Wellington, Florida, USA – April 10, 2022 – The featured event of the first week of the ESP Spring Series took place on Saturday evening under the lights of the International Arena. In the final Saturday Night Lights event of the season, an international field of horses and riders vied for the lion’s share of the prize money in the $35,000 Wellington National Golf Club Grand Prix, but it was ultimately American rider Kaitlin Campbell (USA) and Palina de L’Escaut who edged out the competition and galloped away with the victory.
“I’ve had her for almost two years now. She was with Shane Sweetnam here in Wellington before, and this is actually her first time back in Wellington since she left. She’s always game, and really good under the lights,” Campbell shared of her mount, who is owned by SWS Training & Sales. “It makes her really pay attention and she loves the atmosphere, so this was a perfect class for her last hurrah. Since this is the last class she’s doing here, and she’s not jumping in the FEI classes next week, I wanted us to give it our all and go for it.”
In the first round, riders set out over a track that featured 13 jumping efforts designed by Catsy Cruz (MEX). The field was narrowed down to eight pairs as qualifiers for the jump-off over a shortened course. Ashley Fleischhacker (USA) and Lucky Luke De Goedereede were the trailblazers, setting the pace in a clear 45.21 seconds. However, their time in the lead was short as the next entry moved up to the top of the leaderboard. Gabriel de Matos Machado (BRA) and Bonza shaved more than two seconds off her time.
However, the lead would change three more times before Kaitlin Campbell (USA) and Palina de L’Escaut stepped into the ring to test the track as the second-to-last to go. Up against a leading time set by Olympic contenders, Darragh Kenny (IRL) and VDL Cartello, the pair put in a daring effort and cleared the course in 38.78 seconds, shaving enough time off the clock to top the leaderboard and win the class.
“I know this horse super well. I have had her for a long time, and I know that she’s pretty fast across the ground and turns really well. There weren’t a lot of lines where you could leave out strides, which is a good jump-off for her. She is better at turning than leaving strides out, so I knew I had a pretty good chance of winning. Darragh is always super fast, but my mare is very fast across the ground,” Campbell explained.
With a double-clear time of 39.32 seconds, Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Heathman Farm, LLC’s VDL Cartello nabbed the runner-up honors.
Matthew Williams (USA) and Dandy, owned by HD Horses LLC, rounded out the podium with their clear jump-off time of 41.48 seconds.
Although Campbell and her team will be leaving for California soon, she shared that her partner is looking forward to playing golf on Monday thanks to the free round of golf she was awarded by Wellington National Golf Club. “I’m not much of a golfer, but I work with Alex Wilson at SWS Training and Sales from California, and he’s annoyingly good at it! This was the first time we’ve ever come to Florida together, so he’ll enjoy golf on Monday, and it’ll be a great way to end our winter season here.”
As the grooms of the winning horse, Rosendo Cruz and Jose Peralta were the recipients of the Schneiders Groom Award for the $35,000 Wellington National Golf Club Grand Prix. Cruz, on behalf of both grooms, was presented with a bag of high-quality grooming supplies courtesy of Schneiders Tack.
Final Results – $35,000 Wellington National Golf Club Grand Prix
1) Kaitlin Campbell (USA) & Palina de L’Escaut – 0 / 0 – 38.783
2) Darragh Kenny (IRL) & VDL Cartello – 0 / 0 – 39.32
3) Mathew Williams (USA) & Dandy – 0 / 0 – 41.483
Source: Press Release from ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Sportot