History repeats itself at the Winter Equestrian Festival in five-star grand prix

  • Belgium’s Abdel Saïd repeated his victory from a year ago at the Winter Equestrian Festival, but this time with his own Arpege Du Ru winning the $406,000 grand prix CSI5* at Saturday Night Lights.

    “I had a time fault in the first five-star grand prix we did [at WEF],” said Abdel. “Tonight, I said, ‘I will not be too slow.’ I thought I might be too fast and have a rail, but the plan from the beginning was to go for it. I really wanted and needed that win for our whole team.”

    Forty-one entries representing 13 different nations took on the challenge of Alan Wade’s course, which for the first round included a triple bar and a triple combination early on in the course as well as an open water obstacle.

    “You try and imagine how it goes before they ride it,” Alan said of course designing. “I can’t control what happens after that. You try to be fair to the horses and hopefully everyone jumps safe and sound.”

    2020 Tokyo Olympic Games team silver medalists USA’s McLain Ward and Contagious, owned by Beechwood Stables, were first to go by the dictation of a random, unseeded draw. They jumped clear well within the time – a feat that may have lulled the rest of the class into a false sense of security, not so much the time, which proved fair, but the challenges set by the course, which saw 12 make it through to the jump-off.

    As the first of the 12 to return, McLain once again led the charge but an unfortunate miscommunication at a vertical left him and Contagious on a four-fault final score for sixth place. Abdel’s performance with Arpege Du Ru produced the first double-clear effort of the class and bumped the pair into the top spot with a time of 38.58 seconds. Abdel was determined to repeat his victory of the same class that he won during WEF 2021 aboard Bandit Savoie.

    “I’m really delighted with my mare because all season she has been developing,” said Abdel. “Every year we come to WEF, I find my horses develop further, and I’m thrilled it came together tonight. I really enjoy being here. I don’t think there are many better venues in the world, especially at the beginning of the year, to set your horses up so well.”

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