Wellington, FL – February 26, 2013 – The Ridge at Wellington’s $175,000 1.40m Invitational Grand Prix Series has quickly established itself as a key addition to the winter show jumping circuit in Wellington. In its debut season, the series of weekly $15,000 Grand Prix classes has exceeded its organizers’ expectations, drawing praise from the numerous top riders who have come out to compete.
Organizers Nona Garson and George D’Ambrosio have put every detail in place to give both horses and riders a quality competition and training experience. The classes are run on an open in-gate basis from approximately 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays throughout the show season, allowing busy riders to compete at the time that best suits their schedules.
“The format makes it very convenient,” Agatha D’Ambra, the fourth-place finisher in the Feb. 22 event at Mida Farm, said. “You can just come whenever is good for you, and it’s very relaxed. They’re very accommodating to let us fit into the rigid time schedule at the show grounds and then come here, take our time and go at our leisure.”
Riders see the series as a perfect opportunity for younger horses to gain experience and more seasoned horses to get a change of pace. “I think that’s part of what they had in mind when they started this,” D’Ambra said. “You get exposure in the Grand Prix, but it’s not 1.60m under the lights with fire breathers and jugglers and clowns dancing around you. It’s very relaxed and peaceful over here.”
“It’s nice if you have a young horse or one that needs to get experience,” she continued, “or even an older one that you just want to give a break from the show ring. You can go somewhere new and get their attention again.”
|Matthias Hollberg and Orphan Car soar to victory in the Feb. 22 edition of The Ridge at Wellington Grand Prix series, held at Mida Farm|
Lauren Crooks, who made her series debut in the Feb. 22 class, echoed D’Ambra’s thoughts. “It’s refreshing,” she said. “The horses don’t get stale. Sometimes, competing in the same ring with the same jumps, it’s hard to keep it exciting. Coming out into a new facility is really beneficial for both the horses’ minds and our minds. It’s good to change it up and keep it interesting.”
Nicole Simpson also tested out the series for the first time on Feb. 22, bringing two horses to give them a change of venue. “It was nice to come and just do something different,” she commented. “It’s low key, beautiful and the jumps are great. It’s nice to have available, for sure.”
|Andres Rodriguez, a multiple winner in the series, and Aberdeen 33|
As the series has grown in popularity, owners of some of the best equestrian venues in Wellington have become interested in hosting classes. Victoria McCullough opened the doors of Mida Farm to host several events in the series, giving riders the opportunity to compete on the grass on the magnificent Tops Field. The Grand Prix will return to the beautiful grass footing this Friday, Feb. 29.
“It’s really fun,” McCullough said. “If my field could hold up, I would do one every day and let everyone play the whole season long. The beauty of this event is that everyone has time to speak to each other, and everyone has time to enjoy their horses. I love being able to share it with more and more people.”
Competitors such as Peter Leone have appreciated the chance to ride on Tops Field. “I think the partnership between the Ridge and Mida Farm and Tops Field is one of the best things that’s happened for show jumping in Wellington, period,” Leone said. “To be able to come to this beautiful field over a Ridge Grand Prix with top course designers and top footing is a wonderful experience for our horses and our riders, and I hope that it’s able to continue.”
|Agatha D’Ambra and Airbus jump to fourth place on Feb. 22|
The opportunity to compete under conditions similar to top national and international events have attracted riders who have their sights set on those shows. “For the Hamptons, for Old Salem, this series is excellent preparation,” Joe Sorce, a two-time competitor in the series, pointed out. “We go to Spruce Meadows in the summer, so it’s good preparation for that, especially when it’s on the grass.”
Riders enjoy the exceptional course design, first-rate footing and generous prizes that have become the hallmarks of The Ridge’s Grand Prix series. Top course designers such as David Ballard, Conrad Homfeld,Pierre Jolicoeur and Eric Hasbrouck have created fair courses that provide a good challenge. The series offers generous cash prizes, and the rider who racks up the most points during the season will be awarded with the Leading Rider Bonus, currently led by Andres Rodriguez. The March 23 season finale features a $24,750 purse, an unheard-of amount for a Level II Jumper class.
“These have been excellent to go in,” Sorce said. “It gives you a great feel to jump around a real course, and the course design is excellent.”
“The jumps are beautiful,” Sorce added. “It’s a nice relaxed atmosphere. And it’s a competitive class. It’s not like you’re just going in and doing a schooling round. So it’s been really a lot of fun. I think it’s good for the horses, especially for some of the young horses, to come in and get experience.”
D’Ambrosio concluded, “Really what we are doing is a need. Our focus is to develop our riders and develop our horses. It’s an investment on our end to do that, and that’s something we’re willing to do. Our goal is to have better riders, better horses, better conditions, better everything. We’re just trying to set some nice standards – a European standard of what show jumping really is.”