April 16, 2008

Laura Kraut and Anthem were presented the Charlotte Bobcats Cup from Robert Johnson for winning the $500,000 Grand Prix of Charlotte.
© 2008 Kent Smith Photography

In some of the most exciting show jumping action that the United States has seen, it was Laura Kraut of Wellington, Florida, and Anthem who stayed clear through three rounds to win the $500,000 Grand Prix of Charlotte, CSI 5* for the Charlotte Bobcats Cup at the weekend.

Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa and Rufus finished second, while Chris Kappler of New Jersey was third on VDL Oranta. Ben Maher of Great Britain with Rolette rounded out the group that competed in the jump-off and finished in fourth place.

The courses were designed by Steve Stephens. In the first round of 38 entries, it took 15 trips until the great crowd at the Time Warner Cable Arena saw a clear trip. Earlier, Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Hickstead were clear, but they accrued one time fault. Pessoa and Rufus, owned by Double H Farm, were the first completely clear round. Nine other riders would join Pessoa to come back for the second round. In the first round, there were nine riders with just four faults.

Pessoa was the first to return for the second round, and the course consisted of 10 jumps, including a triple combination in a bending line to the final oxer, which was set by the in-gate. Pessoa had trouble fitting in the five strides to the final jump, and when Rufus took off, Pessoa threw his hands to give Rufus as much as help as he could. Rufus gave a great effort and cleared the final jump to become the first double clear entry.

Georgina Bloomberg and Gotham Enterprizes' Curius were next in to contest in the second round. They had a great round going until the final jump, where they had a rail for four faults. They also had one time fault to finish with five total faults in 65.16 seconds. Eduardo Salas Herrera (MEX) and RMW Estina, owned by Rocky Mountain Warmbloods, were unable to go double clear when they had a rail at fence 9b of the triple combination. They finished with four faults total.

Kraut and Anthem, owned by the Summit Syndicate, were up next in the second round. They put in an easy trip to secure a jump-off when they went double clear.

Christine McCrea and Vegas, owned by Candy Tribble, had a rail at jump 2 to finish with four faults total. Next in was Chris Kappler with VDL Oranta, and with his second clear round, the crowd was assured of an exciting jump-off.

Richard Spooner and Show Jumping Syndicate's Cristallo were unable to stay clear, pulling a rail at fence 9b to finish with four faults, and the same happened to Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner's Authentic, who knocked a rail at fence 5a. The last horse in the ring was Rolette, owned by Mr. D Paul and ridden by Ben Maher. The pair found the key to a second clear round and advanced to the jump-off.

Pessoa had the difficult task of being the first back for the jump-off as well. He and Rufus were great to the first and second jumps, and when he landed easily from the oxer, Pessoa made a split second decision to go inside the pillars that were set approximately six feet away from the jump he had just landed from. Rufus made the turn and had only a few strides to get to the next vertical. He made it clear through the one stride and made the right hand rollback to the next oxer, then continued through the long run down the ring to the final oxer. Rufus finished with no faults in a time of 36.74 seconds to start the jump-off with a bang.

2000 Olympic rider Kraut and Anthem, a 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, followed Pessoa. Kraut did not make the same difficult turn after the second jump, but instead went around the pillars quickly. They stayed to the right of the oxer on their way to the one stride, and after the fifth jump, Anthem dug in through the turn as Kraut pulled through the short rollback. Kraut positively galloped flat out to the final oxer and left long to the last jump. Anthem soared over the final oxer and to the screams of the crowd, stopped the timers in 34.83 seconds to take the lead.

Afterward, Kraut pointed out, "I'm just lucky because he's fast. He has so much experience that he's helpful in the jump-off."

2004 Olympic team gold medalist Chris Kappler and VDL Oranta were quick and neat through the turns of the jump-off, and the grey mare jumped brilliantly throughout. Kappler took a more controlled pace to the final fence and finished in 36.84 seconds with a third clean round, and he finished in third place.

The final one in was Maher and Rolette. Their turns looked to be a bit slower, but they finished in a speedy time of 35.48 seconds. The time was not enough to win however, because they had a rail at jump 5 and finished with four faults.