March 9—Wellington, Fla.
Daniel Deusser may have just arrived at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, but he didn’t do it quietly.
He made his first trip to Wellington in six years this season, arriving just in time for last week’s Nations Cup competition, where he promptly put in the only German double clear to help his team take bronze. And tonight he and that gray did it again, topping the $300,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W to earn the top check for Stephex Stables.
Deusser got it done with a Hail Mary distance to the second-last fence, then he kicked on to get out of the line in a stretching eight strides. He credited his horse’s exceptional technique for keeping the rails up, even with the distances got a bit long.
“You saw in the jump-off that the quality of the horses and riders was really good and really fast,” said Deusser, who is based in Belgium. “For me, there was no choice: I had to try it. I was lucky and it worked out today.”
Course designer Steve Stephens lay the gauntlet from the start with a maxed-out course for the very last East Coast World Cup Qualifier. Clear rounds were tough to come by for the first half, with rails coming all over the course—especially in big combinations. Candice King and Kismet 50 came close, but a single time fault kept them off the good list. Todd Minkus set the bar a few rounds later with a double clear performance on Quality Girl.
Two stars from last week’s Nations Cup competition, Kent Farrington (Uceko) and Reed Kessler (Cylana) advanced to Round 2, but rails kept them both out of the top placings. Ben Maher and Cella, one of his new rides from his new sponsor Jane Clark, found the first clear with amazingly tight turns, for an eventual second. That round sent his countryman Nick Skelton racing Big Star to try to catch him. Skelton couldn’t quite catch up, but he kept the rails up for fourth.
“We had the fastest horses in the jump-off,” said Alvaro "Doda" de Miranda, who finishedl third on AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno. “When I saw I was quicker than Big Star but closer than Ben I was happy—I wasn’t disappointed. Then when Daniel managed to do that, it was unbelievable. He deserved to be the big champion tonight.”
The class marks the final East Coast FEI World Cup Qualifier, but none of the top finishers are aiming for the Final, set to take place in Gothenburg, Sweden in April.
For lots more on the top finishers in the class, check out the March 25 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.