Wellington, FL - February 13, 2011 - The fifth week of competition at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival concluded on Sunday with the $25,00 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic, and it was Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star, owned by Beverly and Gary Widdowson, who proved victorious over a field of 65 entries.
Alan Wade of Co. Tipperary, Ireland, designed today's courses and set a first-round track that 11 combinations would clear. Skelton and Big Star, an eight-year-old KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor, cleared the jump-off in 40.985 seconds, a blazing time that beat second place finisher McLain Ward (USA) and Louisburg Farm's Esplanade 7, by more than two seconds. Ward and Esplanade were clear in 43.131 seconds. Marie Hecart (FRA) and Babbe Van't Roosakker, owned by Haras De La Rogue, were third in 43.314 seconds.
Skelton did not see Ward's jump-off ride. "He told me he wasn't very fast, but knowing him I didn't believe him," Skelton joked. "I've never seen him not go fast! I thought I'd go nice, but every time I turned I had a good distance. He's a fast horse anyway. I think I got it into that double (combination). I had an unbelievable shot to it and I think it got sent from above. It was perfect. I didn't think I was almost three seconds faster."
This is the second big win for Big Star, who also claimed victory the $40,000 Equine Couture/Tuff Rider Grand Prix in week two. Skelton won another Suncast 1.50m classic in week one.
"He's a freak of a horse for eight years old," Skelton said of his mount. "You have to remember how old he is and not get carried away. He's still got to get the experience, but he's a great jumper. He has everything: scope, the mind, unbelievable talent. I'm very lucky to have him."
Christina Kelly and Camirage Capture $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix
The $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix was the morning feature in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Today's class was the first of four qualifiers for the EY Cup Finals, held at the FEI World Cup Finals in Leipzig, Germany. The top three riders at the conclusion of the series will have the opportunity to travel to Germany to compete. The second qualifier will run under the lights in the International Arena on Friday, February 25. The third event, which is a Team Event, will be held on Thursday, March 10 in the International Arena. The final $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix will be held on the grass derby field at The Stadium on Sunday, March 20, 2011.
Through their sponsorship, The Dutta Corporation & International Horse Transport will provide round-trip shipping for the winning horse to the EY Cup Finals.
Speaking on behalf of The Dutta Corporation, Tim Dutta stated, "Guido Klatte and I are delighted to join the Zeigler family in supporting the Young Rider program, as these riders are our future. We are excited to be part of the process that gets our best and brightest to Leipzig along with our senior squad. We wish this series much success and hope that the young riders have a great experience in the journey and may the best represent us. Guido and I, along with the rest of The Dutta Corporation team, are looking forward to giving the winning horse 'wings' to the World Cup Final."
Fifty-five riders started in today's qualifier and nine jumped clear to return for a jump-off. Four horse and rider combinations jumped double clear, and Christina Kelly and Camirage, owned by Diamond Edge Farm, had the fastest time in 35.432 seconds for the win. Reed Kessler and Onisha clocked in just 4/10ths of a second shy of that time to finish in second place in 35.829 seconds. Katie Dinan and Vancouver finished in 37.864 seconds to place in third. Navona Gallegos and No Fear had the only other double clear round in 38.640 seconds to take home fourth place.
Seventeen-year-old Christina Kelly has had an outstanding circuit so far, winning the $10,000 High Junior Jumper Classic four weeks in a row prior to today's victory. From Oxford, England, Kelly trains with show jumper Margie Engle and has had her winning mount Camirage, a 10-year-old Holsteiner mare by Charisma, for three years.
Commenting on her recent success, Kelly smiled, "My horses have been really awesome and I have had a lot of luck so far, so hopefully it keeps on going. The horses are really great and the courses have been good too."
"The class was great and it is really exciting that they have started this series because I think they really needed to do something like this for juniors coming up instead of just going straight into the bigger classes," Kelly added. "It was a great course, an awesome jump-off and I thought the height was good for the first class."
Speaking about Camirage, Kelly explained, "She needs a lot of leg; she gets very careful and backed off. The faster you go the more confident she is, but she does lose a little bit of her heart if you don't give her a confident ride."
Kelly spoke about her plan for the jump-off, stating, "I was a little nervous about going early on because I didn't know how fast the others were going to be. Normally I am in the juniors so I know most of the juniors, but I didn't know some of these horses and I was a little nervous about that. My plan was just to go at a good pace and be careful around all of the jumps. I was planning on doing nine strides to the last jump, but I saw the eight early enough, so I took a little shot at the end."
She concluded with a smile, "It is awesome. Thank you to my horse, my groom, my parents, everyone."
Although Kelly won the class today, she declared her second mount Navarre D'Olueis to count for her points in the series standings and is therefore not actually leading the series. Second place finisher Reed Kessler and her mount Onisha earned points with their finish today and are currently in the lead for a place in the finals.
Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Standings:
Reed Kessler (USA): 22
Katherine Dinan (USA): 21
Navona Gallegos (USA): 20
Victoria Birdsall (USA): 19
Liza Finsness (USA): 18
The 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will continue with its sixth week of competition beginning on Wednesday, February 16, 2011. Sponsored by Fidelity Investments, week six will feature the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 on Thursday afternoon, the FTI Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments on Saturday evening, and the $50,000 Jumper Derby presented by G&C Farm on Sunday afternoon at The Stadium. Week six will also feature the World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Hunter Classic Spectacular classes, with the Professional Hunter Classic on Friday evening.
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic
1 BIG STAR NICK SKELTON BEVERLY AND GARY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/40.985
2 ESPLANADE 7 MCLAIN WARD LOUISBURG FARM: 0/0/43.131
3 BABBE VAN'T ROOSAKKER MARIE HECART HARAS DE LA ROGUE: 0/0/43.314
4 PALDATUS SALVADOR ONATE SALVADOR ONATE: 0/0/51.337
5 MADEMOISELLE BEEZIE MADDEN ABIGAIL WEXNER: 0/4/41.378
6 LIPTON DE L''OTHAIN PETER WYLDE WINDWARD FARM & JESSICA SIUDA: 0/4/42.130
7 SECRET ANDRES RODRIGUEZ ANDRES RODRIGUEZ: 0/4/43.268
8 OLMIFON D'AS LAURA KRAUT HAPPY HILL FARM: 0/4/45.228
9 OSIRIS GEMMA PATERNOSTER GEMMA PATERNOSTER: 0/4/52.312
10 DOMINO MCLAIN WARD BLUE CHIP BLOODSTOCK: 0/8/41.978
11 G&C SINATRA PABLO BARRIOS G&C FARM: 0/RET
12 OCEANE DE NANTUEL MARIE HECART MICHEL HECART: 1/82.696
Final Results: $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix
1 CAMIRAGE CHRISTINA KELLY DIAMOND EDGE FARM: 0/0/35.432
2 ONISHA REED KESSLER REED KESSLER: 0/0/35.829
3 VANCOUVER KATHERINE DINAN KATIE DINAN LLC: 0/0/37.864
4 NO FEAR NAVONA GALLEGOS BAR X RANCH LLC: 0/0/38.640
5 LITTLE LADY D'ELLE VICTORIA BIRDSALL JOHN MADDEN SALES INC: 0/4/39.915
6 ORMSBY HILL LIZA FINSNESS LIZA FINSNESS: 0/4/41.394
7 VDL GROEP CAMARA CAITLIN ZIEGLER ARTISAN FARMS LLC: 0/4/42.306
8 CATARO ASK MARK BLUMAN MARK BLUMAN: 0/8/34.658
9 PROMISED LAND CHARLOTTE JACOBS CANDY TRIBBLE & WINDSOR SHOW STABLES: 0/8/35.672
10 SPRINGFIELD TENESSE NICK NOVAK NICK NOVAK: 4/68.528
11 YB BLUE NICK NOVAK NICK NOVAK: 4/70.026
12 VERTIGO CHRIS EWANOUSKI MONTOGA INC: 4/70.698
Photo Credit: Nick Skelton and Big Star won the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic in week five. Nick Skelton and Big Star with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Lauren Tisbo of Suncast. Christina Kelly and Camirage won the first $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix during week five of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Christina Kelly and Camirage with Michael Stone of Equestrian Sport Productions, ringmaster Cliff Haines, and Carlene Ziegler of Artisan Farms. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.