| Special to The Post
WELLINGTON — Germany’s Daniel Deusser, after a four-year absence from the Winter Equestrian Festival, returned Sunday to win the $214,000 Marshall & Sterling Great American Insurance Group Grand Prix CSI4.
Deusser and his quick-footed 11-year-old Belgian warmblood mare Killer Queen VDM, won the 12-rider jump-off in 39.98 seconds to pocket $70,620, the largest payoff so far this season. They were the only team to crack 40 seconds.
“I’m very happy with Killer Queen today,” Deusser said. “She arrived two weeks ago. I took her to other places to work with her on the grass, and she took it very well this weekend.
“At the end she is just an unbelievable horse. She has all of the things that a good show jumper needs. She’s very scopey, careful, has a huge stride and can be fast easily.”
Deusser, ranked third in the world, took advantage of tight turns and opened up the reins to the final obstacle to clinch his first win of the season before a near-empty grass Derby Field at Equestrian Village because of pandemic protocols.
“I have to admit that I missed it a little bit,” Deusser said. “Everything around this facility is fantastic. There are fantastic rings here and the circumstances around the world are difficult right now, so we are very happy to be here and that we can compete here.”
Ashlee Bond of Israel and 10-year-old Westphalian gelding Donatello 141, finished second in 40.41 to win $42,800. It was the first time the pair competed in an FEI event since winning the CSI5 grand prix last year.
“My plan was just to run, kick as hard as I could and turn as fast as I could,” Bond said. “My horse is little. He doesn’t have a very big stride, but he is game, so I just took a chance and would have been happy wherever I ended up because he’s such a good boy.”
McLain Ward and his 12-year-old Rheinlander gelding Contagious were third with a clear round in 40.66 for $32,100.
“I was thrilled with Contagious,” said Ward, a two-time Olympic team gold medalist. “We gave him a bit of a rest in the fall. We’ve been building him back up and we’re thrilled with him.
“I thought he jumped really spectacular. I was a little chicken to the last fence in the jump-off, and I took away his wind a little bit.”
The opening round featured 45 riders from 12 countries competing over 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts. Twelve riders advanced into the jump-off with eight going clear.
After the class, Deusser was recognized with The Village of Wellington Cup, an award established in 1998 and presented annually by Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig to the winning rider of the WEF 4 grand prix.
Canadian Tiffany Foster, 36, earned the Martha Jolicoeur Leading Lady Rider Award. She had the most points of all female riders for the week.
This weekend, the featured event will be the Saturday Night Lights’ $401,000 FEI CSI5 Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix, the first five-star grand prix of the season. It gets underway at 7 p.m.
The equestrian competitions will remain closed to spectators but will be live streamed for free throughout the week at www.PBIEC.com.