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Fellers Takes Las Vegas Grand Prix

Over 7,000 spectators were in attendance to watch the show, beginning with the Las Vegas Grand Prix, a separate competition on the off day for the horses and riders competing in the World Cup Final.

Twenty-one riders faced the course, including several World Cup riders who rode a second horse or decided to opt out of tomorrow’s leg of the Final. Course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio presented yet another great course, proving to be challenging in both scope and timing. Exceeding the 84-second time allowed ended up as the only fault for two riders.

The large liverpool at the end of the bending line from three to four was the first real challenge on course. It was followed by a tough roll-back to the Las Vegas vertical at fence five, in a forward bending six strides to the next test, the triple combination. The wide oxer in the middle of the vertical-oxer-vertical triple proved to be the biggest challenge, nearly a third of the riders had it down.

It wasn’t until the seventh ride, USA’s Michelle Spadone and Melisimo, that we saw the fences stay intact—but her time of 85.08 gave her a time fault and left her out of the jump-off. Two rides later, the youngest rider in the competition was the first to enter the jump-off. Nineteen-year-old Laura Teodori of Scottsdale piloted Kasoar D’Uxelles around the course clean and within time. Sacramento, California resident Jill Humphrey nearly joined her with Kaskaya, but finishing in 85.28—she joined Spadone with just a single time fault.

Four more riders managed to jump around fault-free within the time allowed: HRH Prince Abdullah Al-Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aboard Mobily Ashkur Allah Obelix (36th last night), Geir Gulliksen of Norway on Sundal Colliers Cattani (30th last night), USA’s Rich Fellers with his second horse, Kilkenny Rindo, and Gerco Schroder of Netherlands on Eurocommerce Seattle.

When the course was reset for the jump-off, it included the already difficult roll back from the liverpool to the tall Las Vegas vertical direct to the ‘B’ and ‘C’ of the triple, now a double. Teodori was first to make her attempt, but dropping a rail first at the Las Vegas vertical and 6b left room for others to go clean. Al-Saud was next, putting in a clear round at 38.61. Gulliksen had trouble in the same spots as Teodori, knocking down nearly the whole fence at three.

Fellers entered the arena to a roar of applause and cheers, ready to challenge Al-Saud. He rode a breathtaking round, cutting corners and taking the fences at daring angles. The energy from the audience increased with each effort. Every rail was in place when he crossed the timers in 36.83, an impressive 1.78 seconds ahead of the previous leader.

Schroder made a valiant effort to catch up. His fate was sealed, however, when he dropped a rail at the second fence, and his best shot was to go for third place. He managed it, ending in 37.53.

In the end, Fellers received $22,500 for first place, Al-Saud $16,500 for second, and Schroder received $11,250 for third. The remainder of the $75,000 purse was split among the rest of the top eight.

When asked at a press conference about whether he thought this win was an omen for tomorrow, Fellers responded, “Confidence plays a big part for any athlete, so today’s win is a great boost.” As for the course, he said, “I thought it was a great course. It had a lot of variety, which makes it interesting for the crowd and challenging for the riders. Anthony is one of my favorite course designers.” He also commented that Rindo just started jumping at this level in November. As for Sunday, Fellers said, “I think it’s going to be very, very tough. Big and technical.”

 

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