Wellington, FL - March 9, 2012 - California's Richard Spooner and Billy Bianca led the victory gallop in Friday afternoon's $32,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Classic at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). California native Ashlee Bond followed in a close second with her mount Apache, while Great Britain's Scott Brash and Bon Ami finished third.
The ninth week of competition at the FTI WEF, sponsored by the Bainbridge Companies, will continue through Sunday, March 11. The week will feature the $200,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix, CSI 4*-W, presented by the Bainbridge Companies on Saturday, March 10, at 7 p.m.
This week's course designer in the International Arena is Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela. In the 1.45m, Palacios set a great course for the roster of top riders competing towards ROLEX FEI world ranking points. Forty-seven entries started the class in a timed first round format. Nineteen were able to jump without fault, and Richard Spooner and Molly Ohrstrom's Billy Bianca completed the fastest clear round in 63.38 seconds for the win.
Bond and Little Valley Farm's Apache stopped the clock in 65.69 seconds to finish in second. Brash and Liz McTaggart's Bon Ami completed the course in 65.82 seconds to earn third place.
Class winner Billy Bianca is an eleven-year-old Warmblood mare by Vechta x Iroko. After showing successfully under U.S. Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut, Billy Bianca joined Spooner's string of horses last season, and continued to excel. The pair's first big win was in a $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic during week ten of the 2011 FTI WEF, also showing over a course set by Leopoldo Palacios. They were just getting to know each other then, and went on to several more wins and top finishes throughout the year. An injury put the mare out of commission for several months at the end of the season, however, and she is just coming back.
"She won the 1.50m here last year and she won a lot after that. She went on to win over $100,000 last year," Spooner stated. "She was really fantastic. I was getting ready to take her over to Europe, but I made a mistake in preparation and she hurt herself a little bit. This is her first week all the way back since then. She was second in the first 1.45m she did (on Wednesday) and first today, so I could not be happier."
Spooner has also had a hand in the careers of second place finishers Ashlee Bond and Apache, and was thrilled with their top placing today. "Apache is a horse that I rode at Spruce Meadows last year. I bought him as a five-year-old from Doug and Judy White, who actually were here this afternoon, and Ashlee I help a little bit from time to time, so I could not have been any happier today," he smiled. "For her to be second and me to win was really good; it was a banner day for California and for Ashlee and I!"
Commenting on his round in the class, Spooner noted, "Billy is a fantastic horse and she likes to go fast, so I pretty much just tried to let her go at her own speed and not push, and just kind of soothe her around the course; that is what she likes."
"I really like Billy," he went on. "She reminds me of a horse I had named Ezra. They ride almost identical, and Ezra just passed this week unfortunately, so it was nice that this mare came through and had such an extraordinary week." Currently sitting at the top of the North American West Coast League World Cup Standings, Spooner knows how important it is to maintain a good world ranking. He acknowledged the efforts of G&C Farm and the FTI WEF to host FEI classes.
"It is nice to have these classes, especially when you consider the level of competition here. It warrants the FEI's seal of approval," he declared. "I think it is fantastic of G&C Farm to come through and be so supportive of the horse show and enable the show to have these types of classes because it means a lot to the riders."
With a fantastic start to their season, Spooner hopes to aim Billy Bianca towards more international competition this year. He concluded, "Knock on wood everything looks good, so hopefully we will head off to Europe with her. I just want to try and keep placing her in classes that she can win. She does well with both grand prix and speed classes, but I would say that she is exceptional as a speed horse."
Other top finishers in today's 1.45m included Peter Leone (USA) and Monica Carrera's Lincourt Gino, who placed fourth with their time of 66.33 seconds, and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm's Cyklon 1083, who stopped the clock in 66.65 seconds to finish fifth. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Cantano, owned by Octavia Farms LLC, placed sixth in 67.13 seconds.
In the first class of the day, Catherine Pasmore and Pasmore Stables' Pacific Beach-H.C. won the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge with the fastest of 13 clear rounds in a field of 52 starters.
The $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m jump-off class immediately followed with a victory for Margie Engle and Hidden Creek's Pamina L. Twenty-six of 84 competitors went clear in round one to jump-off, and Engle and Pamina L were the fastest of 16 double clears for the win.
Low Adult Hunters Compete For Top Honors
Close competition in this week's Low Adult Hunter 2'6" Section A division led both champion and reserve tricolor winners to finish with 18 points. Hillary Jean of Castle Rock, CO, was declared the division champion scoring 16 points over fences with first and second place honors and collected two additional points by placing fourth in the under saddle on her mount, D'Amour. A close reserve tricolor went to Lynn Rogers and her mount Blue Point, who scored 14 points over fences with first and third place honors, and gathered four additional points by placing third in the under saddle.
Low Adult Hunters Compete For Top Honors
The winning mount, D'Amour, is a six-year-old Oldenburg imported by Hillary Jean and Libby Copeland. Affectionately known as "D" in the barn, the chestnut gelding has only shown a handful of times in the Baby Green and Pre-Green Hunter divisions. "He's a baby and we just brought him over from Germany," Jean explained. "We brought him here and didn't expect to show really. We just thought it would be good practice for him, but he's really stepped up and has been acting so mature."
Following today's victory, Jean commented on D'Amour's performance in the Low Adult Hunters this week. "This is only the second time I've ever shown him and the first time in the Low Adults," Jean said. "The last time was in September when he did the Baby Greens. So, I didn't know what to expect, but I felt like he just was so solid and listening to me like an old adult horse when he's really just a baby. After this week, I'll probably give him the next two weeks off. I imported him to be my 3'6" amateur-owner horse, so I'd like to take it slow and reward him for being so good."
Jean, a rider of thirty-two years, was born into a family of professional equestrians in Colorado. After a ten-year sabbatical to attend law school and establish a career, Jean's return to equestrian sports was not without hardships. "I started back again three years ago," Jean commented, "and just when I began, I was diagnosed with breast cancer so I had to take another year off after that. This is my first time back down to WEF since 2001. I am no longer a lawyer and I started a company called Barkley Investments that deals with importing horses from Germany. It's only been established for two years now and it's tough, but a fun job."
In the coming weeks, Jean plans to continue showing two additional mounts, Just Believe, a six-year-old Hanoverian, and Spoken For, a ten-year-old Canadian Warmblood, in the Pre-Green and Adult 3' Hunters respectively. As for D'Amour, a few weeks of rest followed by one final week of showing will wrap up his winter season.
Week nine will continue on Saturday with the $200,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix, CSI 4*-W, presented by the Bainbridge Companies, at 7 p.m. in the International Arena as well as the THIS Children's Medal 14 & Under results.
For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Final Results: $32,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Classic
1. BILLY BIANCA: 2001 Warmblood mare by Vechta x Iroko RICHARD SPOONER (USA), Molly Ohrstrom: 0/63.38
2. APACHE: 1999 Selle Francais/Thoroughbred gelding by Mescalaro x Unknown ASHLEE BOND (USA) Little Valley Farm: 0/65.69
3. BON AMI: 2001 BWP gelding by Pavarotti VD Helle x Richebourg SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Liz Mctaggart: 0/65.82
4. LINCOURT GINO: 2003 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Gino III x Graf Magna PETER LEONE (USA), Monica Carrera: 0/66.33
5. CYKLON 1083: 2001 Swedish Warmblood stallion by Cardento x Cortus SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm: 0/66.65
6. CANTANO: 2000 Holsteiner stallion by Cascavelle x Acord MEREDITH MICHAELS-BEERBAUM (GER), Octavia Farms LLC: 0/67.13
7. BATUCADA: 2002 mare by Casco x Quidam de Revel PAIGE SORCE (USA), Western Meadow Farm: 0/67.39
8. COLORIT: 2003 Württemberger stallion by Coriano x Capitol DAVID WILL (GER), Isaak Klaus: 0/67.88
9. URBAN: 2001 KWPN gelding by Goodtimes x Indoctro BLYTHE MARANO (USA), Riverview Farm LLC: 0/69.10
10. QUINTENDER 2: 2001 Holsteiner stallion by Quinar x Contender HENRIK GUNDERSEN (DEN), Emilie Martinsen: 0/69.18
11. SLIEVEANORRA: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Voltaire x Flagmount Diamond RICHIE MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity LLC: 0/69.81
12. OSCAR DU ROZEL: 2002 Selle Francais stallion by Dollar Du Murier x Narcos II JOHANNES EHNING (GER), Equestrian Sports GmbH & Co.KG: 0/70.13
Photo Credit: Richard Spooner and Billy Bianca earned victory in the $32,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Classic during week nine at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival; Richard Spooner and Billy Bianca with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Carolina and Gustavo Mirabal of G&C Farm; Hillary Jean and D'Amour. Photos © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.us.sportfot.com.