Wellington, FL - January 23, 2011 - The second week of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), sponsored by Equine Couture/Tuff Rider, concluded on Sunday with the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic. In a fantastic display of speed and power, Great Britain's Ben Maher and Oscar, owned by Lindsay Cook, were able to top the field for an exciting victory. The class was held in the International Arena of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), which will host 12 consecutive weeks of competition for the 2011 FTI WEF running through April 3, 2011.
Showing over a course set by Luc Musette of Belgium, 13 of the original 31 entries were able to jump clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off. Six of those horse and rider combinations finished double clear, and it was the fastest jump-off round of Ben Maher and Oscar in 38.723 seconds that earned the victory.
Maher bested the previously leading time of 39.125 seconds set by Nick Skelton (GBR) and Carlo 273, owned by Beverly Widdowson, to move the pair into second place. Finishing in third was Sarah Treddenick (USA) riding My November Guest, owned by Wood Run Farm, with a time of 40.620 seconds. Peter Wylde (USA) and Lipton D"Lothain, owned by Windward Farm and Jessica Suida, finished in fourth after stopping the clock in 40.987 seconds. Fifth place was awarded to Catherine Pasmore (USA) and Pasmore Stables' Vandavid with a clear round in 41.035 seconds, and sixth place was presented to Danielle Goldstein (USA) and Starwyn Farms' Adam Van't Steenputje in 42.949 seconds.
Class winner Oscar is a 15-year-old KWPN Dutch Warmblood gelding (Harcos x Animo). Oscar jumped at the international Basel CSI Horse Show in Switzerland just one week ago and flew straight to Florida this week, arriving on Wednesday. Maher explained that they had not intended to show the horse this week, but decided to jump when Oscar felt fresh upon his arrival.
"The plan worked," Maher smiled. "He is quite a hot, sharp horse, so I think the warmer weather helps to quiet him out a little bit. He is a great 1.50m horse and that is why we brought him here, for these classes and maybe the WEF Challenge classes on Thursdays. As far as I am aware this is his first time in the United States and this is his first time competing outdoors for a few months now, so it was quite a good round being that he did not have any training rounds previously."
"The course was difficult enough; I am surprised that there were 13 clear," Maher added. "There were some good horses, some up and coming grand prix horses just getting going early in the season. It was quick, and there were a lot of turns as well, so you needed a fast, careful horse to win. He is naturally a fast horse in the air; he doesn't jump too high, so he saves time and I think I was pretty quick to the last fence."
Oscar will have next week off while Maher travels to Zurich, Switzerland to ride his top horse Robin Hood W. Maher will then return during week four and plans to jump Oscar in the WEF Challenge Cup on Thursday of that week.
Although he missed coming to Wellington in 2010, this is Maher's third year competing at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. He concluded, "I love it here. There is nice weather, great facilities and people, and it is good sport. I look forward to the season."
The 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will continue with its third week of competition beginning on Wednesday, January 26, 2011. Week three, sponsored by Nespresso, will feature the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 3 on Thursday afternoon, the $40,000 Surpass CSI 2* Grand Prix on Saturday evening, and the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic on Sunday afternoon.
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic
1 OSCAR: 1996 KWPN gelding by Harcos x Animo BEN MAHER (GBR), LINDSAY COOK: 0/0/38.723
2 CARLO 273: 2001 Holsteiner gelding by Contender x Cascavelle NICK SKELTON (GBR), BEVERLY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/39.125
3 MY NOVEMBER GUEST: 2002 KWPN gelding by No Limit x Unknown SARAH TREDENNICK (USA), WOOD RUN FARM: 0/0/40.620
4 LIPTON DE L''OTHAIN: 1999 SFB gelding by Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Prince Du Logis PETER WYLDE (USA), WINDWARD FARM AND JESSICA SIUDA: 0/0/40.987
5 VANDAVID: 2002 KWPN stallion by Madison x Voltaire CATHERINE PASMORE (USA), PASMORE STABLES: 0/0/41.035
6 ADAMO VAN'T STEENPUTJE: 2000 BWP gelding by Darco x Feinschnitt VD Richter DANIELLE GOLDSTEIN (USA), STARWYN FARMS: 0/0/42.949
7 VANHATTAN: 2002 KWPN gelding by Manhattan x Cilton
KENT FARRINGTON (USA) HILARY MCNERNEY: 0/4/36.746
8 APACHE: 1999 Selle Francais/Thoroughbred gelding by Mescalaro x Unknown
ASHLEE BOND (USA) LITTLE VALLEY FARM: 0/4/39.283
9 LITTLE TINKA: 1998 AES gelding by Tinka's Boy x Fiorello
HOLGER HETZEL (GER) HOLGER HETZEL: 0/4/41.874
10 ROMEO: 1998 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Cantero x Gardeulan II
VICTOR SEGOVIA (VEN) THE ROMEO GROUP: 0/4/42.631
11 MOBILY LIL MAJD: 2000 KWPN gelding by Natal x Jus De Pomme
PETER WYLDE (USA) HRH PRINCE ABDULLAH AL SAUD: 0/4/49.358
12 VANCOUVER: 1998 Thoroughbred cross gelding by Voltaire II x Unknown
KATHERINE DINAN (USA) KATIE DINAN LLC: 0/8/45.997
Photo Credit: Ben Maher (GBR) and Oscar won the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic during week two at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Ben Maher and Oscar with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Lauren Tisbo of Suncast Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.