Cian O’Connor and Walk Tall II Win $25,000 Suncast Championship Jumper Classic
Wellington, FL – February 23, 2013 – Week seven of the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF), sponsored by Hermès , continued on Saturday with the $50,000 USHJA World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. Fifteen-year-old Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL, took home her second win in a row in the prestigious class, this year riding Dr. Betsee Parker’s Ovation to victory. Previous winners filled the second place spots; Liza Boyd and Brunello placed second, while Louise Serio and Castle Rock were third.
Hunter horses and riders have been showcased throughout week seven of the FTI WEF during WCHR competition, featured in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
Saturday night’s Hunter Spectacular competition saw the best of the FTI WEF’s Professional, Amateur and Junior riders, who qualified for the class during competition for their respective divisions throughout the week.
Four panels of two judges each were on hand for the class, each stationed at different points around the arena. The judges for the class included: Panel 1 – Danny Robertshaw and Mary Lisa Leffler, Panel 2 – Scott Williamson and Bill Moroney, Panel 3 – Rachel Kennedy and Scott Hofstetter, Panel 4 – Julie Winkel and Patrick Rodes.
The competitors with the top twelve scores from round one advanced to the second round of the class; among them was the 2012 Hunter Spectacular winner, Victoria Colvin (who won last year with Way Cool). Colvin returned this year on another of Dr. Betsee Parker’s mounts, Ovation, and set the bar high for the night’s competition with a score of 91.5 early on. The duo finished with a second round score of 90.37 for a top score of 181.87.
Colvin was elated to win the Hunter Spectacular two years in a row, especially in such good company as Boyd and Serio.
“Winning two years in a row is amazing. It feels really great. There’s amazing riders in this class, including lots of professionals. It’s great to compete against them,” Colvin stated.
“This year, I was on a different horse. I think this was Ovation’s first or second time under the lights, so I didn’t know how he was going to be, but I felt strong going into the second round and was confident that he was going to be good,” Colvin continued.
Colvin did not put any extra pressure on herself or Ovation to repeat last year’s win. “I don’t really get nervous,” the fifteen-year-old phenom simply explained.
“Ovation is pretty straight-forward and very smooth across the ground,” Colvin described of her winning mount, a thirteen-year-old Warmblood gelding.
Brunello, a fifteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Janet Peterson and Boyd, was the only horse to compete at the four-foot height and was first on course for round two. The pair made their presence known in no uncertain terms, galloping to an impressive 91.5 right off the bat. While no one caught their score, combined with their first round score of 86.5, their total score of 178 put them in second place.
“It was a little hard to go back to back,” Boyd admitted. “He actually went better the second round. He’s older now and he likes the pressure. I just went in I said, ‘We’re going for it, buddy.’ We were sitting in eighth and both of us just weren’t quite as pumped up the first round, and you have to get that way with him. You kind of have to give him blood and get him excited.”
Boyd was incredibly impressed by course designer Steve Stephens’ ingenious approach to the night’s courses. “You had to be a rider. It wasn’t just your typical outside, diagonal hunter course and I like to see that these days. I think that the hunters are going that direction and it makes them jump crisper and higher and it’s fun. It makes us better riders in the long run. I think Steve has helped that in a very good way,” Boyd stated.
Boyd likened tonight’s competition to the World Cup Finals of the hunter world, emphasizing the importance of showcasing hunter competition. “It’s a really big deal for us to have this show. It’s nice for us to get highlighted,” Boyd explained.
“All three of us wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for our owners. We have great owners that believe in our program and we wouldn’t be here without them. They’re horses of a lifetime and we’re just really lucky to have them in our lives,” Boyd emphasized.
The only pair to beat Colvin and Ovation in round one was veteran competitors Louise Serio and Castle Rock, a fourteen-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Bryan Baldwin. Castle Rock and Serio also received a score of 91.5, but had a higher score from the tie-breaker judge’s panel. Serio and Castle Rock couldn’t catch Colvin and Ovation during round two, scoring an 86.18 for a total score of 177.6.
“Castle Rock was more relaxed the second round. I was a lot more nervous,” Serio admitted. “It’s hard [going last] when you’re in that hot seat. He’s just a wonderful horse and he just gives you confidence and always tries so hard.”
Serio had equally high praise as Boyd did for Stephens’ course design. “I think what’s really fantastic is that he’s done the Olympics and put as much time and thought into this for us as he did for that, or at least it feels like it,” Serio stated.
“I think that course made the class. I think our horses rose to the occasion. They weren’t taxed too much, but they were taxed enough to jump really well. The lines rode beautifully and he’s just an amazing course designer,” Serio continued.
Serio was equally complimentary of the WCHR showcase throughout week seven of the FTI WEF. “I think it’s really amazing how important it is as a rider to get into this class. I’ve been doing this a long time and I stress every year about getting into this class,” Serio emphasized. “You see everybody gearing up and working for it and trying to get in it. It’s really fun to see that and I think it’s really great to see the class go so well.”
The WCHR Calcutta, hosted in the International Club immediately prior to the class’s start, raised $28,500. Proceeds will benefit the USHJA Foundation.
The Peter Wetherill Cup was awarded to Lynn Rice, owner of Gramercy Park. The Peter Wetherill Cup was established in October of 2011 to honor the life and legacy of well-known equestrian, Peter Wetherill, and to recognize the WCHR “Hunter of the Year.” Rice was joined for the presentation by Gramercy Park’s professional rider and trainer, Tom Brennan and Tony Workman.
Several other special awards recognized the night’s top competitors following round one of competition. The Charlie Weaver Memorial award, which recognizes the conformation horse with the highest average score during round one, was awarded to Taken, ridden by Kelley Farmer and owned by Jessica Stitt.
Empire, ridden by Peter Pletcher and owned by David Gochman, was recognized as the Best Conditioned Horse of round one with the Mark Gregory Memorial Award. Empire is groomed by Gustavo Hernandez.
Amateur-Owner and Junior Hunter Division Champions
Amateur-Owner and Junior riders had qualified for the evening’s class only a few hours prior, with divisions awarding championship honors earlier on Saturday. The Bainbridge Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division saw championship honors go to Lexi Maounis and her eleven-year-old Hanoverian mare Sienna. Sienna and Maounis were first and sixth over fences during day one and secured the championship title with a first place finish in Saturday’s stake round. Reserve champion was Humor Me and Stephanie Danhakl, who were fifth and first over fences.
Maounis was thrilled to secure a spot in Saturday night’s prestigious Hunter Spectacular class. “It’s so special to win during Hunter Week. She’s been champion the past few weeks here [at WEF] and I’m just so happy we could do it again.”
Maounis’s always dependable mare was unfazed by the wide open spaces of the International Arena. “She was perfect in the International Ring. The handy was just really fun, especially getting to do the tight turns with her,” Maounis commented.
Rock Steady and Katie Robinson triumphed in the Hunt Limited Amateur-Owner Over 35 Hunter division. Robinson and her thirteen-year-old Warmblood gelding were first and second over fences during day one of competition and finished second over fences and third under saddle on day two. Reserve champion was Gia, ridden by Katie Gibson.
The pair was first and third over fences and seventh under saddle.
Robinson described Rock Steady as her perfect match, and credited their success to his love of the show ring. “He’s got just the right amount of sass. He gets to the jumps and has fun with it. He just enjoys showing,” stated Robinson.
This week is the highlight for many hunter competitors at the FTI WEF, and Robinson welcomes the extra attention it brings to hunter riders and horses. “Hunter Week really is a special week. It’s so nice to be showcased and to get out in the big ring. It’s nice to feel special and it’s so much fun,” Robinson described.
Junior rider divisions also competed throughout the day on Saturday for a spot in the night class, beginning with the Antares Large Junior Hunter 15 and Under division. Tori Colvin and Dr. Betsee Parker’s Inclusive were champions of the division after placing fifth under saddle and sweeping the over fences classes. Reserve champion was Kyle Owens’ Cinema, ridden by Kirklen Peterson. The pair was fourth and second over fences.
Colvin also emerged victorious with Ovation in the Small Junior Hunter 15 and Under division. Ovation won the under saddle class and placed second, first and third over fences. Reserve champion of the division was Whatever, owned and ridden by Vivian Yowan. Yowan and Whatever were fifth under saddle and third, second and first over fences.
Colvin is already a veteran competitor in the Hunter Spectacular despite only being fifteen, and was especially pleased to have two of her mounts qualify. “Every win is significant to me, but it’s really special to win during Hunter Week. WCHR is the biggest show of WEF, and it’s an honor to win at WEF in general,” Colvin stated.
Colvin described her mounts – Inclusive, a ten-year-old Warmblood gelding, and Ovation, a thirteen-year-old Warmblood gelding – as an exceptionally talented pair.
“[Ovation] is an amazing mover, and he just sweeps across the ground. He may not jump as well as Inclusive, but he creates such a pretty picture that the judges always love him,” Colvin described.
“Inclusive just has an unreal jump,” Colvin continued. “He was great today and is an amazing horse. He’s very easy to ride; you can just let go and let him do his job. He gets up to the jump and just snaps his legs up perfectly.”
The older Junior divisions wrapped up the qualifying rounds for the Hunter Spectacular. Garfield and Alexandra Crown triumphed in the Antarés Large Junior Hunter 16-17 division after the pair jumped to first, second, and second place finishes over fences and fourth place under saddle. Reserve champion was Chansonette Farm, LLC’s Madison, ridden by Lillie Keenan. Keenan and Madison were second, second and third over fences and third under saddle.
Crown and Garfield have accumulated an array of championship titles at the FTI WEF, but edging out the competition at Hunter Week was especially meaningful for Crown.
“A lot of people wait to come [to the FTI WEF] this week just to show during Hunter Week. The judging is a little harder, the courses are harder, but Garfield was on it today. He’s always perfect though,” Crown grinned.
Keenan and Jennifer Gates’ Parkland, another duo intimately familiar with the FTI WEF championship circle, unsurprisingly won the Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division. Parkland, a nine-year-old KWPN gelding, and Keenan clinched this week’s title with three blue ribbon finishes and one third place round over fences in addition to another first place prize under saddle. Reserve champion of the Small Junior 16-17 division was Good Humor, owned and ridden by Madeleine Thatcher.
“This horse makes me feel pretty confident all the time,” Keenan admitted. “He was a lot of fun in the International Ring today. He has a huge stride, so to be able to go in a big ring like this and gallop around is a lot of fun for both of us.”
Cian O’Connor and Walk Tall II Win $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
Week seven of the 2013 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival continued on Saturday afternoon with the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic featured on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC. Richard Jeffery, of Bournemouth, England, is the course designer on the derby field for the week. On Saturday afternoon, Jeffery set the track for 31 entries in the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Only three entries cleared the first round course to advance to the jump-off, and two cleared the short course. Ireland’s Cian O’Connor and Darragh Kenny finished first and second.
Young American rider Blythe Marano was the first rider to jump-off aboard Riverview Farm, LLC’s Urban and finished with eight faults in 48.83 seconds to place third. Darragh Kenny and Cavallo Farms, LLC’s Twister jumped next and cleared the jump-off course in 45.22 seconds to finish second. Last to go, Cian O’Connor and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.’s Walk Tall II took the win with their time of 43.53 seconds.
Both of the top horse and rider combinations in Saturday’s class came in strong with wins earlier in the week. Kenny and Twister won the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m speed class on Wednesday and O’Connor and Walk Tall II topped Friday’s $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge. Saturday’s course on the grass tested many of the competitors on the roster, but they both mastered the track.
A new horse for Olympian Cian O’Connor, Walk Tall II is an eleven-year-old Anglo European gelding by Kannan x Farhaan. Walk Tall previously showed with Irish rider Keith Doyle and won last year’s Queen’s Cup in Hickstead. O’Connor got the horse just before Christmas but did a lot of traveling before coming to Florida, so this was their first show together.
“He is a really talented horse,” O’Connor stated after the class. “He has had good results before. He won a big class in Hickstead last year, so he likes the big open space and I think the field suited him well today.”
“He has been ridden by the same rider since he was four, so I am a different rider and it takes time to adjust,” O’Connor noted. “I just feel that we are getting to know each other a little bit better today after just a few classes. In our second week jumping he won a 1.40m yesterday and a 1.50m today, so I can’t really ask for much better than that. If I can train him to listen to me and understand me and really get all of the gears, I think I can jump any course. He is so careful and so brave.”
The rider described Walk Tall further, explaining the details that they are working out as they get to know each other. “He has a very big stride,” O’Connor said. “Ideally, you’d want a horse to have a big stride and a short stride, but he has not learned the short bit yet, so that can present problems sometimes if you are not extremely on the ball yourself when riding. You have to adjust quite quickly when landing if the distance is quiet, but he is very willing and honest and he is super careful. He is by Kannan, which is French, out of an Irish mother. He has a lot of blood. When you warm up outside he is not that impressive, and then when you go into the ring he is really careful, so it is a good attribute. He saves energy for the class.”
Last to go in the jump-off, O’Connor was warming up when the other two riders jumped, but he asked U.S. rider Kent Farrington to watch their rounds and report.
“It was a great advantage going last,” O’Connor acknowledged. “I had asked Kent to keep an eye on proceedings for me. Sometimes it is quite hard to concentrate when you are warming up. I watched Darragh Kenny go out of the corner of my eye. I thought he was neat because he did an inside turn inside the water to the double of verticals. I said to Kent, ‘I won’t beat him because I don’t want to take that turn yet’, and Kent said that I could be quicker if I kept the rhythm up and went around, so it was great to have Kent there for that bit of advice.”
O’Connor is done showing now for week seven and will be gearing up for week eight’s CSIO competition and $75,000 FEI Furusiyya Nations Cup presented by G&C Farm. He hopes to help the Irish team to victory.
“We are happy with our week and we have a big week next week for the Nations Cup,” O’Connor stated. “I hope to be jumping Splendor on the team and hopefully we have a good result there. The Nations Cup is important here. We have so many Irish riders based here in Wellington and they have great sponsors and supporters, so it would be really nice to give them all something to cheer about.”
The Irish team will be named next week.
Week seven of the FTI WEF will conclude on Sunday with the highlight $50,000 Hermès Jumper Derby featured on the grass derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC at 3 p.m. WCHR competition will conclude in the International Arena featuring the Peggy Cone Adult Amateur Hunter Classic. The Children’s and Pony Hunter divisions will also complete their competition for the week. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Laura Cardon and Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
About the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival
The 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 9 through March 31. 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. For more information, please visit www.equestriansport.com.
About FTI Consulting
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 3,800 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 $1.56 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2011. More information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.
Please visit www.equestriansport.com or call 561-793-5867 for more information.
Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Equestrian Public Relations