Harrisburg, Pa.—Oct. 18
Beat Mändli is new to the American show jumping scene this year, but he’s making a loud entrance. On the two-time Olympian’s first trip to Harrisburg, he took the top call in the $85,000 Grand Prix de Penn National, the open jumper speed championship two days prior, scooping up the leading rider award to boot, with Antares F, competitor McLain Ward’s 2012 Olympic Games mount.
“I don’t know who wanted to invite Beat; he could have stayed in Switzerland,” joked second-placed Todd Minikus, who narrowly missed out on the big title to the Swiss native. “Other than that, it was great!”
“Everything is a bit new here, but I have a great horse in Antares and he makes everything quite easy for me,” said Mändli. “The course was quite tough; it was a little tricky out of the turns, into the turns. But I think everybody’s happy—of course, especially me!”
Mändli moved to North Salem, N.Y., and took the ride on Katie Dinan’s Antares when he started working with Dinan in January. Dinan parted ways amicably with former trainer, Ward, last December, and since then Mändli has picked up top placings on both Antares and Dinan’s Super Trooper De Ness, beginning at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.).
Mändli, who’s competed in five FEI World Cup Championships—including a winning trip in 2007 when it was held in Las Vegas—and three World Equestrian Games on top of his two Olympics, competed in the Pennsylvania National’s feature class with Dinan’s goals in mind.
Dinan competed her longtime mount Nougat Du Vallet in Harrisburg, but had 12 jumping faults in the first round—the last of which occurred at 12AB, a daunting vertical to oxer two-stride combination heading home to the last fence that saw over half the field with a rail down.
Callan Solem was the first to test out the second track and took two rails down, then both Margie Engle on Indigo and Kevin Babington aboard Shorapur took down the third to last fence, leaving Mändli and Minikus to vie for the big check—and qualification for the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas.
Last up, Minikus and Quality girl dropped a rail at an oxer off a tight rollback, securing Mändli’s win. The first to go clear, Antares, a 14-year-old Württemberg, made the tight turns look so effortless that you wouldn’t guess Mändli had just partnered up with the grey gelding.
“I started playing around with him in Florida in January,” said Mändli, 45. “I really liked him quite quickly, and we found the key together. We work quite well.”
Course designer Michel Vaillancourt weighed in on the results; he acknowledged that challenging spreads came up quickly in the tight indoor arena, but was overall pleased that his first track yielded a five-horse jump-off out of 32 starters.
“At some point in time earlier in the competition, I thought I would get more clear than that,” Vaillancourt said. “The lines were technical, but nothing really rough, so I gave the opportunity to the horses to really use themselves well.”
Babington, third place, added: “There were a lot of questions but I thought there was a nice flow to the course tonight. Even though the jumps came up fast in the corners, all the related distances were nice to get to.”
To read more about the winners at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, check out the October 27 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse print magazine.