Washington D.C. — Oct. 24
Last to go proved best during tonight’s $125,000 Longines Washington CSI-W at the Washington International Horse Show, with Dutch rider Harrie Smolders earning the top check aboard Emerald.
“The first time I was here was 10 years ago,” said Smolders. “I also won the grand prix. I’m pleased to be back and do it over again.”
Twenty-eight competitors competed for the President’s Cup trophy at the Verizon Center. Anthony D’Ambrosio’s track caused plenty of problems—especially through a tough combination set away from the in-gate against the rail—and Schuyler Riley, Daniel Bluman, and Kaitlin Campbell elected to retire on course.
“I think the field was strong this year,” said D’Ambrosio. “I’ve course designed here three out of the last four years. I’ve watched the field steadily strengthen.”
“There’s not an abundance of space obviously, the ring is quite narrow in relation to its length,” he continued. “It’s a particular type of ring and a little bit of a puzzle to get a grand prix or world cup qualifier in there. It keeps me on my toes, and it keeps the riders on their toes as well.”
The first four riders in the jump-off ticked rails trying to win, until Callan Solem found a clear way around on VDL Wizard.
“I was fortunate to have the counsel of McLain,” said Solem. “He said, ‘Callan you have to try to win. Harrie will be so fast.’ He encouraged me to do four in the first line. I really appreciated that encouragement. I’m going to these shows on my own, so I’m trying to find my way a little bit.”
Smolders shaved .11 seconds off Solem’s time for the win, with Nicola Philippaerts logging the fastest 4-fault jump-off for third.
“Callan did a super round. She put some pressure on so it wasn’t a present today,” said Smolders. “But on the other hand I knew what to do. Otherwise if there’s no one clear you have to decide what you’re going to do, but there was no choice; you had to go.”
Smolders has had Emerald, an 11-year-old Belgium Warmblood stallion, since he was 6.
“[Emerald has] always been fantastic with a lot of talent,” said Smolders. “This year he made his breakthrough. He was very consistent this year.
“Now he shows in the results that he’s in the best of his life,” he continued. “Now it’s time to win something.”
The pair will now travel to Lexington, Ky., to compete at the National Horse Show. Smolders has his eye on qualifying for the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup Finals in Sweden next year. The pair made the trip across the ocean from Axel Verlooy’s Euro-Horse worth it, and his fellow Dutchman Jos Verlooy rode to fourth place in the grand prix aboard his father Axel’s horse Sunshine.
Jos also took home prizes for leading international rider, open jumper champion, and under 25 champion, which came right after he won his first ever Puissance with Sunshine on Thursday night.
Solem is also thinking about the World Cup Finals with VDL Wizard. While she says the pair is a bit behind, they will focus the rest of the year on accumulating enough points to qualify.