Kent Farrington and Voyeur. Photos © Sportfot.
Ben Maher and Aristo Z Top $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Speed; Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Bellefleur Win $25,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Semi-Final
Wellington, FL – March 7, 2014 – The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) hosted a full schedule of international show jumping at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on Friday with several feature competitions during the day and night. The morning kicked off with the remaining jump-off competitors from Thursday’s $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 and a victory for Kent Farrington (USA) and Voyeur. A $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m speed class was held later in the afternoon with a win for Ben Maher (GBR) and Aristo Z. The $25,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Semi-Final was also held in the evening with a win for Nicole Bellissimo (USA) and VDL Bellefleur.
FTI WEF week nine, sponsored by The Bainbridge Companies, continues through Sunday, March 9. The $280,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W 4*, presented by The Bainbridge Companies, will be the highlight on Saturday night and the $84,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic will be held on Sunday. The FTI WEF features 12 weeks of world-class competition through March 30, awarding $8 million in prize money.
FTI WEF hosted the start of its $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 on Thursday with 89 entries and 23 jumping clear to advance to the jump-off over the Alan Wade (IRL) designed course. Unfortunately, only ten of the jump-off entries were able to complete their rounds before a severe storm blew through the show grounds. The remaining 13 entries showed on Friday morning with Kent Farrington (USA) and Amalaya Investments’ Voyeur jumping to victory. The pair cleared the course in the fastest time of 42.86 seconds.
Lauren Hough (USA) and Ohlala were the leaders coming into Friday morning after completing their jump-off round on Thursday in 45.21 seconds. Hough then beat her own time in 44.91 seconds aboard Karina Rotenburg’s Böckmanns Lazio on Friday. Hough finished third and fourth with her two mounts when Farrington and Voyeur blazed the fastest pace, followed by the second fastest round of Daniel Deusser (GER) and Stephex Stables’ Cornet d’Amour in 44.55 seconds.
Farrington explained that Voyeur, a 12-year-old KWPN gelding by Tolano van’t Riethof x Goodwill, has had some time off since an injury last summer and is just coming back. “This is his first bigger class back,” the rider noted. “I have been bringing him back real slow and jumping just smaller classes here. He is naturally very fast and he is a spectacular horse, so hopefully he stays healthy. He’s an unbelievable horse.”
“He is on the attack right from the get go,” Farrington said of his impressive jump-off round. “He has a massive, massive stride and he is very fast on his feet at the same time, so he has sort of the best of both. He has the foot speed of a small horse and the stride length of a big horse.”
“Over the time bringing him back, I have really worked on his control,” Farrington added. “He has always been a great jumper and obviously his gallop has always been like that, but my control wasn’t very good before. He was running off with me a lot of times in the jump-offs, so rollbacks or a very short line at the end was a real challenge with him.”
It was a little bit of a different situation for the riders that had to compete in the jump-off on Friday as their first round of the day, but that did not affect Farrington or Voyeur’s performance. “It was a little strange,” he admitted. “It is kind of like a speed class with only eight jumps, but it is very good money for this class and for me it is more about getting this horse back and going well. I wanted Voyeur to be able to do this jump-off more for my practice and his experience.”
“I think you have to make the best of the situation,” he said of the decision to postpone the remainder of the jump-off. “Had there been a way to see the weather coming, obviously it would have been better if everybody in the jump-off went together, but that wasn’t possible. I don’t think they had any other choice.”
Farrington plans to show Voyeur again on Saturday and will plan the horse’s schedule from there. “I haven’t planned too far ahead,” he explained. “I am just excited that he is back in the sport and that he feels good and that he is going as well as he is. I will go step by step and see where it takes us.”
In addition to the prize money for the class, Farrington earned a special $3,000 bonus as part of the SSG ‘Go Clean for the Green’ promotion for wearing his SSG ‘Digital’ Riding Gloves. Each week of the Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Series, a $3,000 bonus will be awarded to the winning rider if they are wearing SSG ‘Digital’ Riding Gloves in all rounds of competition with the SSG logo clearly visible.
Ben Maher and Aristo Z Top $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m
A $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m speed class was held Friday afternoon in the International Arena at PBIEC with an exciting win for Ben Maher (GBR) and Jane Clark’s Aristo Z. The class saw 60 competitors with 20 clear rounds and an increasingly fast pace as the rounds went on. Fifth to go, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm LLC’s Cyklon 1083 set a very tough time to beat at 63.23 seconds. The pair held the lead through most of the class until two of the finals competitors eventually pushed them into third.
Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Oakland Ventures LLC’s Picolo were the first combination to edge out Sweetnam’s time in 62.97 seconds, eventually finishing second. A few rounds later, Ben Maher and Aristo Z completed the fastest round in 62.23 seconds. Last to go, Meagan Nusz (USA) and Amalaya Investments’ Vesuvius jumped into fourth in 64.11 seconds.
Aristo Z is a ten-year-old Zangersheide gelding that Maher has had for several years, but is showing this year under new ownership for Jane Clark. Since the change, this is Aristo Z’s first win.
“He is normally a winner at those sorts of speed classes,” Maher noted. “Jane secured him for me just before Christmas. He was with another owner for the last couple of years, and he has won a lot of classes in different arenas. He is a great asset to the team.”
“I said to Jane before we got here that he might not love Florida,” Maher said. “It is a really big ring, and he is quite good in small arenas where he can kind of bounce off the walls a little bit. He has been jumping well, but we put him back in his old bridle today because I switched him to something else when I arrived and he wasn’t winning. I spoke to Jane on the phone, and I said that I was going to try him in the old bit. We put it on and Jane made it back to watch and he won, so I am just happy that he has kind of ‘broken the duck’ for Team Clark.”
Maher explained that Aristo Z’s speed and agility are what gave him the winning time in Friday’s class. “He is a useful horse,” he stated. “He has jumped some bigger classes in one or two grand prix when I have needed him to, but this is kind of his division here, the 1.45m or 1.50m speed classes. He can bend his body very well. He is naturally very fast everywhere and today there were options to leave strides out in the course and I actually didn’t. I kept the correct amount of strides, especially early on, and luckily his speed over the jumps and across the ground just was fast enough. These are difficult classes to win. There are quite a lot in them and a lot of galloping, and I am just happy he won a class here now.”
Also showing on Friday, Laura Chapot earned her fifth win of the week in the International Arena at FTI WEF. Chapot has been unstoppable this week, winning back to back classes on Wednesday in the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m speed class with Bradberry and the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m jump-off class riding Mary Chapot’s Umberto. On Thursday, she won the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m jump-off class aboard Quointreau un Prince, a horse she co-owns with McLain Ward. On Friday, Chapot added two more wins to her week, topping the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge with Bradberry and the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m jump-off class riding Umberto.
Bradberry, a 16-year-old Selle Francais gelding, has been winning classes for several years with Chapot in the irons and kept his streak alive this week. He also posted back to back victories in both the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m speed class and the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge during weeks six and eight.
Chapot has won classes outside of the International Arena this week as well, winning both the $2,500 Derby Gold Pine Shavings 1.35m speed and jump-off classes with Mary Chapot’s Castellana, and topping a $1,500 Adequan 8-Year-Old Young Jumper class with Out of Ireland for owner The Edge. She continues to be one of the top riders at FTI WEF each year.
Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Bellefleur Win $25,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Semi-Final
The $25,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Semi-Final was held on Friday night, presented by the Dutta Corporation in association with Guido Klatte. Fifty young riders under the age of 25 competed under the lights in the International Arena, with seven clear rounds to jump-off, and a win for 20-year-old Nicole Bellissimo of Wellington, FL.
Riding Bellissimo LLC’s VDL Bellefleur, an eight-year-old KWPN mare by Cardento x Emilion, Bellissimo jumped the only double clear round in the jump-off to take top honors in 51.64 seconds. Twenty-four-year-old Jordan MacPherson of Toronto, Ontario finished second aboard JEM Stables’ Piccobello du val de Geer with the fastest four-fault round in 45.39 seconds. Twenty-year-old Adrienne Sternlicht of Greenwich, CT jumped into third with four faults in 47.24 seconds aboard Starlight Farms’ Oreade de Dames.
The young rider series was developed thanks to Artisan Farms as a stepping stone for up-and-coming riders as they gain experience competing at the grand prix level. In addition to great experience for the riders, it can also be a stepping stone for young horses. In the case of Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Bellefleur, the series serves as an amazing opportunity for both horse and rider.
“She is actually a very special horse for me,” Bellissimo stated after her win. “I have had her for about a year and a half. She is only eight, so I got her when she was turning seven, and I am the only one that has shown her. I did her throughout her seven-year-old year and I brought her to Spruce Meadows last summer, so she has done a lot as a young horse. We moved her up this year and this is the biggest class that she has ever done, so it is really exciting for me that she went out and did so well. She is just stepping up to doing this level.”
Bellissimo showed in the young rider series two years ago in 2012, but explained that she did not have a horse to compete with last year. “This year is the first year that I have done all of the classes,” she noted. “It is fantastic for bringing up young horses that aren’t quite ready to go in the WEFs (Challenge Cup) or the grand prix classes, but maybe you want to step them up from the High Amateurs or the High Juniors. It is also great for riders such as me who are stepping up to the WEFs, but maybe aren’t as competitive in that, and want another stepping stone. I want to thank Artisan Farms for sponsoring the series because it is really great for the young horses and riders such as me that are moving up to the next level.”
In her freshman year at Harvard University in Boston, Bellissimo commutes back and forth from Wellington each week to compete between a full schedule of classes. This week was especially busy, but the extra traveling paid off in the end.
“This week was a little bit hectic because I had a midterm,” Bellissimo detailed. “I go to school in Boston, and I actually had an exam yesterday. I usually fly in Wednesday nights so I can show my horse on Thursdays. I am the only one that shows her, so we didn’t want to change anything and have my trainer (Candice King) show her, but I was a bit panicked because I couldn’t fly in to show yesterday. She just had to walk into the class tonight and I was really scared going in, but she really took care of me. She ended up being fantastic.”
Going second to last in the jump-off with everyone before her having rails, Bellissimo’s main goal was a clear round. “I just wanted to go in and do a nice clear and hope that it was nice enough to be quick enough if the last person went clear, but at the same time if the last person had a rail also,” she said.
This is the biggest win of the young rider’s career, and a very exciting accomplishment on home turf. “It is my biggest win so far and it is extra special with a horse that I have kind of brought along myself,” Bellissimo acknowledged. “She means a lot to me, and she is always fighting for me so much every time she goes in the ring. She has never done anything wrong. It was just really exciting that other people can see how great she is.”
A student in her fourth year at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, Jordan MacPherson has had success in the young rider series before and was very happy with her rounds aboard Piccobello du val de Geer, a 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare (Kannan x Skippy II).
“It was exciting,” MacPherson smiled after the class. “I have had her for about four years now, and I have done two other years with her in this series. She came out here like a pro tonight and was amazing. She gave me her heart, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Adrienne Sternlicht, a sophomore at Brown University, also had a great experience with her mount Oreade des Dames, a 12-year-old Selle Francais mare by Kannan x Hurlevent. “I have had her for three years, and she was really my horse that we intended for these classes,” Sternlicht explained. “I bought her as a nine-year-old for these young rider classes, and she has ended up doing some more. She jumped the ‘WEF’ yesterday. I think it is nice for her to be challenged with a bigger class every once in a while and then we bring her in this level and 1.45m/1.50m is really her comfort zone and she is quite a fast horse. I was really just trying to be a medium double clear and that didn’t work out, but she was fantastic tonight and I am thrilled with the way she went.”
Sternlicht first jumped in the young rider series two years ago and then was out last winter with an injury. “This year for me has been the first year that I really feel competitive at this level, and I am starting to be competitive at a bigger level,” Sternlicht acknowledged. “For me, I was more nervous for today than I was for the WEF (Challenge Cup) because I kind of put pressure on myself in these classes to really perform. I think it is a fantastic series, and it is a really neat experience.”
Week nine competition will continue on Saturday with the feature $280,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W 4*, presented by The Bainbridge Companies at 7 p.m., which will be live streamed at http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/2014-280000-fei-world-cup-grand-prix-live. 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