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.
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.”
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.
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