Martin Fuchs and Clooney Capture First Five-Star Grand Prix Win of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival
The first five-star competition of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) brought together top show jumpers to compete in the $391,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday, February 9, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. Martin Fuchs and Clooney 51, owned by Luigi Baleri, captured the first big win of the circuit.
Out of 40 entries in the grand prix, 18 were clear over the course designed by Kelvin Bywater of Great Britain. It was a footrace in the jump-off, with nine finding the path to double clear, but it would come down to who took the biggest chances to see who would stand atop the first five-star podium of the 2019 circuit.
Taking a gamble by leaving out a stride into the double combination and taking advantage of his horse’s giant stride, Fuchs and Clooney 51 made short work of the course, coming home in a time of 33.13 seconds. “I knew my horse is in great shape. He has been great in the outdoor season over the past few months,” said Fuchs of the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding. “He’s very experienced, so it was good for him to bring him straight out here under the lights. He still was a little surprised in the first round. He jumped very, very careful. I had to use more leg than usual.”
Fuchs noted that the jump-off course design suited Clooney. “I knew I could make a nice turn from one to two, take all the risks for the double, and then just use his big stride which he has and trust in his jump and his carefulness,” he said. “I’m very happy with this win. Honestly, I was pretty sure Kent was going to be faster because we all know he is one of the fastest riders in this circuit. Obviously, I’m happy that for once he didn’t beat me and also gave the little Swiss guy a chance to win here in America.”
Stalking the leading time as the last to go in the jump-off, Kent Farrington and Gazelle, a horse he owns with Robin Parsky, went all out, banking on Gazelle’s inherent speed for the win. It was not quite enough, as they finished in 33.57 seconds for second place. “His horse is exceptional in that it can leave out strides in lines that other horses can’t do,” Farrington said of Fuchs’ Clooney. “He left a stride out to the double, and I think he was the only person to do that successfully. I thought that was too much risk for my horse. She is extremely careful, and I thought that was too much risk that she might stop if I tried to go that far away so I tried to catch him with foot speed around the rest of the course, but we fell a little short today.”
Richie Moloney and Rocksy Music, owned by Equinimity LLC, put on the afterburners for the final three jumps on course, but it would not be quite enough as they finished in 34.42 seconds for third place.