Wellington, FL - Concluding the fourth week of competition at the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Check Picobello Z jumped to victory in the $216,000 Ariat® Grand Prix CSI 4*. WEF continues on February 10-14 with CSI 5* competition. WEF hosts 12 weeks of competition and awards more than $9 million in prize money at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL.
Forty entries competed and five jumped clear over the Guilherme Jorge (BRA) designed course. With three double clears, Lamaze won in 43.65 seconds. Nick Skelton (GBR) and Untouched finished second in 45.52 seconds, and Marilyn Little (USA) and Corona 93 placed third in 46.20 seconds. Margie Engle (USA) and Georgina Bloomberg (USA) each dropped rails in the race over the short course to finish fourth and fifth respectively. Engle and Indigo, owned by Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek and Gladewinds, dropped the second to last fence and clocked in at 44.10 seconds. Bloomberg and Gotham Enterprizes LLC's Lilli had the last jump down in 45.55 seconds.
Lamaze continued his winning momentum from earlier in the week with Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable's Check Picobello Z. After winning Thursday's Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 4, the 10-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Cardento x Orlando) stepped up to Sunday's grand prix ready to go. "I was thrilled with him on Thursday. Winning the WEF (Challenge Cup) was already a big step up for him and this was another level from the WEF; it was much higher fences," Lamaze noted. "This was by far the biggest thing he has ever had to do, so to come out with a win, I could not be happier with him. He is a bit of a different horse. He is not the easiest to maneuver around, but at the end he takes care of the fences for me. He has proven that he can be competitive."
"That was the only jump-off at this height that he has ever done," Lamaze detailed. "Last year I got into a few jump-offs in the 1.50m and he felt like he was a bit empty coming back every time and did not quite understand what the second round was there for. This year he seems to have grown up quite a bit. I think every rider at this level knows how much you can push your horse without putting the fences at risk, and at this moment he is giving me a lot of confidence that he is going to stay off the fences."
Nick Skelton has a talented new mount in Poden Farm's nine-year-old Westphalian stallion, Untouched (Untouchable x Capitol I), and was happy with his second place finish in Sunday's grand prix. "He is really relative low experience at this level, so I am very pleased with him," Skelton said of Untouched. "He has been graduating over the last four weeks and he is getting better all the time." "I plan to bring him along until Big Star is back in a couple of weeks," Skelton continued. "Big Star picked up an infection in his leg from a cut, but when I get him back going, I will have two really nice horses."
Skelton spoke of the first round and then detailed his plan in the jump-off, stating, "I think the course was quite difficult today. There were very tall verticals and the combination was in a difficult place. All in all, it was a good four-star course." "I planned to go as quick as I could and not put the fences at risk because I knew whatever I did, Eric was going to beat me," Skelton said of the second round. "He is always going to be faster; the only chance I had was if he had one down. That was my only hope I think, but I was very pleased with the horse anyway. I have not been in the jump-off in a couple of years, so I am really pleased."
Marilyn Little also competed in this week's 2016 Asheville Regional Airport Wellington Eventing Showcase, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty, at PBIEC and was thrilled to finish out the weekend with an excellent grand prix finish. Little was aboard Raylyn Farms' Corona 93, a 12-year-old Hanoverian mare (Cordalme Z x Lenz XX) that she has owned for one year. "I have had a wonderful group of people behind her," Little explained. "Andrea King, Angel Karolyi, Christina Kelly, and my mother Lynn Little have all helped to bring her along at the shows when I could not be there. I got to step onto a very lovely horse in December and take my time getting to know her. She is an experienced horse and certainly has more scope than I have ever had the privilege to ride. It has been a dream out there."
Little, who was the team and individual gold medalist in Eventing at the 2015 Pan American Games, spoke about stepping into the grand prix ring after the weekend's Eventing. "The jumps looked very big today - less solid, but very big," she said. "It was really exciting for me to be here. I have not jumped in a grand prix in quite a few years now. I have been Eventing and focusing on that. The Pan American Games were a very big push last year and I would not trade the experience at Eventing for anything, but I also would not trade the feeling out there for anything either. It was such a thrill."
"I was proud that she went so well, and to be part of a jump-off with names like the ones that were all coming behind me...If Nick felt like he could not be fast enough, you can imagine how I felt," Little laughed. "I was hoping to go clear. I do not know the horse so well; she is a new ride for me in the last three weeks. I was hoping for a double clear, and she did the job. Then I got to watch Nick and Eric show me how to do it."
A special $500 Groom's Award was also presented to Martina Natali as the groom of winning horse, Check Picobello Z. Tiffany Foster (CAN) was named Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider for her success in week four, an award presented by Martha Jolicoeur of Douglas Elliman in memory of Dale Lawler.
Also competing in the International Ring on Sunday, Giavanna Rinaldi was the winner of the $10,000 Sleepy P Ranch SJOHF High Junior Jumper Classic riding Pony Lane Farm's Dulf van den Bisschop. The $10,000 Animo USA Medium Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic was pinned in a California Split with 102 entries. Melissa Orlick-Zbierski and Isotropic's Viekie were the winners in Section A. Mackenzie Drazen and Rusty Girl topped Section B.
For more information and full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.
Final Results: $216,000 Ariat® Grand Prix CSI 4*
1. CHECK PICOBELLO Z: 2006 Zangersheide gelding by Cardento x Orlando ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms, LLC & Torrey Pines: 0/0/43.65
2. UNTOUCHED: 2007 Westphalian stallion by Untouchable x Capitol I NICK SKELTON (GBR), Poden Farms: 0/0/45.52
3. CORONA 93: 2004 Hanoverian mare by Cordalme Z x Lenz XX MARILYN LITTLE (USA), Raylyn Farms, Inc: 0/0/46.20
4. INDIGO: 2000 KWPN gelding by Indoctro x Unknown MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek & Gladewinds: 0/4/44.10
5. LILLI: 2004 Brandenburg mare by Lefevre x Diamir GEORGINA BLOOMBERG (USA), Gotham Enterprizes LLC: 0/4/45.55
6. BABALOU 41: 2005 Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Silvio I TODD MINIKUS (USA), Two Swans Farm: 4/75.52
7. BEEZIE: 2006 KWPN mare by by Cardento x Canabis Z HAYLEY BARNHILL (USA), The ISB Group: 4/78.15
8. SOUTHWIND VDL: 1999 KWPN gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Ahorn TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms, LLC: 4/78.45
9. EREGAST VAN'T KIEZELHOF: 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Latano SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm, LLC: 4/78.83
10. ZEREMONIE: 2007 Holsteiner mare by Cero II x Quick Star LAURA KRAUT (USA), Old Willow Farms, LLC: 4/78.99
11. APSARA: 2006 Holsteiner mare by Ephebe For Ever x Calido I MEREDITH MICHAELS-BEERBAUM (GER), Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC: 4/79.03
12. SAM DU CHALLOIS: 2006 Selle Francais stallion by Quaprice Boimargot Quincy x Adam IV CIAN O'CONNOR (IRL), Ronnoco Jump Ltd & Jean-Claude Jobin: 4/79.28