really great in the warm-up. I would say by the triple I felt in my groove, and I felt like I was on it, and was just hoping I didn’t have a cheap rail.”
Bond herself has not competed at TIEC since the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG), which did not go in her favor. “Coming here worked out really nicely since we’ve relocated to Wellington. The prize money is good, the competition and the footing is great – I knew the facility would be great,” she emphasized. “The last time I was here was for WEG, and it didn’t go well for me. I got jumped off, and it was awful. That was my last memory here, and I came hoping things would go better this time!”
“When there’s only five in the jump-off, in my opinion you can risk it and really go for broke, because either way, you’re getting some money,” Bond relayed about her jump-off strategy. “He just felt so good. He’s usually always better in the second round or jump-off – he knows the game! He’s one of those [horses] that you kind of have to ask him to run, so he kind of bounces back off you, which can work against you if the track doesn’t suit you. So, I do better on rollbacks and slice jump-offs rather than just long gallops. This [course] really worked to our strengths. And to the last fence, I trust him, and he’s got so much scope that I knew I could leave long and trust that he wouldn’t get too flat.”