Barbançon and Buffini Best the Field in Double Grand Prix at 2023 Palm Beach Derby

Fri, 03/03/2023 - 00:39
2023 CDI-W Palm Beach Dressage Derby
Morgan Barbançon and Habana Libre A at the 2023 CDI-W Palm Beach Derby :: Photo © Astrid Appels

 - Text and Photos © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' eye-witness account and opinion about the competition).

The whirlwind dressage tour in Wellington, Florida, continues with the second back-to-back CDI competition at the 2023 Global Dressage Festival. After the CDIO Nations' Cup on the last weekend of February, dressage aficionados from across the world gather again for the Palm Beach dressage derby.

First established in 1983 the Palm Beach Dressage Derby is a staple show on the American dressage scene and celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend by hosting the final North American league World Cup qualified alongside the derby. 

Fifteen Grand Prix pairs signed up for the 3* Special tour, while thirteen are entered for the CDI-W, throwing down the gauntlet for a final slot for a North American league rider for the 2023 World Cup Finals in Omaha in April. With Steffen Peters and Alice Tarjan already safe of a ticket, the match is between Sarah Tubman and Anna Buffini with Charlotte Jorst playing an interesting role as well.

Barbançon Jumping the Puddle

The 2023 Global Dressage Festival is now in its third month and, so far, has been a total European affair with German Frederic Wandres and French Morgan Barbançon collecting the majority of trophies and blue ribbons.

Morgan and Habana Libre A
Barbançon, who rode for Spain in the 2012 Olympics in London before declaring for France, skipped last week's Nations Cup to jump  the Atlantic and ride  her number one Sir Donnerhall II at the CDI Doha in Qatar. Directly after the show she returned to Florida and threw herself back into the ring at the Derby with her three other horses, which she had flown over for the winter season, while "Sir D" is back home in Geneva, Switzerland. 

For the 3* Grand Prix Special tour, Morgan saddled her Paris Olympic hope, the 11-year old KWPN bred Habana Libre A (by Zizi Top x United), and achieved the winning score of 71.630%. Judges Kari McClain, William Warren, Clive Halsall, Katrina Wüst, and Elisabeth Max-Theurer had her between 69.565% and 73.587%. The liver chestnut has really muscled up well and is on great form in Florida. He is very consistent in the poll and steady in the contact, showed good half passes and solid passage work. The problem point today was the piaffe in which he backstepped in the first one and leaned too much on the forehand in the other two. The two tempi changes were lovely, especially those to the right, and the zig zag was very well ridden. 

“He is a truly lovely horse to ride because he is always willing to work,” Barbançon said after her test. “There’s not a day I take him out of the stable and feel like he doesn’t want to work. He is the best horse I’ve ever ridden and has all the makings of a top horse; every time in the ring he gets better and better. I thought our test today was quite good, but I still need to work on the piaffe for it to be more technically correct,” she added. “For me, the most important thing is to present my horses in the best way possible and have a nice, fault-free test. I don’t set goals for percentages, and I think if the score is the only thing you care about then you may not truly love the sport. I always feel that good scores will follow if I can make the horses their best.”

Young Guns and Routiniers

Codi Harrison on Katholt's Bossco
The 26-year old Codi Harrison and her long-time partner Katholt's Bossco were the runners-up. Bossco is a 16-year old Danish warmblood by Don Schufro x Michellino which Codi has been showing from young riders level through Under 25 into the senior division since 2016. Trained by Lars Petersen, the combinations showed wonderful passage work with a very good first piaffe in which the horse came up in the withers. Harrison did flex the horse (too) visibly left-right at times, but finished her test with a very nice final centerline. They posted a personal best of 70.413%

Routinier and 2012 U.S. Olympian Jan Ebeling presented a brand new horse, Jubi's Tenacity. The 13-year old Danish warmblood by Temptation x Don Schufro, owned by Ann Romney, competed for Denmark at the 2017 World Young Horse Championships and finished 13th in the 7-year old finals under Louise Lind. With Ebeling, the black gelding made his CDI debut in January. The horse has a nice piaffe-passage with a good ability to sit. There was a mistake in the two tempi changes and the downwards transition to trot had a bobble. The horse is very talented and with the rider sitting a bit lighter and more still in the saddle, there is a lot of room for growth in the scores. Today they posted 69.109% for third place. 

Ones to Watch

Julio Mendoza on Baylen Dream TWF
The 3* Grand Prix presented plenty of interesting pairs, with Ecuadorean Julio Mendoza riding the interesting 13-year old Oldenburg bred Baylen Dream TWF (by Benetton Dream x Routinier). The liver chestnut showed a lovely piaffe, but could have been more engaged from behind in the passage. They got 68.370%

U.S. team rider Katie Duerhammer was back with the 12-year old Westfalian Paxton (by Dante Weltino x Don Marco) and showed nice soft footed trotwork with sweeping half passes. In canter they got a bit into trouble in the tempi changes but overall they were a pleasant pair to watch with a soft and friendly aura. THey scored 67.674%

Korean Dong Seon Kim had his second try on Henri Ruoste's 2019 European Championship sensation Rossetti, a 15-year old Danish gelding by Romanov x Midt-West Ibi Light. Having flown in Cathrine Dufour to coach him on the scene after last week's not so ideal high pressure show debut, the Korean was immediately reaping the fruits of a structured, quiet warm-up. Rossetti looked much more comfortable in his work and presented flashes of greatness in piaffe and passage. The two tempi's were the highlight. Overall the contact needs to be much lighter and off the curb. With more time, Kim will be able to clean-up the errors that crept into the test today. 65.913%.

Another lovely horse with potential was Allison Carmichael's Figaro, Flying Otter Farm's 13-year old KWPN gelding by Apache x Zichem. The horse presented an interesting piaffe-passage, but could be a bit quicker on the legs. He got 64.696% today. 

Buffini Best

Spectators got a full breakfast, brunch and lunch of Grand Prix pairs on Thursday 2 March 2023, the first day of competition at the Derby. 

Anna Buffini on Davinia la Douce
The CDI-W Grand Prix began at 11h30 and concluded round 14h00 with a lunch break in between. West coast rider Anna Buffini flew in her 16-year old Hanoverian mare Davinia la Douce (by Don Frederico x A Jungle Prince) and gave a taste of very nice riding. While the liver chestnut mare was visibly sweating in the hot Florida weather, she stayed focused on her rider and they painted an overall very pleasant picture. Smooth half passes, good trot extensions, straight two tempi changes and overall the very good seat and quiet hand position of the rider were the highpoints of the ride. Davinia does trail with the hindlegs in passage and today the piaffes stayed rather small but overall it was a correct and fluent ride, which judges Elisabeth Max-Theurer, Evi Eisenhardt, William Warren, Clive Halsall, and Katrina Wüst rewarded with a winning 72.500%.

“It was worth the trip, man,” said the San Diego, CA, based Buffini, who trains with Guenter Seidel. “It was always our plan to come out here but you never know how it’s going to go, so you have to do your best and leave it all out in the arena. It can be hard to make the trip and acclimate them in time for the first show, but she just nailed it today; I was so proud of her.

The coast-to-coast road trip is part of Buffini’s bid to get a spot at the 2023 World Cup™ Final, and she hopes her performance in the Friday Night Grand Prix Freestyle will be enough to get her there.

“The World Cup Finals race has been very difficult so we have to do everything we can tomorrow, but the Freestyle is our favourite so if we can go out there and do what we’ve done the past few times in California, it could be very competitive,” Buffini commented.

Look Who's Back

Chris von Martels on Eclips
Canadian Olympian Chris von Martels made his come back aboard his 14-year old KWPN bred Eclips (by Apache x Ferro) in Wellington in December after a 15 month break from international showing. Their last ride in Aachen took place in September 2021 and their come back was in December 2022. The Derby is their third international in three months time and with 70.174% they ended up second in the CDI-W Grand Prix. 

Eclips appeared a bit hyperactive with the hindlegs in the first passage but then settled into the piaffe. Overall the trot work could have been more off the ground, but the pirouettes were small. Von Martels trains with Ashley Holzer.

All Eyes On

The pair that brought the most spectators to its feet was Korean Dong Seon Kim and Bohemian, the 13-year old Westfalian (by Bordeaux x Samarant) which Cathrine Dufour rode to a fourth place at the 2021 Olympics and silver at the 2021 European Championships. Now sold and considered Kim's ticket to the Paris Olympics, the liver chestnut was supposed to make his CDI debut under the new rider last week, but they withdrew only minutes before their test.  Instead the pair showed the next day in the national Grand Prix "hors concours", which means that no official score was published. 

Dong Seon Kim on Bohemian
With Dufour in town to expertly guide the Korean on his new ride, the combination looked more a duo. The tall Kim fits well on Bohemian but could sit more centered and straight on the horse. His right shoulder seems a bit rigid and this led to a half pass right barely shown. The one to the left was far better. Also in the tempi changes the horse swings the hindquarters more to the left than usual and creeps behind the vertical with a curb contact that gradually got stronger. Despite these issues, there were many lovely moments. The trot work was elegant and lightfooted and the first piaffe-passage was the best one with flawless transitions in and out of piaffe. The extended walk had good rhythm, the second pi-pa had nice activity but there was a bobble in the canter strike off and mistakes in the two tempi changes. The right pirouette was the best one. Bohemian got very hot in the final passage, which made him go wide behind, but the final passage after the piaffe at X was great. They scored 68.435% for third place with marks going from 65.870% to 69.674%

Quick Notes

Morgan Barbançon rode two horses in the CDI-W Grand Prix. With the 16-year old Bolero (by Johnson x Vincent) she was fourth on 68.326% and with the 12-year old Westfalian Deodoro (by Damon Hill x Lauries Crusador xx) she was fifth on 68.218%. Deodoro is her least experience horse. The chestnut is a very elegant, lightfooted mover with a very good, clear extended walk, but he still gets wide in the piaffe and needs to be more engaged from behind in passage. More to come in the future. Barbançon trains in Europe with Gareth Hughes, but this week Dieter Laugks has been helping her out in Wellington.

Sarah Tubman on First Apple
In an interview with Dressage-News, Charlotte Jorst has hinted at retiring her 20-year old KWPN stallion Nintendo (by Negro x Monaco) from sport at the end of the 2023 Global Dressage Festival in March. The stallion is such a steady eddy with a lovely, regular passage, but he hurried in the trot extensions and did not look as spritely on his feet as before. He got 67.239% for 6th place.

Sarah Tubman and Summit Farm's 13-year old KWPN bred First Apple (by Vivaldi x Partout) faced some issues in the second piaffe in which the tall gelding resisted . That made her drop from a 72% score to a 62%. With quality work shown in the canter (an especially good extended canter) they pulled that mark up to 66.413%. 

Canadian Camille Carier Bergeron rode some of the best two tempi changes of the day on the 15-year old Westfalian Sound of Silence (by San Amour x Limes). They got  64.674% and a personal best score. By the way, did I mention that in Europe there is the running joke that the Global Dressage Festival should be renamed the "Personal Best Festival"?

Thai Suphakamol "Pammy" Vuntanadit continues to write history for Thailand as its first rider competing at international Grand Prix level. Her partner is the 15-year old KWPN bred Dreamboat (by Voice x Metall) which was produced to GP level in Spain.


Julio Mendoza on Jewel's Goldstrike
We already knew he was the one to watch in 2022 and this year, the Tryon (USA) based Ecuadorean Julio Mendoza, confirmed our thoughts: his horse Jewel's Goldstrike is one of the most sensational rising Grand Prix horses on the planet at this moment! Bred in a pairing that no-one would ever imagine a succes - Bretton Woods x Scandic (!?) - the 12-year old Goldstrike was discovered by American based Dutch Eliane Cordia-van Reesema (hence the Jewel prefix) as a youngster and produced to Grand Prix level by Mendoza. 

The horse has a mega piaffe-passage and is so expressive in his work. He showed even half passes, and a well executed zig zag. In the extended walk the overtrack was good, but he could stride more out of the shoulder, in the pirouettes he can stay small but lacks some lift in the forehand and at times got a bit crooked in the body, but this horse could be a medal contender if he can continue this amazing development upwards. He scored 74% something, but unfortunately got eliminated at the tack check as the skin got knicked by the spur. Pity. 

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Related Link
Scores: 2023 Palm Beach Dressage Derby
Eurodressage covers the Derby for the first time: Hot Dressage at 2000 Palm Beach Dressage Derby