Tag Archives: Ben Maher

Ben Maher and Don Vito Top $35,000 Hollow Creek Farm 1.50m Classic

Ben Maher and Don Vito. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – January 28, 2018 – The third week of the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) ended with a victory for Olympic team gold medalist Ben Maher (GBR) riding Don Vito in the $35,000 Hollow Creek Farm 1.50m Classic on Sunday to conclude Adequan® CSI3*.

Equestrian Sport Productions | 561-793-JUMP | news@equestriansport.com | www.PBIEC.com

Brilliant British Post Back-to-Back Win in Rome

(L to R) Michael Whitaker, Di Lampard Chef d’Equipe, Ben Maher, Jessica Mendoza and John Whitaker. (FEI/Stefano Secchi)

Rome (ITA), 27 May 2016 – Team Great Britain clinched the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping title for the second year in a row at Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA). And it was the genius of the legendary John Whitaker that sealed the result with a brilliant last-to-go run with Ornellaia. The 60-year-old rider is one of the best-loved characters in the sport, and could afford a single fence down in the second round. But true to form, he left all the poles in place to post one of four double-clears on a day of brilliant sport to secure the winning British total at just four faults.

The World and European champions from The Netherlands were firm favourites as the action began, but they disappeared from the reckoning with a disappointing second round and it was the French and Americans who eventually filled runner-up spot with 12 faults each. Germany slotted into fourth ahead of the The Netherlands in fifth while Canada lined up sixth ahead of Sweden and Italy who divided seventh place.

Pre-Olympic tension

The air at Piazza di Siena was filled with pre-Olympic tension and, from the outset, the British demonstrated their resolve. As defending Olympic champions they came up against teams they may well meet in Rio de Janeiro (BRA) in just over two months’ time, and the message was loud and clear. They were the only side to conclude the first round on a zero score as John Whitaker’s first fault-free effort was matched by Ben Maher with Tic Tac and Jessica Mendoza riding Spirit T.  Michael Whitaker, who along with his older brother was also a member of the winning team at Piazza di Siena 12 months ago, produced the first-round discount score with nine faults from Cassionato. But his foot-perfect second run would prove pivotal to the end result.

This was Great Britain’s eleventh victory at Piazza di Siena since the Nations Cup was first staged at the iconic venue in 1926 and, as Chef d’Equipe, Di Lampard, pointed out afterwards, Friday’s performances just make her selection decisions for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games all the more difficult. “But that’s OK,” she said. “It’s a really good problem to have!”

Wide open

As the second round began the competition was still wide open, with the Americans, Dutch, French and the host nation all stalking the leading British with just four faults on their respective score-cards. Sweden had already racked up eight faults while the Canadians and Germans had nine apiece, and with additional penalties none of these nations would feature prominently at the end of the day. One of the standout performances of the day, however, came from Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson and the very exciting 10-year-old mare H&M Cue Channa 42 who cruised around both rounds with the greatest of ease.

Despite a fabulous double-clear from Penelope Leprevost and Vagabond de la Pomme, the French lost their grip, and the Americans did likewise when also adding eight more faults even though their anchor partnership of McLain Ward and HH Azur were also foot-perfect for a second time. Italian chances were dashed with 20 faults to add to their tally, but the biggest surprise was the collapse of the Dutch whose pathfinder, World and European champion Jeroen Dubbeldam, added 16 faults to his first-round single error with SFN Zenith on a day his team will probably prefer to forget.

It was impossible to predict the outcome, however, when Ben Maher kicked off Britain’s second round with a mistake at the first element of the difficult double at fence eight as well as the last fence. Mendoza hit only the delicate vertical that followed the spooky hedge-filled oxer at fence five, but then Michael Whitaker began to pull it back with a great clear from the enigmatic Cassionato who was a lot more settled on his second tour of the arena.

This ensured that his brother had a fence in hand coming into the ring to bring the competition to a close. John said afterwards that it was less pressure than 12 months ago – “I didn’t have a fence in hand that day” – but he still had a job to do. And he did it in style, his clear round leaving his team two fences clear of the joint-runners-up from America and France.

Delighted

John was delighted with Ornellaia. “This was her first Nations Cup and she showed what she can do,” he said. He has already decided that his more familiar ride, the stallion Argento, won’t be going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. “Argento is a great horse; he’s a real fighter but he has his limits and I don’t want to push him beyond them. Ornellaia has done some good things already; she’s really careful and she’s the one for Rio if I am needed, and if I am asked to go. I’m definitely keen to go; the Olympics are the Olympics and there’s nothing like them; everyone feels that way, but I’m probably not in the top five (for selection) if Big Star (Nick Skelton) and Sanctos (Scott Brash) are ready,” he explained.

John reckons his brother Michael’s grey stallion also has great Olympic potential. “There’s nothing that horse can’t jump!” he said. Michael admitted that Cassionato was “a bit too fresh” in the first round – “He was jumping up so high, so in the second round I had to ask him to come back down!” he explained. Cassionato certainly seems to have a whole lot of fun every time he goes in the ring – “He’s a bit like a very naughty boy!” Michael said with a laugh.

It was John who was the hero of the day, however, and not for the first time in his life. This man whose career has embraced so many wonderful moments and so many great horses, including the legendary Milton and Ryan’s Son, said this evening that he continues to relish the fun and excitement every time he goes in the ring. “I don’t feel the pressure anymore; I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do so now I just go out and enjoy myself – I’ve got nothing to prove,” said the great horseman, who once again was filled with pride when sealing victory for his country.

That pride and passion precisely mirrors the unique spirit of the jewel in the crown of the FEI – the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup.

For further information on the ninth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2016 series Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA), visit www.piazzadisiena.org or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, press@equi-equipe.com, +39 335 6107070.

The next leg of the series will take place in St Gallen (SUI) on Friday 3 June. For information on the Swiss fixture, go to www.csio.ch or contact Press Officer Roman Gasser, roman.gasser@csio.ch, +41 79 635 50 05.

Full result here.

Quotes:

Show Director Eleonora Ottaviani: “What makes me really happy is that all the riders and the Chef d’equipes wanted to give priority to the Nations Cup this week, because this is our sport.”

Show President, Vittorio Orlandi: “I’m very glad that my two friends for many years, John and Michael (Whitaker), have won with their team. Congratulations to you and the young riders on your team; today’s competition was super-spectacular!”

FEI Jumping Director John Roche: “This was an outstanding performance by the British today. And the FEI is very proud to be connected with this event at this iconic location; long may it continue!”

Jessica Mendoza GBR: “This is my first time in Rome; the jumping was amazing and the course was great. I’ll be enjoying a few drinks with my team tonight!”

Ben Maher GBR: “I started riding Tic Tac in January in 1.40m classes and La Baule (in France, two weeks ago) was his first international show where we jumped 1.50m. I’m still getting to know him but he has a lot of experience and I’m looking forward to the future with him.”

For further information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series, check out this link.

By Louise Parkes

Media Contacts:

At Rome:

Caterina Vagnozzi
Press Officer
press@equi-equipe.com
+39 3356107070

At FEI:

Shannon Gibbons
Manager Press Relations
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Ben Maher and Sarena Triumph in $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*

Ben Maher and Sarena. Photos copyright Sportfot.

McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z Capture $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final; Shane Sweetnam Leads 2016 Series Overall

Wellington, FL – April 2, 2016 – Grand prix action at the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded with an exciting international showdown Saturday night as Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Jane Clark’s Sarena jumped to victory in the $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*. The finale grand prix for the winter circuit, Maher and Sarena topped a seven-horse jump-off, with McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur in second, and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Fibonacci 17 third.

Forty of the circuit’s best horses and riders representing 13 different countries jumped for the winter’s top prize competing under the lights in front of a packed house at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL. The star-studded competition concluded a fantastic 12-week circuit for the international show jumpers. The circuit wraps up on Sunday, April 3, with the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC.

The $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final was also held on Saturday with a win for McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z in an 18-horse jump-off, presented by SOVARO®. Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam earned the leading rider award for the 12-week series overall.

Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) set the courses in the International Ring at PBIEC for the final week of WEF competition. With 40 starters in the grand prix, D’Ambrosio’s first round course yielded seven clear for the jump-off, and only one clear over the short course for the win.

Chloe Reid (USA) and Codarco were the first combination to clear the course in round one, but opted not to continue on to the jump-off to automatically finish seventh. Yann Candele (CAN) and the Watermark Group’s First Choice 15 were then the first pair to jump the short course, finishing with 12 faults in 52.31 seconds to place sixth. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Stone Hill Farm’s Cynar Va jumped next, with eight faults in 48.69 seconds to finish fifth.

McLain Ward and HH Azur, owned by Double H Farm and Francois Mathy, jumped off next, finishing with a fast time in 46.10 seconds, but added an unfortunate four faults that left the pair in second place. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aimed for a safe clear round aboard Artemis Equestrian Farm’s Fibonacci 17, but also dropped a rail along the way, finishing third overall with her time of 51.41 seconds. Maher and Sarena followed, completing the only clear round over the second course for the win with a steady round in 53.72 seconds. Last to go, Todd Minikus (USA) and Two Swans Farm’s Babalou 41 had one rail down as well, finishing fourth with their time of 52.63.

Speaking of his winning mount, a ten-year-old Selle Francais mare (Calvaro Z x Damoiseau d’Or), Maher stated, “I have had Serena for just over a year now, and it has been a tough ride. She was a horse that was bought to jump these big classes, but she was young when we got her, and it really took a year to get to know her and for her to get to know me. It has been a lot of hard work and patience from Jane Clark, who supported me the whole way through last year, because I had a lot of disappointing rounds. I told her to stick with me, and we worked hard with the whole team at home. This is the first class she has won, but she picked the right time and I hope there will be many more.”

Maher spoke further about how he has gotten to know Sarena more over the last 12 weeks at WEF and really used the circuit to develop their partnership.

“We had a careful plan,” he explained. “She did not jump much since November and became pretty consistent over the last few grand prix. The worst she has had is one down since November. I found in the jump-offs, when I try to go quick, she starts to run backwards a little bit and it is not always a nice feeling. She has to get confident and get used to running and jumping.

“The course tonight, I thought she jumped the first round excellent,” Maher continued. “It was the first time under the lights for her, and she did not seem to be affected by that. It was a tough course, but the jump-off really played into my hands. Had McLain’s turn pulled off, and had Meredith left the jumps up, I do not know if I could have actually been quick enough to beat them, so I decided to play it a little safe and leave the jumps up. That is not my nature normally, but I think I played a smart game tonight and put the pressure on Todd. Fortunately for me, it worked out. It could have gone either way.”

The cards did not play in Ward’s favor this time around, but the rider was happy for Maher, and felt that HH Azur jumped two great rounds. The ten-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui) took a big win in week seven’s $380,000 Suncast® Grand Prix CSI 5*. Ward gave it everything in this week’s jump-off hoping for another victory, but one unlucky rail came down.

“We have been building up towards this trying to get her fit,” Ward noted. “Our plan was to try to not totally peak her, but pretty much peak her at this point and then drop back a little, have a little rest, and then aim for Rio. She felt another gear tonight and to be honest, with these guys coming behind me, I was not trying to leave anything on the table. I was kind of trying to put the knife in them. I think her pole was a little bit unlucky to be honest. I do not think she hit it very hard. I maybe started to press to the last line a touch early. The horse performed great, I was happy with the riding, and you have a great winner. Ben is a super, top, world-class rider, one of the best in the world. It is always nice to win, but you can live with being beat by a guy like this.”

Michaels-Beerbaum also thought Fibonacci 17 jumped great and just had an unlucky rail in the jump-off. The 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (For Feeling x Corland) finished the night in third place, and his rider was happy to be in the top three alongside Maher and Ward.

“Fibonacci was in great form tonight; he felt amazing, and he jumped two beautiful rounds,” Michaels-Beerbaum stated. “I did not actually expect to knock one down in the jump-off because he was jumping so well, so maybe I took that jump a little casually or underestimated it perhaps. I was delighted with him. I am very pleased to be in the top three. That is always where a rider would like to end up, and with these two in front of me, my Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker will read their names in Germany and know the class was really hard and good, so it works for me.”

Maher spoke of the night’s first round track, stating, “I thought it was a great course. For my horse in particular, it started a little bit bold. I knew the water to the double verticals was going to be a difficult ride. It did not feel so comfortable how I got that done, but I got it done. The last line, the horses were tired and it was a big oxer coming out. The Rolex oxer was wide at the end, and for sure a lot of hopes were dashed there. I thought there would be more clears actually. They all jumped well, but it is hard to jump double-clear in these grand prix.”

Ward added his thoughts on the course, stating, “I thought Anthony did a great job. He had the right number of clear, faults all over the place, and it was a very smooth course to ride. The water line was a little tricky, but I thought it gave the riders a fair chance, and was an excellent course.”

Commenting on the end to a fantastic evening, Equestrian Sport Productions’ CEO Mark Bellissimo added his final thoughts, stating, “I want to commend this group. It is such an international crowd with USA, Great Britain, and Germany represented with all world-class riders. It is exciting to see such great sport here and to end on a very high note. I am pleased that everyone was so spectacular in their performances this evening. I would also like to thank Rolex. This festival took a big transition a number of years ago when Rolex came on board, and it was a transition to four five-star [shows]. It was nice to finish this year on a great five-star and a great class.”

Along with the winner’s share of $165,000, Maher was presented the Dennis D. Dammerman Perpetual Trophy. The trophy was created to honor the contributions to equestrian sport of Dennis D. Dammerman, a longtime owner of horses and founding member of the Wellington Equestrian Partners.

Sarena’s groom, Tracey Edge, received the Groom’s Initiative Award presented by Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners, to reward her dedication and hard work as an integral member of the winning team.

In addition to the grand prix, several other awards were presented Saturday evening for the final week of competition in Wellington. Equinimity LLC, owners of Carrabis Z, were presented the Simba Run Perpetual Trophy as the owner of the open jumper who has earned the most prize money in classes held at 1.45m or more during the 2016 WEF. Carrabis Z’s grooms, Hector Paz and Rodrigo Pimentel, were presented with the Oliver O’Toole Perpetual Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the groom of the horse who has earned the most money in the grand prix jumper classes.

Artisan Farms was presented with The Harrison Cup Perpetual Trophy, which is awarded to the owner whose horses won the most jumper money in all of the open jumper classes held throughout the circuit.

Other awards included the Overall Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider for the 2016 circuit, which was presented to Canada’s Tiffany Foster on behalf of Martha Jolicoeur of Douglas Elliman. Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and owner Lisa Lourie accepted the Overall Champion Equine Insurance Jumper Style Award for Spy Coast Farm’s Cyklon 1083, as the jumper whose style best exemplifies a show jumper based on scope, rideability, technique and competitive spirit.

Jessica Springsteen (USA) earned the Hermès Talented Young Rider Award as the young jumper rider between the ages of 16-25 that has earned the most points in all WEF FEI rated jumper competition. Lillie Keenan (USA) was the recipient of the USET Foundation’s 2016 Maxine Beard Award, an honor based on a rider’s competitive record and potential to represent the United States in international competition.

McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z Capture $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final; Shane Sweetnam Leads 2016 Series Overall

The $130,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final concluded on Saturday with a win for McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z. The competition had 62 entries over Anthony D’Ambrosio’s (USA) first round course during the day, with 18 clear rounds to advance to the jump-off in the evening, presented by SOVARO®.

McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z
McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z

Out of 18 in the jump-off, only seven were able to clear the short course without fault. Ward and Double H Farm’s HH Carlos Z won in the fastest time of 43.92 seconds. Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable’s Rosana du Park finished second in 44.96 seconds.

Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) guided Citizenguard Cadjanine Z, owned by Pessoa and Alain van Campenhoudt, to third place honors in a time of 45.46 seconds. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Stone Hill Farm’s Tiger Lily placed fourth in 45.74 seconds. Pessoa also took fifth place honors aboard his own and Caroline Lloyd’s Sans Soucis Z in 48.24 seconds. USA’s Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner’s Quister finished sixth in 49.43 seconds, and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum jumped the final clear round in 50.59 seconds aboard Artemis Equestrian Farm’s Apsara to take the seventh place prize.

HH Carlos Z has been an incredibly successful mount for Ward, even winning last year’s $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI 5*, among many top accolades. Once again, the 14-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chellano Z x Voltaire) did not disappoint with his victory in the 1.50m final.

“For Double H Farm, and me, he is an ATM machine,” Ward stated. “He can do any class at this show, as everyone has seen. He has been in great form, so we are thrilled with him. He is a super careful horse. He fights and digs his way to win some very big classes.”

Speaking of the track and the unique format of the class, Ward remarked, “I was very surprised by the first round. I thought the course walked very difficult. The lines were very tricky. He (D’Ambrosio) has a height limit in that class, so the verticals can go up to 1.55m, but it is tough. It is the end of the circuit, and you have a lot of horses in form. With only 40 in the grand prix, people were trying to get some gas money to go home. It is a pretty competitive class always, and it is an interesting test. You have the afternoon round early in the day. It was very hot today, and I think that was a factor. Then the horses are put away and come back at night, and I think you saw some problems up the first line, and to me that was a lot to do with that.”

Ward detailed the second round further, stating, “I lost my footing a little bit rolling back on the wall, but he was good to me. Then everything showed up so well that I decided to take the around option. I knew I was fast. I left a little room, but luckily the rest made mistakes.”

Following the completion of the final class, Suncast® once again presented the leading rider of the 1.50m Series a fantastic prize. As the most consistent competitor in the 2016 series overall, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam received a pre-paid one-year lease on a beautiful new 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport, as well as a SOVARO® Cooler. In 2016, the series offered a total purse of $699,000 with 10 FEI world ranking classes. Sweetnam won week four’s $35,000 1.50m class aboard The Blue Buckle Group’s Buckle Up and also had top ribbons with four other mounts throughout the series.

On winning the award, Sweetnam stated, “It is fantastic. It shows consistency over the whole circuit. It is not just one horse. Between my oldest horse and my youngest horse, they all played a part in it.

“I had an eight-year-old named Main Road that was placed twice, and they were his first 1.50m classes,” Sweetnam detailed. “Cyklon 1083, who is 15 years old, was placed in two of the $84,000 classes. It is great to see the range of my old guys coming through and then the younger guys coming up. Buckle Up is only ten years old, and he jumped an important clear today to finalize it, and he won one also.”

In total, Sweetnam had five different horses competing in the series throughout the 12-week circuit. Along with Main Road, Buckle Up, and Cyklon 1083, he also had consistent finishes aboard his experienced mount Eregast van’t Kiezelhof, as well as Cobolt, a ten-year-old gelding sired by Cyklon.

Speaking of the special prize, a pre-paid one-year lease on a 2016 Land Rover Discovery Sport, Sweetnam acknowledged, “It is brilliant. It is a reward for all of your hard work as a rider, and it is a great thing to be getting. I am very happy.”

Also competing in the International Ring on Saturday, Bretton Chad and Stone Ridge Farms’ Cornishman won the $15,000 MAYBACH – ICONS OF LUXURY SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic.

Russell Frey and Kodachrome Lead Round One of $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby

The first round of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby was held in the E. R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring on Saturday. Round one’s standings determined the top 25 competitors that will then continue on to round two, to be held Sunday afternoon on the derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC beginning at 1 p.m.

Russell Frey and Nina Koloseike Moore’s Kodachrome lead the standings heading into Sunday’s final round with the high score of 185 in round one. Samantha Schaefer and her own Classified sit second with a score of 184. Callie Seaman and Carrico finished third in round one with a score of 182. Jennifer Hannan and Reilly Cookingham’s All Time head into Sunday’s round with the fourth place score of 179.5. Jane Gaston and Because finished the first round in fifth place with a score of 178.5, and Jennifer Bauersachs and Spring Hill Farm’s For Love ended the day with a score of 176.5 to return for Sunday’s final round sitting in sixth place overall.

The 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival concludes with the final round of the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby on the derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC on Sunday. For more information and full results, please visit www.pbiec.com.

Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
info@jenniferwoodmedia.com

Ben Maher and Diva II Top $372,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W 5*

Ben Maher and Diva II. Photos © Sportfot.

Ovation and Tori Colvin Take Home the Championship Prize in the EnTrust Capital Small Junior Hunter 16-17

Wellington, FL – March 7, 2015 – Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Diva II jumped to victory in the $372,000 FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix CSI-W 5*, presented by Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Saturday night at the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). The pair topped a three-horse jump-off with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Fibonacci 17 in second and Laura Kraut (USA) with Cedric third.

Alan Wade’s (IRL) course under the lights tested all of the horses and riders Saturday night, and only those three, out of the 41 starters, were able to advance to the jump-off. It took 17 rounds before Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC’s Fibonacci 17 were the first pair to jump clear in round one. Another 17 rounds, and Laura Kraut and Cherry Knoll Farm Inc.’s Cedric jumped the second clear to make a jump-off. Second to last, Ben Maher and Tatiana Korsakova’s Diva II put in the third clear trip. The three combinations returned to settle the final standings in one more round.

Michaels-Beerbaum and Fibonacci 17 were first to return, jumping clear over the short course in 46.31 seconds. Kraut and Cedric had one rail down in a slower time of 46.76 seconds. Maher and Diva II were last to go, clearing the course in 46.03 seconds for the win.

Watch Ben Maher and Diva II in their winning round!

Maher started riding Diva II, a 10-year-old Anglo European mare by (Kannan x Berlioz), in November of 2014 and finished out last year’s Winter Equestrian Festival with a 1.50m win in week eleven of the circuit. Diva has developed throughout the year and came back even better in 2015, stepping up to the bigger classes and proving her talent in Saturday’s challenging World Cup qualifying event.

Despite jumping at the end of the class and returning for the second round after only a brief break, the mare put in the extra effort.

“It was a pretty quick turnaround for me. I was second from the end, so Diva did not have much time to recover, which I really felt in the warm-up especially before the jump-off,” Maher stated. “That jump-off probably was not my best ever round. Diva is hairy in the way she goes. She is not so conventional always, but I did not have a lot to lose. A couple weeks ago I played it safe. Tonight I knew I would be top three, so I figured that I would have a go and with a little bit of luck here and there, it paid off.”

“She has come a long way this circuit. I had her this time last year and we built up,” Maher detailed. “I remember being in the medium schooling jumpers out in the back ring and still kicking out the back rails then. It is exciting for me. Obviously Jane Clark is a great owner of mine, and we have had a building circuit with her horses. This is nice for another owner in Tatiana Korsakova. This is the first horse that they have owned at this level and hopefully this will bring new partnerships into the sport and something good for the future.”

With the best win of Diva’s career, Maher noted that the mare also won a class in Olympia with Alan Wade building.

“He is a great course builder,” Maher stated. “When I walked, I thought it was quite a smooth course, but they were big jumps. I was right at the end to go and there were fences falling everywhere. There was not anything in particular that was the main cause of the problems. It is big money, so you expect a big course.”

“I’m very happy with my horse tonight because I think Cedric is one of the best horses in the world for a long time and Meredith’s horse is probably right there coming into its prime,” Maher added. “Diva could not have been in better company.”

Meredith Michaels Beerbaum and Fibonacci 17
Meredith Michaels Beerbaum and Fibonacci 17

After winning the $372,000 Suncast® CSI 5* Grand Prix two weeks ago, Michaels-Beerbaum was thrilled with another top finish for her talented mount, Fibonacci 17. The 10-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding (For Feeling x Corland) has become a worldwide star since pairing up with the German rider and once again showed off his impressive jump under the lights.

“He felt great. He jumped the first round beautifully,” Michaels-Beerbaum expressed. “In the jump-off, I had a couple of things go wrong. I lost my stirrup after (jump) number two, which made me nervous because he jumps so high (that) I would not like to jump a fence without a stirrup. I made sure I got my stirrup back before the next fence, which takes a little time and then I had a slight slip going back to the oxer in front of the VIP, which he handled beautifully. These two little things cost you a couple tenths of a second.”

Michaels-Beerbaum also weighed in on the night’s course, agreeing that the degree of difficulty was appropriate for an important class.

“I think that it was a great course because you saw faults everywhere, which really shows the mastership of a great course designer, instead of having one thing that horses can’t jump,” she remarked. “There were very wide oxers and tall verticals tonight everywhere. I thought it was brilliant and I think at this level, it is a championship level, and it is good when it is tough. It is good when there are only a few horses that rise to the top and jump-off. I think it was a really exciting class, and we heard that from all sides.”

For Kraut, this top three finish with Cedric was emotional, as every moment with the 17-year-old gelding is cherished. A pint-sized Holsteiner by Chambertin x Carolus Z, Cedric gave it his all Saturday night and will now have a well-deserved break.

“I was saying to Meredith earlier, because she understands having had Shutterfly, that every time that horse puts in a performance like he did tonight it makes me want to cry,” Kraut acknowledged. “It is so emotional. He has such a big heart and tonight it was very, very difficult. I promised him earlier that if he was good tonight I would not make him do anymore this circuit and he could have a little break. He must have heard me. I want to thank Margaret Duprey for making it possible for me to have this horse until he is 17 and on. It is a blessing every time.”

Kraut was also presented the Leading Lady Rider award for week nine, presented by Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler.

Wrapping up a fantastic night of show jumping, Don Langdon, a Palm Beach Broker for Douglas Elliman Real Estate, expressed his company’s appreciation for the sport and its top competitors.

“I think if I was going to do a parlay, I would have picked Ben Maher to win early. It was breathtaking,” Langdon stated. “For the spectators, we were all holding our breath. I think that showed, and the riders rose to the challenge, which is great. Our company is so proud to be a part of what you are all doing. We sponsored the Hampton Classic for the last 12 years. This is the first run in Wellington, and it is a result of my relationship with Palm Beach Polo for the last 31 years. I hope it is a harbinger of things to come. It will take us to great heights together because we certainly love supporting the sport. Thank you for making us a part of it. Mark Bellissimo has been a great friend and a great supporter, and we are happy to be here.”

Also showing in the International Arena on Saturday, Emanuel Andrade (VEN) won the $15,000 SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic aboard Fananka A.

Ovation and Tori Colvin Take Home the Championship Prize in the EnTrust Capital Small Junior Hunters 16-17

Despite a rainy afternoon, Tori Colvin and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Ovation stayed on point to finish the day as champions in the EnTrust Capital Small Junior Hunters 16-17. On the first day of competition, Colvin and Ovation topped both over fences classes and the under saddle. With the change in weather, Ovation was a little up the second day, but still won the first over fences class on his way to the tricolor ribbon. “He [Ovation] was a bit wild today. I trotted in and his head went up, but he was amazing yesterday, so it made up for today,” Colvin smiled.

Ailish Cunniffe rode Good Times, an entry of Jennifer Gates, to reserve championship honors. The pair remained consistent over both days, earning three seconds and a third over fences, along with a second in the under saddle.

No stranger to the winner’s circle, Colvin and Ovation turned in another stellar performance this week in the Small Junior Hunters. Colvin commented, “Friday was the best that he [Ovation] has ever gone.”

The highlight of the weekend was Ovation’s handy hunter round that earned a high score of 90. “I loved the handy yesterday,” Colvin started. “I did an inside turn that I was not planning on, which put me on a sharp angle, but it worked out.”

Although this is Colvin’s last year competing with Ovation before he retires, she is enjoying having a reliable winner. “He [Ovation] is an old man at this point. Once he is in the groove, he is very easy and straight-forward in the ring,” Colvin explained.

After WEF, Colvin will primarily show Ovation at the larger shows and looks forward to her last indoors season with him. As for Colvin’s own career, she plans to compete in both the jumpers and hunters after she ages out of the juniors. “I want to keep doing the hunters, but the jumpers are really fun!” Colvin exclaimed.

Week nine concludes on Sunday with the $85,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic beginning at approximately 10:00 a.m. The class will be live streamed at http://bit.ly/18QxRVj. WEF 9 hunter coverage concludes with the Karina Brez Jewelry Adult Amateur 36-49 Section B in the Rost Arena. For full results and more information, please visit www.pbiec.com.

Lauren Fisher and Maddy Stover for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
info@jenniferwoodmedia.com

Ben Maher and Contigo 37 Win $25,000 Nutrena Jumper Classic at WEF

Ben Maher and Contigo. Photo © Sportfot.

Wellington, FL – February 25, 2015 – The 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) got underway with its eighth week of competition on Wednesday with a win for Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Contigo in the $25,000 Nutrena Jumper Classic. CSIO competition also kicked off with wins for Victoria Chiappero (ARG) with Grama Solitario and Adam Prudent (FRA) with Vasco in the $5,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Welcome Stake, held in separate day and evening sessions.

The Winter Equestrian Festival’s eighth week features CSIO 4* competition on February 25 – March 1 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Highlights include the $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 8 on Thursday; the $10,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Speed Stake and $100,000 Nations Cup presented by Kingsland Equestrian on Friday; the $34,000 Nutrena 1.45m Jumper Classic, $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic and Hollow Creek Farm Children’s, Junior and Young Rider Nations Cup classes on Saturday; and the Hollow Creek Farm Children’s, Junior and Young Rider Grand Prix classes followed by the $150,000 Grand Prix CSIO 4* presented by Lugano Diamonds on Sunday.

Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) is the course designer in the International Arena for week eight. D’Ambrosio began the week with 48 entries in the $25,000 Nutrena Jumper Classic with a 15-horse jump-off and six double clear rounds. Olympic team gold medalists Ben Maher (GBR) and McLain Ward (USA) each qualified two mounts for the tiebreaker.

Paul O’Shea (IRL) and Michael Hayden’s Primo de Revel were first to jump-off and finished fifth overall with a time 45.05 seconds. Maher and his first mount, Wyndmont’s Valinski S, were next to clear the short course in 43.57 seconds to eventually place fourth. Andrew Ramsay (USA) jumped the next clear round in 42.48 seconds to take the second place prize with his own Winn Winn. One round later, Maher returned with his second mount, Contigo, to complete the winning round in 42.37 seconds.

Tim Gredley (GBR) jumped into third with his time of 43.16 seconds aboard Unex Competition Yard’s Handyman, and McLain Ward completed the final clear round with Double H Farm’s HH Azur in 49.04 seconds to finish sixth. Ward also had the fastest time of the day in 41.20 seconds aboard Double H Farm’s HH Ashley, but a rail at the final fence in the jump-off put the pair in eighth place.

Class winner, Contigo 37, is a nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Calato x Quidam de Revel.

“He came to us when he was five. He was bought for the owner’s son to ride and he has been studying a lot in college, so we have brought the horse along,” Maher explained. “He is a nice horse. This is the first time that he has probably jumped this level and gone this quick, and he coped absolutely fine.”

Maher went first with Valinski S, who is a new mount for him this winter. He aimed for a nice, clear round with Valinski and was then able to increase his speed on Contigo.

“It was hard to know how the jump-off was going to go and then he (Valinski S) jumped the first couple of jumps not quite as quick as I would have hoped,” Maher detailed “I just kept the round neat. We are hoping to produce him for bigger things in the next couple of weeks, and I am still getting to know him.”

“Obviously I could gauge my time with Contigo a bit more and know where I could take some risks,” Maher continued. “I wasn’t sure whether to jump a steady clear because he is inexperienced, or try. He felt good, so I took a very tight turn back to the Sotheby’s fence and then left a stride out to the last oxer, which is probably the first time he has ever seen a stride like that at speed to that high of a jump. There may have been an element of shock, but he jumped it great and I am happy to finally get a win here at WEF.”

Maher was also pleased to have Contigo’s owner in the crowd for his first big win of the 2015 WEF circuit.

“This was the first time his owner saw him in about three years actually. She flew over here to watch him, so she can come more often!” Maher laughed. “He will probably go back to the farm and be put out in the paddock and come back out next week or the week after. We will slowly produce him up to the 1.50m and maybe the WEF class on a Thursday.”

Also showing on Wednesday, CSIO competition got underway with a $5,000 Welcome Stake, sponsored by Wellington Equestrian Realty, which was held in two sessions. The win in the day session went to Argentina’s Victoria Chiaperro aboard Grama Solitario. The night session saw a win for France’s Adam Prudent with Patrick Flin and Plain Bay Sales’ Vasco.

Competition continues on Thursday with the $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup featured in the International Arena in the morning. The Perfect Products Pre-Green Hunter 3’3″ will award championship honors in Ring 6. For full results and more information, please visit www.pbiec.com.

Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
info@jenniferwoodmedia.com

Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos Steal the Show in $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5*

Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos. Photos © Sportfot.

Ben Maher Wins $100,000 FTI Consulting Rider Challenge; Todd Minikus and Babalou 41 Top $100,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final; Tim Gredley Scores 1.50m Series Bonus

Wellington, FL – March 30, 2014 – The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival concluded on Sunday with an exciting line-up of world-class show jumping and the presentation of special awards to round out a very successful winter circuit at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. Although inclement weather caused Saturday night’s classes to be postponed, the final afternoon of FTI WEF competition was blessed with beautiful clear skies and sunshine for Sunday’s feature events.

Concluding the 2014 competition, the $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5* saw an exciting win for the world’s number one ranked rider and 2012 Olympic Team Gold Medalist, Scott Brash (GBR), with his talented mount Hello Sanctos. British teammate and world #2 ranked rider Ben Maher took home the top bonus in the $100,000 FTI Consulting Rider Challenge for his incredible success throughout the circuit. Todd Minikus (USA) and Babalou 41 won the $100,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final, and Tim Gredley (GBR) and Unex Omega Star topped the 1.50m series overall to earn a $25,000 bonus.

Watch an interview with Scott Brash.

Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) designed the courses for Sunday’s competition and set a challenging track for the finale grand prix featuring 38 of the best competitors from the circuit. Riders from 14 different countries were represented, including 17 Olympic veterans.

Seven entries from the first round advanced to the jump-off, where four jumped double clear. Nineteen-year-old Ben Asselin (CAN) and Attache Stables’ Makavoy began the jump-off with a clear round in 46.01 seconds to eventually finish fourth. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Stone Hill Farm’s Vindicat W upped the ante in 44.87 seconds to earn third place honors. Richie Moloney (IRL) and Equinimity LLC’s Slieveanorra were faster in 44.64 seconds to take home second place honors. The final clear round belonged to Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos, who blazed through the course in 43.44 seconds to secure their victory. Last to go, Kent Farrington (USA) had the fast time of the jump-off in 42.72 seconds with Amalaya Investment’s Voyeur, but had a rail at the final oxer to finish fifth.

Along with the winner’s share of $165,000, Brash was presented with the Dennis D. Dammerman Perpetual Trophy. The trophy was created to honor the contributions to equestrian sport of Dennis D. Dammerman, a longtime owner of horses and founding member of the Wellington Equestrian Partners. Brash had a lot of top finishes throughout the circuit and was happy to get his win in the end with Hello Sanctos, a twelve-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding (Quasimodo Vd Molendreef x Nabab de Reve) that has given the rider many great moments in his career.

“I have been coming second a lot to this man,” Brash said, pointing to Maher. “So to win a class at the end is very rewarding and good for my team that has worked so hard for the circuit, because it is hard work. Sanctos was fantastic today. I gave him a rest when I first came here and then I started him back, and he felt just a little bit rusty and not quite jumping fit. I jumped two weeks and then I gave him last week off. This week he has just felt great and feels like he is jumping back to how he was, and I’m very happy going home looking forward towards Europe. There are a lot of big shows coming up with the championships and everything, so it is good to feel him in such good form early on in the year.”

Brash and Sanctos were a new partnership when they were last in Wellington in 2012. That was before they won an Olympic team gold medal in London that year and went on to many other victories that led Brash to his current position as the number one ranked rider in the world.

Looking back on the progression of their partnership, Brash recalled, “It’s a bit different now. Back in 2012 I had just gotten the horse. My owners bought the horse with the Olympic Games in mind, so we chose to come to Wellington because there is no better place to get as many rounds in as you can and get to know a horse like you can here. That is why we chose to bring him here then, but we were quite inconsistent. We had a win in the World Cup one week, but we had some bad rounds also. We were just getting to know each other, but since then we have just gone from strength to strength as a partnership. I must say, he is a fantastic horse and he is just an absolute privilege to ride.”

Richie Moloney and Slieveanorra
Richie Moloney and Slieveanorra

Sunday’s second place finish was a fantastic conclusion to the circuit for Richie Moloney as well with Equinimity LLC’s Slieveanorra. The twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Voltaire x Flagmount Diamond) jumped a great round and was very fast through the course. Moloney got the ride on Slieveanorra a few years ago after his sponsors, Equinimity LLC, bought the horse from his brother as a nine-year-old. The horse had won the nine-year-old national championships in Ireland and has gone on to great things.

“It is a very good finish,” Moloney smiled after the class. “Slieveanorra is very good. It is nice for the horse to get his result here in the end. He was double clear week nine in the World Cup and finished seventh, so it is nice to end up second today. My plan was to go as fast as I could and try to leave the jumps up. Maybe I could have been a little bit quicker, but I am very happy with second.”

There was long gallop down to the last oxer that caused rails for Beezie Madden and Farrington in the jump-off, but Moloney said he was not worried about that. “Maybe there was one less stride there, but it was a bit risky I thought. I just held steady and kept going on the stride that I knew he could jump from. I would just like to say well done to Scott, and I would also like to thank my owners and all of the staff who work very hard at the farm. It is nice to get this result for them. It is for everybody that works there.”

Jessica Springsteen has been very consistent with top finishes throughout the circuit aboard Vindicat W, her twelve-year-old KWPN gelding (Guidam x Libero H) that Peter Charles rode to team gold alongside Brash and Maher in the London Olympic Games. Commenting on her circuit and another top placing, Springsteen smiled, “He has been jumping amazing. I had a week off last week, so he felt really fresh and ready to go. Every time I go out there he always tries his hardest. He never puts a foot wrong, and I could not be happier with him.”

Springsteen explained where she thought she lost time in the jump-off, stating, “I was maybe planning on doing five strides to that black vertical so that I could swing back tighter to the oxer, but then the four just kind of showed itself, and I did end up getting a little bit stuck in that turn. I think that’s where I could have been quicker, but everywhere else he was really good, so I was happy.”

Brash commented on the day’s course from Anthony D’Ambrosio and praised the success of this year’s circuit. “I thought the course builder did a fantastic job actually. It was big, it was hard, and to get seven clears was a good number,” he acknowledged. “The jump-off I thought was very good and entertaining for the public. It is a really spectacular class. It’s a shame it didn’t run last night, but no one can help the weather. It is all credit to Mark Bellissimo, who puts on a fantastic tour here, and now with Rolex sponsoring it really brings the prestige of the show up to a top standard of high level sport. I think that is what everyone is looking for, and I think it’s great.”

Bellissimo was also thrilled with the circuit and the successful finale grand prix, and thanked title sponsor, FTI Consulting, for their longtime support.

“FTI has been an amazing sponsor for the last six years,” Bellissimo stated. “In the genesis of the transition we have, this festival started at about $2 million in prize money and we have brought it to over $8 million, which is a spectacular amount of money. We are very excited about their commitment to the sport and that partnership that we have had over the years.”

“We have really appreciated all of the great competition,” Bellissimo added. “I don’t think I have ever seen such an amazing number of jump-offs. Scott has been in a lot of them. I think in general it has been a great year. We are very excited about it and very excited about the future. There are a lot of things that we are going to be doing next year to make it even that much more significant, so thank you to everyone for all of their participation and all of their great work throughout the circuit. Also a special call to Rolex, who has been a great addition to the circuit this year and allowed us to take this to a different level in the context of prize money and a huge investment. We have some exciting new initiatives that we will be announcing shortly that I think will be another level, even beyond where we are today.”

In addition to the day’s grand prix, the $100,000 FTI Consulting Rider Challenge concluded on Sunday after 12 weeks of jumper competition at the 2014 FTI WEF. Ben Maher led the standings and earned a $50,000 cut of the bonus money for his record-breaking number of grand prix wins and top finishes throughout the circuit. Beezie Madden finished in second place to earn $25,000, Kent Farrington was third and received a $15,000 check, and Scott Brash finished fourth for a $10,000 bonus.

Several other awards were presented on Sunday for the final week of competition in Wellington as well. For the second year in a row, Maher’s mount Cella earned Jane Clark the Simba Run Perpetual Trophy as the owner of the open jumper who has earned the most prize money in classes held at 1.45m or more during the 2014 FTI WEF. Clark was also presented with The Harrison Cup Perpetual Trophy, which is awarded to the owner whose horses won the most jumper money in all of the open jumper classes held throughout the circuit. In addition, Cella’s groom Joy Montgomerie was presented with the Oliver O’Toole Perpetual Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the groom of the horse who has earned the most money in the grand prix jumper classes.

Maher had an unfortunate rail in Sunday’s grand prix, but had an incredible circuit and thanked everyone who made his success possible.

“First I would like to say thank you to FTI Consulting,” Maher stated. “It is a hard earned bonus, but it is a nice challenge to have from the beginning of the circuit. I didn’t get a piece of it today, but again thank you to Rolex. It was a great competition. A lot of people came and it was fun to watch the jump-off and not have the stress of being in it this time. I would have preferred to be in it of course, but it was a fun jump-off to watch.”

“I have had a great circuit,” Maher continued. “It was unfortunate today that I had a jump down, but I can’t complain. All of my horses have been great and consistent. If somebody was to say at the start of the circuit that it was going to come together like it had, I would not have believed it. I am grateful for everything and looking forward to a short rest now.”

Other awards included the Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider for the circuit, which was presented to Lauren Hough (USA) on behalf of Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler. Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Artisan Farm LLC’s Zigali P S were presented with the Champion Equine Insurance Jumper Style Award for the overall circuit, which is awarded to the jumper whose style best exemplifies a show jumper based on scope, rideability, technique and competitive spirit. Lamaze and Zigali P S also won the overall WEF Challenge Cup Series Award. Sweden’s Alexander Zetterman earned the Hermès Talented Young Rider Award as the young jumper rider between the ages of 16-25 that has earned the most points in all FTI WEF FEI rated jumper competition.

Todd Minikus and Babalou 41 Top $100,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final; Tim Gredley Scores 1.50m Series Bonus

The $100,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final concluded on Sunday with a win for Todd Minikus (USA) and Babalou 41, a nine-year-old Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Silvio I.

The competition saw 84 entries in the first round on Saturday and the top 25% returned to compete in round two on Sunday, where their cumulative scores from both rounds were combined to determine the winner. Three riders chose not to return for the second round, leaving 18 entries to show on Sunday.

Todd Minikus (USA) and Babalou 41, Andres Rodriguez (VEN) and Caballito, and Daniel Deusser (GER) and Fyloe v/h Claeyssenhof were the only three to complete double clear rounds, and their times in round two served as the tiebreaker.

Todd Minikus and Babalou 41
Todd Minikus and Babalou 41

Minikus and Bob Haefner’s Babalou 41 jumped double clear through both rounds and completed the fastest time of the competition in 48.78 seconds to earn top honors. Rodriguez and Arao Enterprises Caballito cleared the second round course in 49.97 seconds to finish second. Deusser and Fyloe v/h Claeyssenhof, owned by Stephex Stables and Double H Farm, finished third in 50.59 seconds.

Although the schedule was changed due to weather, Todd Minikus did not mind the overnight break between rounds for his young horse and was happy with her performance in the final round on Sunday.

“Unfortunately the rain put a damper on things last night, but I was a little concerned even with the gap that we would have had yesterday,” Minikus noted. “That mare is very green and she has never done something like that where she went once and then had to come back hours later, so maybe the entire night’s rest worked out for me. She went like a professional show horse today, so it was all good.”

“She is a mare that I have been showing for three years now,” Minikus explained. “We did schooling jumpers basically for two years. She was always an exceptional mare. Everybody that saw her for the first time always came up and asked about her. She was always extremely extravagant with her jump. We often wondered if that was going to hold her back, where she was maybe too exuberant with her jump, but she kind of leveled out here this past year and she has done some good things. Stewart Moran is her trainer; basically I just catch ride her. She lives with Stewart and his team, and I just ride her at the ring. They have done a great job with her. Santa, who flats her, has done a fantastic job. I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Haefner for the opportunity to ride her. It has been a good team so far.”

Speaking about his blazing fast jump-off round, Minikus detailed, “I know that mare can go fast, and I was one of the first clears to come back. We kind of saved her for this class. She did one WEF (Challenge Cup) and we have kind of nursed her along, so they gave me the green light to press on the gas pedal. She is extremely careful, so if you can get her into the middle of the jump, chances are she is going to leave it up.”

Minikus hopes to continue showing the talented mare and looks forward to seeing her future success. “Hopefully I can take her a little bit more with me this summer,” he noted. “She is ready to go now. We have babied her along enough. She is ready to be a show horse now, so hopefully they will let me take her with me and do a little bit more.”

As the conclusion to the twelve-week Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series, Sunday’s class served as the final allocation of points for the overall standings for the $25,000 Leading Horse and Rider Award. The bonus money was presented to Great Britain’s Tim Gredley and Unex Omega Star as the horse and rider combination who gained the most points throughout all twelve classes of the circuit. Unex Omega Star is a 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Quick Star x Quatoubet du Rouet, owned by Unex Competition Yard Ltd.

Speaking about the bonus, Gredley stated, “It is really nice, because although I haven’t won one of the 1.50m classes, he has been consistently in the top three or five all the way through. It is nice for the horse to be rewarded for doing that. Over the last couple of weeks I noticed that I was up there in the standings for the bonus and Nick Skelton, my trainer, basically said that we should aim to just try to get a result in that. We jumped a double clear last week and got sixth. Then getting a time fault yesterday actually, in a funny way, kind of helped me today because I knew I couldn’t really win the class. These guys were all clear, so the plan was just to jump another clear and try to get a few more points, and luckily it went to plan.”

Gredley has had Unex Omega Star for a year now and explained that he has made a lot of progress with the horse since he started training with Skelton this winter.

“I struggled with him a little bit because he is by Quick Star and he is a bit sharp in his head, but the last three or four months especially, we have changed a lot with him in the way that I ride him,” Gredley said. “The whole program that we have with him at home now is very different and it seems to be working. I changed a lot with all of the horses in the last few months with the feed and the stuff that we do at home. We tend not to ride him as much at home now. Just little things that I really didn’t think would make much of a difference have made a big difference for him. I have been training with Nick now for the last four months, and he has made a big difference for all of them, but especially that horse.”

Gredley first came to Wellington in 2006 when he was 20 years old and then took a couple of years off from riding to learn the family real estate business. He now splits his time between riding and real estate and travels between Wellington and his home in England.

“The weather is always a good start, especially when you speak to everyone at home,” he said of the perks of competing in Florida. “It is really nice, especially because I have a really great team of people at home, and it is nice for them not to have to change shows every single week. The horses can basically jump from home. I especially find when we go home that it is hard for them to have to keep changing and going on the road every single week, so that is probably one of the biggest plusses to be here.”

Sunday’s competition concluded a fantastic 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Equestrian Sport Productions would like to thank everyone for a wonderful circuit and looks forward to 2015. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

About FTI Consulting, Inc.

FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 4,000 employees located in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.58 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2012. For more information, visit www.fticonsulting.com.

About the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival

The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 8 through March 30. The FTI WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are “AA” rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $7 million in prize money will be awarded.

Please visit www.equestriansport.com or call 561-793-5867 for more information.

Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Equestrian Public Relations
info@jenniferwoodmedia.com

Alexander Zetterman Wins $50,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Final

Alexander Zetterman and Flecu. Photos © Sportfot.

Victoria Colvin Takes Overall Series Victory; Ben Maher and Diva II Top $84,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic; Rachael Barnes and Tye Donaldson Triumph in ASPCA Maclay

Wellington, FL – March 23, 2014 – Week eleven of the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF), sponsored by Artisan Farms LLC, concluded on Sunday with jumper action on the grass derby field at The Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Sweden’s Alexander Zetterman and Flecu topped the $50,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Final. Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, was the winner of the series overall. Great Britain’s Ben Maher won the $84,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic with Diva II. The ASPCA Maclay sponsored by Sidelines Magazine was held in two sections at the main showgrounds, with wins for Rachael Barnes and Tye Donaldson.

Watch an interview with Victoria Colvin and Alexander Zetterman.

Starting off Sunday’s competition on the derby field, Sweden’s Alexander Zetterman and Flecu jumped to victory in the $50,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Final, presented by the Dutta Corporation in association with Guido Klatte.

Twenty-eight entries showed in the final, with eight entries qualifying for the jump-off and three double clear rounds over the short course. Zetterman and Flecu were the winners with the fastest round in 40.21 seconds. Sarah Hubbard and Chamcara finished second in 42.36 seconds, and Hayley Barnhill and Cara Cheska’s Zephire placed third in 43.91 seconds.

Flecu is a ten-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by Hip Hop x Flamingo. Zetterman has been showing the horse in bigger classes such as the 1.50m and the WEF Challenge Cup this winter and decided to use the young rider classes to help build the horse’s confidence.

“I got him when he was six,” Zetterman detailed. “I wasn’t overly sure about how far he could go because he has a little bit his own style, but we started off and we won the big seven-year-old young horse final in Falsterbo. He did that very good, and he has been developing along the way. He was just a horse who needed a lot of time to get to the solid 1.50m level, to do it week in and week out. That took an extra year. Last year here, we went up, we went down. We did one 1.50m and then we went down to the 1.40m. We gave him one more year and now he is 10 this year and he has just responded so well. We have never had to play around too much. We have basically been able to go in and do the big stuff, and he has been very good.”

“He has been doing quite a lot of tough classes, so it was actually a little bit of a step down for him to do a nice class,” the rider noted. “He likes the big grass ring as well, so that was good for him. He is always good in a big field with a lot of galloping. It definitely helps him in the jump-off because he is good at covering the ground.”

Building Flecu’s confidence definitely paid off in Sunday’s jump-off when Zetterman took a big risk to the last fence that worked out in their favor. “I was a little bit nervous I wasn’t going to get there,” he admitted. “I kind of felt from the turn that I could get there, but then he was kind of backing off too much, so I started kicking and eventually we got there and he was good.”

Although he shows in many big grand prix classes against some of the best riders in the world, Zetterman values the opportunity to show amongst his peers and gain valuable experience under a little less pressure.

“It helps you in so many different ways,” he noted. “We all know how difficult the step is from being a young rider and then getting into the seniors. To have a class like this every now and then is nice. When you are going into the jump-off for example, if you are in against some of the best riders in the world, you sometimes do a little bit more than what you or your horse is capable to do. You go a little bit over your head sometimes. When you feel that you are in an equal league, then you have a good feeling and you make better decisions. In that way, it is very good; you have a chance at least. Wilton has been amazing in the big classes and Lillie Keenan and all of those riders, but still, getting in against Ben Maher and those riders is not so easy for anyone in the world to do, especially not when you’re young.”

Zetterman showed in one young rider grand prix last year and decided to get more involved in the series this year when he realized the opportunity that the classes provided.

“Many years ago they had a similar series in Europe, but I think for sure this series is a lot better setup,” he noted. “It is a little bit like a championship because you have the speed round, a team competition. The team competition was very good out here because you got a bit of atmosphere to it. The semi-final I didn’t jump, but the final today was super. It is a fantastic idea, and I think they should do it more in Europe.”

Sarah Hubbard, who finished second in Sunday’s class with Chamcara, just recently stepped up to the bigger classes and also valued the experience of the series. She is 20 years old and from Cornwall, CT.

“I actually just used her for today. I used my other horse for the speed and the semi-final,” Hubbard noted. “I usually use her for the 1.50m and some of the WEF (Challenge Cup) classes. She is really special to me because she has let me move up and do some bigger classes where I have never done anything like that before. It is nice to come in here and jump around on the grass and she was really good. She was really good to me in the jump-off. I kind of got down between jumps nine and ten, and she just tried really hard for me. I am very happy.”

Hayley Barnhill (20) of Colliersville, TN, got several new experiences with her mount Zephire in the series and had a great round on Sunday to finish third.

“She is 10 this year, and she has never done anything like this before,” Barnhill stated. “She jumped 1.35m in Europe. The Cheskas got her this time last year and showed her a little in the 1.35m and 1.40m stuff. I got her in September and did a few 1.40m classes before I came down here, so this has all been a new experience for her and it has been great to test her through everything. She had never jumped under the lights before and she did that great. We haven’t ever jumped on a grass field before and she was great out there, so this was a good experience.”

“My plan for the jump-off was to go for it a little bit,” Barnhill noted. “I know where I could have been faster; I could have done one less after the wall, but I actually haven’t done a jump-off on her all circuit. We were a little rusty on some of the turns, but I thought she jumped great and I was really happy with her.”

Victoria Colvin and Don Juan
Victoria Colvin and Don Juan

Sunday’s class was the final event in the 2014 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series, which also awarded top prizes on Sunday for its overall standings. Sixteen-year-old Victoria Colvin was the series winner for her performance in all four of the series’ events. Jordan Macpherson finished second and Wilton Porter placed third. Jennifer Goddard, Hayley Barnhill, and Sarah Hubbard were fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

As the winning rider of the series, Colvin was awarded free entry to the Chantilly CSI 2* horse show on the Global Champions Tour in France in July, with tickets to the VIP lounge, and transportation provided by the Dutta Corporation in association with Guido Klatte. She was also awarded a custom Bruno delGrange saddle.

“It feels amazing to win,” Colvin smiled. “I didn’t think I was going to win it. I thought Jordan was going to win it, but I guess my four faults today counted, so that was good. I feel like I have gotten a lot of experience this year. Me and Don Juan are not perfect all of the time, but I think doing all of these classes, and to keep doing them, I think it has gotten a little better.”

“We change bits all of the time,” she noted of Don Juan. “He is delicate. He is careful, so that’s good, but sometimes he is too quiet and sometimes he is too fresh, so we just have to go in and see how he feels that day.”

Colvin is excited for the opportunity to travel to Europe for the first time to compete and plans to keep doing what she is doing to get ready. “We will go to the Devon Horse Show and then just keep going until I get there, and we will see what happens. I have never shown in Europe before, so that will be my first time and I am very excited.”

Second place finisher Jordan Macpherson (24) is from Toronto, Ontario, and has had great success in this young rider series with her horse Piccobello du Val de Geer.

“Pico is amazing,” the rider smiled. “I have had her for four years, and since the first time I stepped in the ring in the young rider series, it has been amazing. I have learned and grown from her. She came out here like a pro and was amazing today. I over-achieved the nine-stride a little bit and had a rail, but it happens unfortunately. [My trainers] the Millars are always talking about consistency and if you ride consistent, eventually you will win and start doing well, so I think I have learned that lesson this year.”

Wilton Porter (20) of Dallas, TX also performed consistently with his horse Radio City this year and has earned valuable experience and knowledge throughout the series. “It was a great series,” Porter acknowledged. “Radio City was the only horse that I used throughout the series, and she was fantastic. I think the series had a lot more structure to it this year. That’s not to say that it wasn’t good in the past, but it was really solid on other fronts as well as the jumping this year, with the interview training and the sponsorship opportunity, and I am really thankful to the Zieglers and Dutta Corporation for sponsoring it. This last competition was really special. I think they had a great jump-off. There were just the right number of clears and it ended well.”

The winner of the Equiline Young Rider Sponsorship was Chloe Reid of Washington, D.C. Reid was part of a group of riders who wrote an essay, completed interviews, did sponsorship networking, and was observed for attitude, spirit, and performance during the AFYRGP Series. Reid will represent Equiline America by wearing their products, participating in advertising and outreach events, and provide feedback on the functionality of products. Also participating for the sponsorship were riders that were recognized for the following awards: Best Essay – Caitlin Ziegler, Most Creative Essay – Lucas Porter, and Best Interview – Nicole Bellissimo. The Equiline Amateur Sportsmanship Award went to Wilton Porter of Dallas, TX. All of the winners will be presented with their awards next weekend at FTI WEF 12.

Artisan Farms owner Carlene Ziegler commented on the event, stating, “I’m really pleased with the progression of the series. We had some new things this year; we made it more of a true championship. We went through four classes and this was a $50,000 FEI class and that was really exciting. It’s been nice to see the riders progressing and we saw a new crop of riders this year. It’s really gratifying to see their progress. That’s been one of the most gratifying parts. The first year we knew we had a group of strong riders – Reed (Kessler) that won, the group that went to Leipzig, the Coulters, (Caitlin) Ziegler, (Katie) Dinan. They have truly made the next step. Nayel Nassar winning the World Cup West Coast standings. It’s really exciting. We hope that happens to the more recent winners as well; we think it could. The trip to Chantilly – one of the exciting things this year is that the winner gets the opportunity to go to Global Champions Tour in Chantilly. It’s one of the things that these young riders wouldn’t have the opportunity to do. I think that it’s a big incentive to the participants in the series. Additionally this year, they had the ability to vie for a sponsorship from Equiline; that’s something that they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.”

Sunday’s competition on the derby field also featured the $10,000 Horseware Ireland Don Little Masters Classic with a win for Deborah Ball and Cypriano.

Ben Maher and Diva II
Ben Maher and Diva II

Ben Maher and Diva II Top $84,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic

Ben Maher has been unstoppable lately and added another victory to his tally with a win in Sunday afternoon’s $84,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic at the FTI WEF. The class was held on the grass derby field at The Stadium at the PBIEC with 53 entries over the Olaf Petersen, Jr. (GER) designed course. Petersen saw ten clear rounds to advance to the jump-off with six double clear rounds. Maher was once again the winner, this time with a new mount in Tatiana Korsakova’s Diva II. The pair jumped the fastest track without fault in 43.20 seconds for the win.

Ian Millar (CAN) and Team Works’ Star Power finished second in 43.70 seconds. Daniel Bluman (COL) and Alberto & Ricardo Simhon’s Apardi placed third in 44.25 seconds.

Diva II is a nine-year-old Anglo European mare by Kannan x Berlioz that Maher got at the beginning of December. Tatiana Korsakova had previously owned a horse for Maher that got injured and decided to buy him, “a horse to have some fun with,” as the rider explained. “I chose Diva and I said that she could be a fun horse, and she seems like she’s working out well right now. I had already tried the horse beforehand for somebody else and that didn’t come of anything. I always thought the horse was talented. She was with Liz and Ted Edgar in England. They bred her and they had her whole life, so she has been very well brought up and looked after.”

“She had not done a lot for her age,” Maher continued. “She was still in the 1.35m division towards the end of last year. Week one or two here, we were in the back ring in the schooling jumpers and she was jumping high and I was having to ride hard because of the shadows and everything, and she has just gradually improved more and more. She has been clear in a couple of ‘WEFs’ and things in the last two weeks with one or two down in the jump-off when I’ve gone quick, just where she’s not ready. Today I took a chance again because the prize money is so big, and some parts didn’t feel so comfortable. In the double we came very hard in on the angle and kind of swerved around a little bit, but luckily it paid off today.”

Maher trained with Liz and Ted Edgar for almost two years as a working student, starting when he was 16 years old, before moving on to work with Beat Mändli. He knew that Diva had a great upbringing and saw the mare’s potential.

“They know a good horse, and they really believed in this horse all along,” he stated. “I think she has a way to go yet; we are only kind of halfway there. She needs to gain a lot of experience, but she’s a real mare, she’s a fighter and she’s always feels like she wants to win as well, which I love in a horse.”

This was the second win in two days showing on the grass for Maher after he topped Saturday’s $50,000 Live Oak Grand Prix CSI-W 2* in Ocala as well. He noted the refreshing atmosphere of the beautiful derby field in Wellington.

“It has been a great change. We took Aristo up to Chester Weber’s Live Oak to support that show yesterday and it was a great arena and grass field, as is this one. It is slightly different here; it’s a lot bigger in Wellington, which suited Diva actually. It is just nice; it’s great to have a change from the sand arena. Diva in particular hasn’t jumped here, but I did jump one class with her on a field, so I knew she was okay on grass. She needed to jump on grass to see if she was comfortable and she certainly felt fine today, so it is nice to know that we have all those options when we go back to Europe now for what shows we will go to. I think everybody loves the atmosphere over here. It is slightly more relaxed, more space for the horses, and the more they can use this arena, the better it will be over here, I think.”

Maher looks forward to progressing with Diva after they head back to Europe in a few weeks after all of the horses take a break in April.

“We have gone slow with her during the circuit; we just kept her behind the others,” he explained. “Obviously I am in a very lucky position that I don’t need to rush her. I think she will probably be done for circuit now. Maybe we were going to do one class next week, but maybe we are better to quit while we’re ahead. All my horses will pretty much take April off and start up again in May. They have worked very hard for the last few months, so they all deserve a rest.”

First, there is one more week of competition still to come at the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Maher has Jane Clark’s Cella fresh and ready to go for next Saturday’s $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5*. He has won five of the eleven grand prix classes on the circuit so far and hopes to take home the big pay day in the final week.

Rachael Barnes and Tye Donaldson Triumph in ASPCA Maclay Sections A and B

Barnmates Rachael Barnes, 18, and Tye Donaldson, 15, emerged victorious from Sections A and B, respectively, of the ASPCA Maclay on Sunday afternoon at the FTI WEF. Barnes and Donaldson both train with Missy Clark and John Brennan of North Run, who also enjoyed top finishes in Friday evening’s George Morris Excellence in Equitation class, presented by Alessandro Albanese.

North Run continued its winning ways on Sunday morning, first with Barnes, who topped Section A of the ASPCA Maclay aboard Salt Lake, a 12-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Joe and Mary Tyree. Barnes, of Buffalo, NY, started leasing Salt Lake at the beginning of the FTI WEF circuit and was thrilled with their early success.

“We just immediately clicked,” Barnes said of Salt Lake. “It all came together today, and I’m just so happy with him. We get along really well, and he’s such a good boy.”

Of their quick bond, Barnes remarked, “I tried him in November, and I got on him and it worked out really well. I just knew I could do well on him. He’s a little horse, but he has a nice big stride and covers the lines well. He’s very adjustable, and I really like that about him.”

Salt Lake has proven to be a versatile mount for Barnes, who also contests the Platinum Performance USEF Show Jumping Talent Search, WIHS Equitation, and Pessoa USEF Hunter Seat Medal classes with him. While she enjoys the unique challenges posed by all four classes, she appreciates the type of courses typically seen in the ASPCA Maclay. Barnes also finds it easier to take a breath and stay focused without the pressure of a timer.

“I like that there’s no time allowed in the Maclay, so you have time to know what you’re doing. I like that there’s a lot of bending lines in the Maclay, so you have a lot of options in the course,” Barnes described.

Sunday’s course offered several different options for riders, which Barnes believed helped her earn a score high enough to be called back on the flat.

“I definitely think the last three jumps [made the difference in my round]. It was kind of like a half circle at the end of the ring. I saw [other riders do] six [strides], I saw sevens, I saw eights. I ended up doing a seven to an easy eight. I think I just really smoothed that out and that made me get called back,” Barnes explained.

Donaldson was equally happy with her ride with Cortes 7, a 14-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Royal Palm Equine LLC. Donaldson, of Chepachet, RI, admitted the course didn’t ride exactly as it walked, but her horse’s big stride helped her stay steady.

“The last two lines, I walked it an eight [stride] to an eight [stride] and then ended up doing a seven. Most people did eight strides in the second line, but he has such nice big stride and landed left that I just went for seven,” Donaldson noted.

She continued, “I really liked the course. I thought it was great. A lot of it was off the left lead, which is easier to land with him, so that was better for us.”

A stand-alone combination with butterfly wing standards tripped up several riders that tried to cut the turn a little too sharply. Donaldson stuck to her plan, knowing if she rode a wider track to meet the jump head-on, Cortes 7 could take care of the rest. She had good reason to put her complete confidence in the gelding; he helped Adeline Audette and Charlotte Jacobs to multiple equitation wins throughout their highly successful junior years.

“He’s an amazing horse,” Donaldson beamed. “I love him to death. He’s an old pro and a good guy.”

She continued, “I love his huge stride. He’s really nice to get up in a light seat with; he keeps his pace really nicely. He’s got a great jump, and he’s great to flat. He’s pretty much all around an amazing horse.”

Donaldson was happy to share her victory with fellow North Run rider Barnes, especially since Sunday marked the first time Donaldson had ever won a class at the FTI WEF. “We’re really good friends. It’s both of our first time winning this week, and it’s my first time ever winning at WEF. I started doing the equitation here last year,” Donaldson shared.

Donaldson also expressed gratitude for the entire North Run team’s hard work and contributions to her riding. She described Missy Clark’s thorough preparation for the ring as one of her favorite elements of the North Run training program.

“I love how Missy gets you to the ring. When she explains [the course] to you, you can see how she wants you to jump every jump, the line and track you’re supposed to have. She maps out a great plan for you, and if you follow that, you’ll be great,” Donaldson smiled.

Donaldson and Barnes’ wins wrapped up hunter competition for Week 11 of the FTI WEF, presented by Artisan Farms. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

About FTI Consulting, Inc.

FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 4,000 employees located in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.58 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2012. For more information, visit www.fticonsulting.com.

About the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival

The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 8 through March 30. The FTI WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are “AA” rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $7 million in prize money will be awarded.

Please visit www.equestriansport.com or call 561-793-5867 for more information.

Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Equestrian Public Relations
info@jenniferwoodmedia.com

Record Breaking 10,000 Attendees – Record Wins

Chester Weber and his team on course in the marathon. (Photo courtesy of PicsofYou.com)

Ocala, FL (March 23, 2014) – The motto on its show program, Chase Perfection, Catch Excellence, perfectly encapsulated this year’s Live Oak International, March 20-23, at Live Oak Plantation in Ocala, FL, as history was made in U.S. National Four-in-Hand competition, Olympic Show Jumping champions converged, and Super Bowl stars of both the commercial TV screen and stadium met in one superlative week of competition in front of a record 10,000 fans.

Writing yet another chapter in American combined driving history, Chester Weber of Ocala, FL, defended his U.S. Four-in-Hand Horse title with a record 11th victory on a final score of 116.33, also accepting the Jean Keathley Award sponsored by Michael Freund for lowest dressage score by an FEI whip.  Second place went to Sarasota, FL whip Misdee Wrigley-Miller, who accepted the Anne Bliss Memorial Award sponsored by Michael Freund as the most elegant lady driver throughout the competition.

Bringing an Olympic cachet to the show jumping competition was reigning 2012 Olympic Individual Gold medalist Ben Maher, whose flawless rounds on Jane Clark’s Aristo Z led to another Florida championship for him this season after victory in Saturday’s $50,000 CSI2*W Live Oak Grand Prix (42.48 seconds).  Second place was Ashlee Bond Clarke riding Little Valley Farm’s Agrostar, whose win qualified her for the World Cup.

After four classes of show jumping competition, the luck of the Irish in the $10,000 E2 Leading Rider Award went to 2012 Olympic Individual Bronze medalist Cian O’Connor.

Clydesdales
The Budweiser Clydesdales

Super Bowl sports star power was apparent in a double dose at Live Oak International. The 6’5” two-time National Football League Super Bowl linebacker Max Montoya of Hebron, KY, known and loved for his signature lime-green ‘fauxhawk’ helmet, was large and in charge as he drove to the top of the Intermediate Pair Horse championship with his Georgian Grandes.  Also drawing thousands of fans and rightly winning applause throughout the week were the world famous stars of the Super Bowl television commercials, the Budweiser Clydesdales.

While the big boys had star power some of the littlest riders stole the show on Sunday when a small herd of small riders entered the ring for the leadline class to resounding applause.  Special thanks to sponsors Sleepy P Ranch.

Demonstrating that driving horses (or ponies) isn’t just for the gentleman was Misdee Wrigley-Miller of Sarasota, FL, the reserve champion in the U.S. National Four-in-Hand and winner of the Anne Bliss Memorial award as the most elegant lady driver of the event. Wrigley-Miller, who drove her first pony at age four, was adamant that combined driving was not about muscle, but finesse and saw her reserve championship as an a opportunity to serve as a role model for younger equestriennes.

Ten thousand spectators and 17 nations added up to a winning equation for Live Oak International organizers and brother-sister team, Chester Weber and Juliet Reid.  Weber intimated that there is still more to come, with plans in 2015 of expanding the program to embrace Three-Day Eventing, too.

“I foresee Live Oak International as America’s Aachen,” Weber said, comparing the goals of the Ocala venue to the esteemed European venue.

In Florida’s ‘horse capital,’ it’s amply possible. For more information on Live Oak International, visit www.liveoakinternational.com.

For more information contact:
Damian Guthrie
561 290 9668
Live Oak International
www.liveoakinternational.com
info@liveoakinternational.com

Ben Maher Wins $50,000 CSI2*W at 2014 Live Oak International

Ben Maher and Aristo Z. (Photo courtesy of PicsofYou.com)

Ocala, FL (March 22, 2014) – It only took 42.48 fault-free seconds for Ben Maher of Great Britain to prove why he is show jumping’s reigning Olympic Individual Gold medalist as he boldly negotiated Jane Clark’s Aristo Z over Leopoldo Palacio’s eight-fence jump-off and, in front of a full house of spectators at its John Deere stadium, clinched this year’s $50,000 CSI2*W at the 2014 Live Oak International in Ocala, FL.

“It was a fantastic ride,” said Maher, who no sooner completed his victory gallop than was boarding a plane for a second grand prix in south Florida that evening at FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.

“He stayed quiet and adjusted to the temperature,” Maher continued, referring to the exceptionally fine weather on Saturday.  “Chester (Weber) put on a great show and it was a pleasure to come.”

Second to Maher, but successfully clinching her berth for this year’s World Cup, was U.S. rider Ashlee Bond Clarke, who was also penalty-free in the jump off, on Little Valley Farm’s Agrostar, crossing the timers just three-tenths of a second behind Maher (42.73).

“I won’t lie; I was sweating,” said Clarke, 29.  “I’m not so young anymore.  I still feel twenty but today was stressful.  I knew if Jenni (McAllister, the first to go in the jump-off) went clear she could beat me for a place on the World Cup.  I had to be no worse than fifth.  Her rail made my life easier!”  McAllister set the pace in the jump off — 45.30 seconds – but also collected four faults.

Continuing the international caliber of the field was Angel Karoyli of Venezuela, who was third on Hollow Creek Farm’s Indiana 127.  Karoyli, who has been riding the chestnut KWPN gelding for just under two years, was no stranger to Palacios’ courses, and made an aggressive grab at the win only to find his nemesis going from Palacios’ wall into its grand prix plank fence.

“He has a tendency to drift a little to the left, but I over-adjusted,” said the 27-year-old show jumping star.

Watching the CSI2*W finale was its host, Chester Weber.  This is only the third year that grand prix show jumping has been added to Live Oak International’s 21-year tradition of equestrian competition, and Weber foresees the Ocala venue only broadening its worldview.

“I’d like to offer three-day eventing as well.  We’re exploring that. One day, I would like to see Live Oak International bring to Ocala the equivalent of Aachen,” said Weber, referring to one of Europe’s most time-honored equestrian sport venues.

Elite entertainment after the victory gallop continued with the Lugano Diamonds Competitor’s Party on Saturday night, which swapped the golden luster of Maher’s Olympic-level performance for the chic shimmering sparkle of diamonds amid a silver and white décor befitting its 007 James Bond theme.

The final day of the 2014 Live Oak International promises to deliver another show of precision and athleticism during the Driving Obstacle Competition beginning at 9 a.m.  A Coaching Presentation at 1:15pm will feature the history and tradition behind carriage driving, followed by a children’s Leadline Class at 1:30pm. The $33,000 CSI**W Hollow Creek Winning Round completes the week’s competition.

Admission is $10 at the gate for adults and $5 for seniors and children under 12. It is strongly recommended that spectators bring lawn chairs. Concessions and a Vendor Village will be open during the entire competition.

For more information on Live Oak International, including a full schedule of events, visit www.liveoakinternational.com.

For more information contact:
Damian Guthrie
561 290 9668
Live Oak International
www.liveoakinternational.com
info@liveoakinternational.com

Maher Reigns Supreme in $125,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3*

Ben Maher and Urico. Photos © Sportfot.

Isabella Usenza Wins THIS Children’s Medal 15-17 with Sebastian

Wellington, FL – March 15, 2014 – British superstar Ben Maher added an unprecedented fifth grand prix win to his tally at this year’s FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) with a win in Saturday night’s $125,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3* aboard Jane Clark’s Urico. Competing in the tenth week of competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, Maher topped Lauren Hough (USA) and Ohlala, and Daniel Deusser (GER) riding Fyloe v/h Claeyssenhof, who finished second and third in a six-horse jump-off.

FTI WEF week 10, sponsored by Horseware Ireland, concludes on Sunday with the $34,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. The FTI WEF features 12 weeks of world-class competition through March 30, awarding $8 million in prize money.

Richard Jeffery (GBR) set the course for 45 competitors in Saturday night’s $125,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3*, yielding six clear rounds to advance to the jump-off, where all six then completed double clear rounds and raced against the clock for top honors. Continuing the streak of a lifetime, Ben Maher mastered yet another grand prix track, speeding through the course last to go with Urico in the winning time of 41.01 seconds.

Maher topped Lauren Hough and Ohlala’s time of 41.25 seconds to put the pair in second place. Daniel Deusser and Stephex Stables’ and Double H Farm’s Fyloe v/h Claeyssenhof stopped the clock in 41.53 second to finish third.

Also competing in Saturday night’s jump-off, Peter Wylde (USA) and Federico Fernandez’s Zorro were first to go, and set the fourth place time of 42.43 seconds. Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Mike Collins’ Zoe II finished fifth in 42.87 seconds, and Georgina Bloomberg (USA) guided Gotham Enterprizes’ Juvina to the sixth place prize in 46.73 seconds.

Maher has been on an incredible roll in Wellington and kept the winning streak alive on Saturday night. So far, he has won week one’s $30,000 Mar-a-Lago Club Grand Prix with Kavanagh IV, week three’s $125,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI 3* with Cella, week five’s $370,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W 5* presented by Rolex with Cella, and week eight’s $150,000 Grand Prix CSIO 4* presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty with Urico. Urico also won week five’s $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 Section A in a California Split.

“It is unbelievable,” Maher smiled on Saturday night. “I am on a lucky run right now, and Urico felt great. We saved him specifically for this class this week. Luckily, I was pre-qualified, and he just jumped a training round earlier in the week.”

“He was quite fresh tonight under the lights,” Maher noted. “It seemed like a big atmosphere. I thought it was going to be a bit quieter tonight, but it was quite popular. The course was very difficult, probably one of the most technical courses we have had here and it caused a lot of problems all over. It was not a big course, but very technical and it just felt very hard. Then the jump-off was flowing. I saw Daniel go. I had the lucky draw again to watch all of the riders go, and Lauren was very quick. I just did what I could do, and kind of wanted to get to the last fence as fast as possible. I said to Lauren, it looked like it was coming in slow motion, and luckily I was just fast enough.”

Urico’s other two wins this season have each been during the daytime, so Maher had the added challenge of the lights and atmosphere to take into consideration in his preparation for the night class.

“I think all the horses are different under the lights,” Maher pointed out. “If they are experienced enough, I think they come alive and jump sharper and better, and I think good horses rise to the occasion with a great atmosphere. It just seems great fun every Saturday night. It goes well and everyone really seems to be enjoying it here. It is always nice when the crowd gets behind you in the jump-off.”

Speaking of the jump-off, Maher added, “I have no idea where I got the time over Lauren. It was one of those jump-offs where I met every jump where I wanted to meet them. I had quite a tight turn back to the wall. Urico is probably one of the fastest horses we have in the stables. He is incredibly fast before, over and after the jump, so I think he gains time everywhere. I tried not to panic when I saw Lauren go. I just did what I had to do and tried not to make a mistake.”

Maher has put a lot of hard work into forming a solid partnership with Urico since they began competing together last winter and has seen his efforts pay off this year.

“It’s always fantastic to win a class, and especially on Urico,” he stated. “We are still trying new things all the time; we’re testing him, and the other week it was during the day. This was under the lights, so that was nice to get that out of the way and just to get the consistency. He’s a really exciting horse to ride. He wants to be so competitive, he wants to win, and you just have to keep him quiet enough. He had quite a lot of work today because I knew he would be fresh and excited tonight. I am enjoying a great streak for now, and at some point it’s going to change for sure. We lose a lot more than we win in our sport, and at the moment it’s going my way, so I just enjoy great horses, great support from Jane and the team, and make the most of it while it’s happening.”

Lauren Hough and Ohlala
Lauren Hough and Ohlala

With a very fast second place finish, Lauren Hough had a great round with her speedy mount Ohlala, and was happy with another top placing this week. She knew she had a good time, but still had a tough competitor to follow.

“You’re never certain you’re the winner, especially when you have Ben following you with the streak he’s been on,” Hough admitted, “but my horse has been fantastic all week. She was second in the ‘WEF’ (Challenge Cup) as well, so we have kind of been knocking on the door, but I was thrilled. I thought Richard did a super job with the course. It suited my horse very well. Perhaps I could have been a bit faster to the last jump, but it was very, very close.”

Deusser was also pleased with his mount, Fyloe v/h Claeyssenhof, explaining that this was the horse’s first outdoor grand prix. “He did a very good job,” the rider acknowledged. “He is a very careful horse. Especially under the lights today he was very impressed with the course. I had to work quite hard in the first round, but the jump-off, that was the best I could do I think. With two experienced combinations behind me, it’s always difficult. You never know quite how fast you have to go, but I am very happy with the round. If I think back, maybe from jump one to two I could have done one stride less, but at the end of the day I am very happy with this. I did a few jump-offs in 1.45m classes and a couple of 1.50ms, but he is not too experienced in jump-offs. It was one of his fastest.”

On behalf of week ten title sponsor and presenting sponsor of the evening’s class, Horseware Ireland founder Tom MacGuinness and his daughter Lorraine were on hand for a fantastic night of competition.

Tom MacGuinness commented on the growth of the competition at the FTI WEF, noting, “I came here probably 15 years ago when it was a grass ring with a mound of sand where people could sit and watch, and then I came back about six years ago and I saw what was going on here, and I said that this was going to be the best horse show in the world. We had been sponsoring Triple Crown blankets for the presentations, but when I came here that time, I just saw the organization. I felt the determination and the focus that they had to make it the best horse show in the world. It is a fantastic show. It is the best show in the world as far as I’m concerned.”

Lorraine MacGuinness explained the incredible contribution that Horseware Ireland has made to this year’s circuit at PBIEC by providing the blankets and coolers that are presented to the winners at not only the FTI WEF, but the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) as well.

“We did 1,400 blankets for the whole circuit between the Global Dressage Festival and here, so that’s a pretty big sponsorship for us; it’s a lot of resources,” MacGuinness noted. “The printed blankets like Ben won tonight are new for us, and they are unique. No other circuit does them. We did 55 of them with all of the sponsors’ logos, and we are really proud of how they work.”

Equestrian Sport Productions thanks Horseware Ireland for their fantastic support as week ten of the FTI WEF and AGDF circuits conclude.

Isabella Usenza and Sebastian
Isabella Usenza and Sebastian

Isabella Usenza Wins THIS Children’s Medal 15-17 with Sebastian

Fifteen-year-old Isabella Usenza earned top call with Sebastian in the THIS Children’s Medal 15-17 on Saturday morning at the FTI WEF. Usenza and Sebastian earned an 85.5 in the first round to return third for the test, which called back the top four riders to face off over fences. Usenza ultimately came out on top for her well-executed track aboard Sebastian, a six-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding she recently purchased from trainer Monty Kelly.

Second place went to Jennifer Hunt, who enjoyed the first round high score of 87 with Winston. Haley Zimmerman and San Paolo finished third after a first round score of 86, and Ashley Denmark was fourth with Vince. The pair earned an 86 in round one.

Usenza has been riding Sebastian for the past eight months and made him her own at the beginning of the FTI WEF circuit. Usenza had watched several videos of the horse go over the years, and after sitting on him once, made the decision to begin competing with him. The pair clicked almost immediately; Usenza praised the gelding for infinitely boosting her confidence level.

“He is so easy for me to ride. I used to have a horse that didn’t get my confidence high. He just takes me around like ‘It’s okay, relax; I’m going to jump.’ He really taught me a lot about how to be more relaxed, and my confidence has gone up a lot,” Usenza explained.

The pair picked up circuit championship honors last fall at HITS Saugerties (NY) as well as a win in the THIS Children’s Medal 15-17 during Week 1 of the FTI WEF. Usenza has been thrilled with their early success and is excited to have her first horse to learn on and eventually move up to 3’6″ divisions with.

Usenza felt her first round course went well but had room for improvement, despite earning well over 80 in a field of over 30 talented young riders. She planned on working on not twisting her body and maintaining a straighter track when she contested the Equitation 15-17 division later in the day.

For the test, the judge asked riders to canter fence one, then halt before continuing at the canter to fence two, which created a bending line to fence three. The final fence was a trot jump in the middle of the ring that aimed riders directly at the judge. Usenza opted to promptly halt after fence one and return to the walk almost immediately after the trot jump to exit the arena.

“I had to be very consistent. Since I was third, I would have to move up some points to win,” Usenza noted. “I had to make sure I was really concise with my halt. I had to make sure I halted right away and got a good canter going to the bending six to make sure that rode well. To my trot jump, I made sure I kept it together and trotted early enough. Then I walked right away after the jump. I walked as soon as I could because that’s what the judge asked.”

While one rider attempted to earn extra points by asking for a flying lead change in the bending line, Usenza purposefully stuck with the lead she landed on.

Of her strategy in the bending line, Usenza shared, “I landed on the left lead and counter cantered the line. My trainers always say, every lead you land on in a line that’s only six strides, you just stay on that. You don’t want to risk changing it and missing the change in a line. I’ve been very [well] schooled in my counter canter; I’ve been practicing a lot. So we just stay on whatever lead we land on.”

Usenza trains with Monty and Sandy Kelly, Shaine Brooks, and Amy Momrow of Stepping Stone Farm. She enjoys the fun atmosphere where having a good time is just as important as doing well in the ring. Usenza has travelled back and forth from Albany, NY, to Wellington to have the opportunity to compete with Stepping Stone at the FTI WEF, an endeavor her school has been more than happy to support.

“It’s sort of hard, but they’ve been really good about it. [My school is] really supportive. They’ve given me all my work. They’re really enjoying the fact that I’m pursuing my dream of coming here,” Usenza smiled.

Hunter competition for the tenth week of the FTI WEF, presented by Horseware Ireland, concludes on Sunday with Section B of the Camping World Adult Amateur Hunter 51 & Over division in the Rost Arena at the Main Grounds of PBIEC. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

About FTI Consulting, Inc.

FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 4,000 employees located in 24 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.58 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2012. For more information, visit www.fticonsulting.com.

About the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival

The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 8 through March 30. The FTI WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are “AA” rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $7 million in prize money will be awarded.

Please visit www.equestriansport.com or call 561-793-5867 for more information.

Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Equestrian Public Relations
info@jenniferwoodmedia.com