Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 23
Grand prix classes at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival seemed to have turned into a playground for top British riders Ben Maher and Scott Brash as they raced each other in awe-inspiring jump-offs week after week.
But this week, that changed. The jump-off of the $280,000 Adequan Grand Prix looked set to be another Maher-Brash showdown, but 21-year-old college student Audrey Coulter surprised even herself by relegating the world No. 1 and 2-ranked British duo into second and third and claimed the day.
"I'm so excited!" she beamed. "Just to be next to Ben and Scott is amazing. My horse was incredible today. I have never had a day like this. This was amazing, and I am never going to forget it."
Coulter is just 21 and in her first year stepping up to the 1.60-meter level. She’s a student at Dartmouth University (N.H.) and currently taking a quarter off, but she’s balancing showing on the weekends with an internship at Intercept Pharmaceuticals in New York City during the week. (You can read more about Coulter in the Feb. 17 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.)
Coulter, of San Francisco, Calif., then went on to another big win in the afternoon's $84,000 Suncast 1.50-meter Championship Jumper Classic with her mount Victory DA. It was a day the young rider will surely never forget.
Victory DA got to stand in for Acorte's winning presentation earlier in the day and took her second victory gallop of the day for the Suncast 1.50-meter class. "She is much calmer than the other one, so she did the first presentation, and then I think she wanted her own," Coulter laughed after her win.
See Coulter talk about her big day...
The $280,000 Adequan® Grand Prix was postponed to Sunday morning due to bad weather on Saturday night, but saw an exciting class with 44 starters and a five-horse jump-off.
Coulter and Copernicus Stables LLC's Acorte posted the first clear round of the jump-off in what would prove to be the winning time of 40.51 seconds. Maher and Jane Clark's Cella did their best, but finished third with their clear round in 41.31 seconds. Brianne Goutal and Remarkable Farms LP's Nice de Prissey incurred 4 faults in 41.93 seconds to place fourth. Scott Brash and Ursula XII, owned by Lord and Lady Harris and Lord and Lady Kirkham, also tried to catch Coulter's time but settled for second in 41.10 seconds. Coulter's winning mount, Acorte, is an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare by Acorado x Stakkato. The mare previously showed successfully with German rider Rolf Moormann and began competing with Coulter this fall. Sunday's win was Coulter's best finish with Acorte as well as the biggest win of the young rider's career.
With Acorte, Coulter finished fifth two weeks ago in the $370,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W, which saw an exciting one-two finish for Maher and Brash. This time, the rider from California stepped up for the win with the help of her trainers, Markus Beerbaum and Meredith Michaels Beerbaum of Germany.
"It was exciting for sure. I wasn't really expecting it," Coulter said of her win. "I was just happy to be in the ring with Scott and Ben and competing, and I'm so fortunate to have the horse I have and such incredible trainers in Meredith and Markus, so I'm just happy to be here."
Coming out of the ring, Coulter was not sure if she had done enough to win, but all she could do was wait. "I hoped the time was good enough, but knowing they were coming after me, I would have been happy with second or third. I went for it and I went as fast as I could and my horse is fast, so I was hoping to win, and it worked out today.
"She's incredible," Coulter said of Acorte. "She's a little feisty, but she has the biggest heart and she tries so hard every time she goes in the ring. I feel so lucky to have her. She's really scopey and really careful. When we first got here I think she was a little shy, but we spoiled her. She really likes cookies, and we give her a lot of attention."
In addition to winning top prize in Sunday's grand prix, Coulter was named the Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider for FTI WEF Week 7.
Coulter thanked her trainers for their support. "It is incredible training with them," she acknowledged. "They are so supportive. Markus just jumped up and down when I won! They are always there for you, but they also trust that you know what you're doing, so it's like a nice discussion back and forth, which I really enjoy. Training with Meredith is awesome. She is obviously an incredible rider, so it's really fun just being around them every day at the barn."
World No. 1 Brash, relegated to second place, gave credit to Coulter's great ride.
"Audrey did an absolutely fantastic job today, and she thoroughly deserves it," Brash acknowledged. "She was very, very fast. I watched her on the screen outside of the ring and it was a perfect round and that horse is a very fast horse. Then I watched Ben go, and it was a tough class. It was fast and it was all set distances. I actually tried to go one less stride after the white oxer, but I had a bit of a stumble so I had to do it in eight [strides]. I was very pleased with my horse. She has been so consistent throughout the tour, and this is actually her last class [in Wellington]. She goes home soon, so I'm happy it finished off on a good note."
Maher also admitted that his round was just not fast enough to beat Coulter's time and congratulated the rider on her victory. "Cella again was incredible today, and it's a nice change to jump during the day," Maher noted. "I just didn't have the jump-off I really wanted. It wasn't smooth. It was kind of one of those rounds where I wanted to, but couldn't get going. It was as fast as I could go, and Audrey was way too fast, and I knew it would not be possible to catch her.
"She is just coming up to these ranks and I wish I had been doing this well when I was 21," Maher said of Coulter's success.
Coulter will compete during FTI WEF weeks 9 and 12 and then returns to school for the spring. She then has a job lined up for the summer and will not be able to ride. Her horses will travel to Europe with the Beerbaums after a little time off and will continue to stay in shape and jumping until their rider returns. Coulter hopes to start riding again in August to gear up for next season and then has goals of competing at the 2015 FEI World Cup Finals.
Final Results: $280,000 Adequan® Grand Prix CSI 4*
1. ACORTE: 2003 Hanoverian mare by Acorado x Stakkato, AUDREY COULTER (USA), Copernicus Stables LLC: 0/0/40.51
2. URSULA XII: 2001 Scottish Sport Horse mare by Ahorn x Papageno, SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Lady Harris & Lady Kirkham: 0/0/41.10
3. CELLA: 2002 BWP mare by Cento x Chin Chin, BEN MAHER (GBR) Jane F. Clark: 0/0/41.31
4. NICE DE PRISSEY: 2001 Selle Francais stallion by Rosire x Amarpour, BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/4/41.93
5. CARISMA: 2002 Danish Warmblood mare by Willemoes x Racot, DANIELLE GOLDSTEIN (ISR), Israeli Equestrian Partners: 0/4/45.14
6. BONANZA VAN PAEMEL: 2001 BWP gelding by Darco x Sheyenne de Baugy, CATHERINE PASMORE (USA), Pasmore Stables LLC: 1/80.23
7. WILLOW: 2003 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Little Rock, KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Amalaya Investments: 4/72.41
8. QUALITY GIRL: 2003 Oldenburg mare by Quidam's Rubin x Dobrock, TODD MINIKUS (USA), Quality Group: 4/73.92
9. CADE DE GULDENBOOM: 2002 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Heartbreaker x Darco, ABIGAIL MCARDLE (USA), David McArdle: 4/74.79
10. BÖCKMANNS LAZIO: 2000 Westphalian stallion by Lancer II x Cor de la Bryere, LAUREN HOUGH (USA), Karina Rotenberg: 4/74.89
10. MAKAVOY: 2003 KWPN gelding by Hors La Loi II x Ahorn, BEN ASSELIN (CAN), Attache Stables: 4/74.89
12. CORNET D'AMOUR: 2003 Westphalian gelding by Cornet Obolensky x Damiani, DANIEL DEUSSER (GER), Stephex Stables: 4/75.32