German Philipp Weishaupt wins Winter Equestrian Festival debut

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WELLINGTON — Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt, making his Winter Equestrian Festival debut, stunned the field by winning the $406,000 Fidelity Investments CSI5 Grand Prix at the headline Saturday Night Lights event.

In front of a packed house at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, Weishaupt, 36, and Coby 8, the last to compete in the eight-rider jump-off, clocked the fastest clear round in 40.96 seconds. The pair dominated an impressive field of 39 riders, including Tokyo 2020 Olympic medalists Ben Maher, McLain Ward, Laura Kraut and Jessica Springsteen.

Weishaupt and his 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding pocketed $133,980 after earning their second five-star win in three months. The pair also won the SAOC $510,000 Riyadh CSI5 Grand Prix in December. It was the first of four five-star classes on the WEF circuit.

After clearing the final jump, Weishaupt glanced at the scoreboard, removed his helmet, and began celebrating around the ring.

“I know how fast my horse is, and after many years of experience I know how fast I have to go to beat the time,” Weishaupt said.

Daniel Deusser, 40, also German and ranked third in the world, was making his debut with his 14-year-old horse Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z, which won two Grand Prix last year and had just arrived 10 days ago. The pair looked like the team to beat with a nearly flawless shoot-off, taking all the risks with tight turns on the technical course until they dropped the last rail.

“I think we’re all very lucky that Daniel Deusser made the last jump because otherwise it would have been game over for all of us,” Weishaupt said.

Weishaupt quickly became a crowd favorite after his stunning victory in his first major Grand Prix of the season.

“Competing here is a bit like being at home in Europe,” Weishaupt said. “I feel like all my colleagues from there are also here now, and it’s certainly not easier to win here than at home.

“We saw incredible sport tonight, and the atmosphere here is breathtaking. You feel the whole crowd behind you, and what makes this crowd here special is that they are all very close to the horses. They shout sometimes, ‘Whoa, whoa’ because they see far before you even see it, so it’s fun to jump in here and have such a crowd behind you.

Irishman Conor Swail, 50, placed ninth in the world, and Count Me In was second in 41.42, to take home $81,200. His 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding suffered a slight stumble after a jump but recovered well.

“It was his first start in 2022 so I wasn’t sure if he was going straight into the five-star,” Swail said. “He jumped incredibly well, and as far as the jump-off goes, I think if I had to do it again, I would have done a better job. I’m delighted with the horse, and obviously it was a fantastic result. Kelvin [Bywater] built a pretty nice course today. He asked enough questions without making it super difficult.

American Brian Moggre, 20, and 16-year-old Oldenburg stallion Balou Du Reventon, the 2021 U.S. International Equestrian Horse of the Year, finished third in 41.58 and took home $60,900.

“What a great way to start the season for Balou as well as myself,” said Moggre. “It was our first five-star competition since last fall, so it really opened my eyes. As soon as I jumped the first jump, I kind of kicked into gear and was like, ‘Oh, here we are.’ ”

Defending champion Shane Sweetnam and Alejandro finished 25th with eight faults in 78.54 in the first round. Springsteen and Don Juan Van De Donkhoever had a clear opening run but had time faults to finish 11th in 82.99.

With a victory on Thursday and a top-10 finish in the Grand Prix, American Adrienne Sternlicht won the Martha W. Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award.

This weekend’s Saturday Night Lights event is the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular in the international arena. Doors open from 6:00 p.m. to March 12, and competition begins at 7:00 p.m. In addition, on Sundays, the Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix at $25,000 and the WEF 6 CSI 3 Grand Prix at 140,000 $ will take place at 9:00 a.m. on Stadium Derby Field.

Spectators are reminded to bring their face masks for use in all indoor spaces, including bathrooms, restaurants and closed commercial areas. Live streaming is also offered again this season on pbiec.coth.com.

General admission is free. Parking is $20 per car. The site is located at 3400 Equestrian Club Drive, just off South Shore and Pierson Road. For more information, call 561-793-5867.

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