Rodrigo Pessoa and Rufus Win $60,000 Grand Prix in Wellington
WELLINGTON, FL, Feb. 10 -
Olympic Champion Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil rode Rufus to victory in the $60,000 Spy Coast Farm Grand Prix on Sunday, February 10, during week four of the 12-week CN Winter Equestrian Festival, presented by Zimmerman Advertising, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
A total of 48 horses attempted the track set by 2008 Olympic co-course designer Steve Stephens of Palmetto, Fla., with 14 successfully solving the test to advance to the jump-off. While there was no water jump included on the course, the majority of the fences were set at a height of 1.60m with a wall at fence five and the triple combination of vertical-oxer-oxer at fence nine both causing their fair share of problems.
As the third rider to return for the jump-off, Pessoa was the first to turn in a double clear performance, tightening every turn and stopping the clock at 35.60 seconds. Chris Kappler of Pittstown, N.J., was the next rider to jump double clear and with his time of 35.61 seconds, came heartbreakingly close to taking the lead with VDL Oranta.
Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, N.Y., and Iron Spring Farm’s Dutch Warmblood stallion Judgement had the time with 35.22 seconds, but a rail down would eventually place them sixth. James Benedetto was clear with Kannan Gigi Z, but his time of 36.83 was off the pace, as was Anne Kursinski’s who had a clear but wild ride aboard Samara to stop the clock at 38.10 seconds. Eight-time Olympian Ian Millar turned in the fastest jump-off time of the day with 35.02 seconds riding In Style, but a rail down would leave the Canadian challenger in fifth place overall in the final standings.
Despite being only the third rider in the 14-horse jump-off, Pessoa rode off with the victory as well as an $18,000 pay check for owner Double H Farm.
“It is never great to come in the beginning, but when you nail it down and have others chase you, it is not so bad. If you go early and get everything nice and tight, you can make them have rails down,” said Pessoa, 35, whose long list of accomplishments includes three World Cup Final victories, as well the Olympic and World Championship titles.
Double H Farm purchased Rufus for Pessoa one year ago, and the pair began showing last year at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival in the 1.40m division. Since then, their successful partnership has produced Team Gold and Individual Silver medals at the 2007 Pan American Games held in Pessoa’s home country of Brazil. He is now aiming Rufus for the 2008 World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, as well as the Olympic Games in Hong Kong.
“He really wants to do it, he’s a fighter,” said Pessoa of the 10-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding. “He always tries. Outside in the warm-up he is spooky and not concentrated, but he is very serious in the ring.”
Kappler, who won the Individual Silver Medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, again found himself behind Pessoa by the smallest of margins.
“I was a little slow to the first, but she did everything I asked of her,” said Kappler of the 12-year-old grey Dutch Warmblood mare sired by Indorado and owned by M & K Oranta LLC. “This is only her second real Sunday back in more than a year, so I am thrilled with her.”
The $60,000 Spy Coast Farm Grand Prix concluded the CSI3* Spy Coast Farm Week Four of the CN Winter Equestrian Festival, presented by Zimmerman Advertising. Week Five opens Wednesday, February 13, and features the $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series Round IV on Thursday and Sunday’s $60,000 CSI3* Grand Prix. Two-time Olympic course designer Olaf Petersen of Germany will have course designing duties in the International Arena.
Results of Class 101 - $60,000 Spy Coast Farm Wellington Cup CSI*
1 - 261 RUFUS
RODRIGO PESSOA BRA 0.00 85.58 0.00 35.60 DOUBLE H FARM
The 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival attracts the best horses and riders from around the world to Wellington and offers more than $5 million in prize money. For more information, visit www.equestriansport.com