Against a picturesque, California desert backdrop, the USA’s Ashlee Bond and Chela LS marked their official comeback to the top of world-class sport, claiming the victory with the only double clear in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal.
And while the slowly setting sun created the perfect golden haze for Bond’s return—from having her first child just four months ago—the challenging light could also be blamed for others’ course issues, including that of second-place finisher Audrey Coulter (USA) in the jump off. Shadows at the Longines oxer caused a miscommunication between Coulter and her horse Alex, forcing the fence down. The pair ended on four faults and a time of 45.29 seconds. Third place went to Lane Clark (USA) and Balu U with eight faults and a time of 40.10 seconds.
A technical course, designed by Brazil’s Marina Azevedo, met the day’s competitors. The first to go in the order, Bond showed the way without dropping a rail. She did originally accrue a single time penalty but soon after, the time allowed was extended from 75 seconds to 79.
In the four-man jump off, Bond once again rode first and delivered a smooth round that could not be caught. The California native’s performances aboard the chestnut mare reminded the crowd of their storied, longstanding record that includes a $1 Million Grand Prix win and a win in FEI Nations Cup™ competition in 2014.
“Chela was off for a year and a half with a staph infection in her hocks and just started coming back last August with my dad,” said Bond. “We both came back at the same time—it just worked out that way, luckily.
“I had a conversation with my dad and Richard Spooner before the jump off, and they both thought I should put in a nice, smooth round. I haven’t done so many jump offs lately so I just approached it with picking up a nice rhythm and being smooth.”
Other top West Coast names missed the final round with unlucky rails that dropped throughout the course. Field favorites Christian Heineking (GER), Eric Navet (FRA), and Jamie Barge (USA) earned four faults apiece. But arguably the most heartbreaking first round came from Mexico’s Daniel Pedraza, who missed advancing to the jump off by 1/100th of a second.
Following today’s event, Nayel Nassar (EGY) continues to hold the lead in the Western Sub-League standings. In the Eastern Sub-League, Kent Farrington (USA) is in the first position. The final event for the Eastern Sub-League will take place in Ocala, Florida on 12 March 2017.
Photo: Kristin Lee/FEI