British rider on a mission beat 88 others to win at the Winter Equestrian Festival

  • From the outset, Britain’s Matt Sampson and Curraghgraigue Obos Flight looked like they were on a mission as they took the first fence of the jump-off at the Winter Equestrian Festival with conviction. In the largest class of the day, 89 competitors vied for the $37,000 grand prix qualifier CSI2*. Matt landed victory by thirteen-hundredths of a second, much to the delight and whistles of onlookers in the ring-side International Club. 

    “He is the type of horse that wants to win as much as I do,” said Matt. “He has had great rounds the rest of the season in some of the bigger five-star events, but today’s two-star was equally as difficult. Where I think the course suited us best was his smaller stride allowed us to be quick down several of the lines that other riders may have had to steady for.”

    Course designer Germany’s Olaf Petersen Jr. put together a test with a tight time allowed that whittled down the entries, with 12 riders incurring time faults, and another 13 out of the running with a single rail.

    “Today’s course was very difficult – you could tell that when you walked it,” said Matt.  “But with the amount of entries that there were, the course designer had a lot of decisions to make. To me, it definitely rode more like a two-star grand prix than a qualifier.”

    Matt and the 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Curraghgraigue Obos Flight (Obos Quality 004 x Errigal Flight) have been a partnership for three years and competed successfully up to the five-star level. They have been shadowing victory at the Winter Equestrian Festival all season. 

    “With maybe just an unlucky rail keeping us from the top, he has had great rounds the rest of the season in some of the bigger five-star events,” said Matt. “But today’s two-star was equally as difficult.” 

    USA’s Caelinn Leahy and Coldplay 31 clocked in at 38.75 seconds just shy of Matt’s winning round of 38.62.

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