Wellington, FL – March 11, 2017 – Karen Polle (JPN) and With Wings made it two-for-two during week nine at the 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL, with a victory in Saturday night’s $380,000 Douglas Elliman Grand Prix CSI 5*, presented by The Bainbridge Companies, after also topping Thursday’s $130,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup (the grand prix qualifier).
U.S. Olympian Margie Engle (USA) riding Royce, and Spanish Olympian Sergio Alvarez Moya aboard Charmeur, placed second and third respectively.
Alan Wade’s (IRL) course got the best of many on Saturday night, as only four out of 39 entries cleared the first round without fault. In the jump-off, Polle and her 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Larino x L. Ronald) were the only pair to complete a second clear track, racing through the timers in 42.42 seconds.
Engle and Gladewinds Partners’ Royce had one rail in the double combination and finished in 43.36 seconds. Moya and Charmeur dropped one rail at the final fence in the jump-off with a time of 43.81 seconds. Quentin Judge (USA) placed fourth, riding Double H Farm’s HH Conrad to 12 faults over the short course in 45.22 seconds.
Remarking on her win, 24-year-old Polle declared, “I feel disbelief first of all. It has not really sunk in yet. The week could not have gone any better. I won both my classes, and my horse jumped unbelievably all week, every jump. He really helped me out, and he felt great tonight, so I am really, really happy.”
Detailing her strategy for the jump-off, Polle stated, “My plan was just to go as fast as I could. There were only four, so I just wanted to go for it, because I was going to get a good ribbon either way. I just picked up a good gallop and tried to be as neat as I could.”
Saturday was Polle’s first time jumping clear, and her first time jumping off, in a Saturday Night Lights grand prix at WEF. She had the great confidence of a longtime partnership riding With Wings on her side.
“When I first got him, I did not know so much. I was still a junior, but I knew he was special,” Polle said of their seven-year partnership. “I really believed in him, and I did not ever feel like there was a jump that was too big for us, or a course that was too difficult for us. I am just really glad that we were able to win because I have always felt like he is a real winner.”
During their years together, Polle and With Wings have had the guidance of some of the biggest names in show jumping. Olympic team gold medalist and Rolex Grand Slam Champion Scott Brash (GBR), Olympian Mario Deslauriers (USA), ten-time Olympian Ian Millar (CAN), and Olympic silver and bronze medalist Paul Schockemöhle (GER) have all played a role in developing this young talent. On Saturday night, Polle was competing under the tutelage of Olympic Champion Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil.
“I have been really lucky to work with quite a few top professionals,” Polle acknowledged. “All of them have really helped me and Wings get to where we are now. I used little things that I have learned from all of them tonight to do the course, and to do the jump-off.
“I hope to win a lot more classes like this,” she added. “It is an unbelievable feeling, and this is why we do this – why we work so hard at home to then come here and be able to win a class like this. I hope I can continue to have many more of these moments and many more Saturday night grand prix wins.”
Engle was aboard her talented mount Royce for a second place finish on Saturday and was happy with her horse’s efforts.
“He has felt great all circuit,” Engle said of the 13-year-old Oldenburg stallion (Café au Lait x Grandilot). “Karen just was the one to beat this week. She was on fire. I was very happy with Royce. He has been riding very well. He jumped well on Thursday and then again tonight. I just jumped in a little big into the double (in the jump-off). He tried to get out of the way. I just needed to nip inside, but he felt great.”
Commenting on the evening’s course, Engle continued, “I thought it was tough enough. It was appropriate for a five-star event. There were a lot of technical questions. The course was long, and it was up and down. It was kind of nice to have only four in the jump-off. You knew that if you went clean, you were going to get a good piece of the prize money.”
Moya was riding a less experienced mount for the night’s competition with his ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Charmeur (Numero Uno x Gelha’s VDL Emilion).
“I am very happy the way he jumped today. It is his first big grand prix,” Moya noted. “He is pretty sensitive, and I was doubting actually until last night if I was going to ride him in the grand prix or not, but he is normally very brave. I was very happy when I saw there were only four in the jump-off. I knew they were fast, but I had to be a little careful at the number three. In the first round my horse did a little bit of a funny jump, and I did not want to scare him in the jump-off. I think the rest was good. He tried hard. He was very careful, and I am just very happy with him.
“I have had him since he was six,” Moya continued. “Last year he did a few bigger classes, but not like this, and for sure not under the lights and a five-star grand prix. I always believed a lot in him. I think he is a pretty special horse. He is just very sensitive and sharp, so I took it very slow with him. I definitely think he is the one I have to replace Carlo, which is not an easy job.”
Representing Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Don Langdon remarked on the evening’s competition and praised the riders on a great night of sport.
“First of all, congratulations to the top three – Margie, Sergio, and Karen,” Langdon stated. “It is great for me, who does not ride, to participate for the last 30 years and to see the growth of what has happened in this community. Mark (Bellissimo) has built this brand far greater than any sights that we had ever imagined. Douglas Elliman is the fourth largest real estate company in the country. We are a private company, which is great. This plays right into our brand. We like to patronize the people that also patronize our company, and obviously the equestrians have been an amazing role in our success in the Wellington area. We appreciate that.”
Equestrian Sport Productions CEO Mark Bellissimo wrapped a great night with his comments. He stated, “There were people years ago who said that we would never fill the seats when we built them, and I think the reality is that we are coming consistently every Saturday with pretty much a full house. I think it is a testament to the athletes here. People here are developing a following. I think the sport is really taking hold in this community, and hopefully, that is something that can be replicated in other markets. I want to thank Rolex first and foremost. These five-stars are very important to attract the talent that we have here. Rolex is the brand that has stepped up and really transformed this facility with very heavy investment, and allowed us to get to the four five-star events.
“I am really proud of the riders,” Bellissimo continued. “To see Karen and that smile; it is great when you see someone win something for the first time. This was the first time that a Japanese rider has won a five-star grand prix here. I was very happy to see the excitement of Karen’s win, and hopefully it is the first of many.”
As the grand prix winner, Polle was presented the Herman ‘Kappy’ Kaplan Perpetual Memorial Trophy. She was also given the Leading Lady Rider Award for week nine, presented by Martha Jolicoeur of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
Press release from Jennifer Wood Media Inc/Photo (c) Sportfot