Wellington, FL - March 9, 2011 - Today marked the beginning of competition for week 9 of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Jumpers competed in the International Ring and the first class was the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers. Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze (CAN) rode Take Off for Artisan Farms LLC to victory.
The FTI Winter Equestrian Festival's ninth week of competition continues through Sunday, March 13. Week nine, sponsored by Bainbridge Companies, will feature the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 on Thursday at 12 p.m., the $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers on Friday at 1 p.m., the $200,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix presented by Bainbridge Companies on Saturday at 7 p.m., and the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The opening class of the week had 31 entries, and four were clear to advance to the jump-off. Three of those were double clear, and it was Lamaze and Take Off with the fastest second round time in 34.339 seconds. McLain Ward (USA) and Oh' D Eole were second in 34.758 seconds, while Kent Farrington (USA) and Haity McNerney's Valhalla were third in 35.089 seconds.
Lamaze and Take Off are a well-known pair in the grand prix ring, having had much success in North America and Europe. Owner Caitlin Ziegler has taken over the ride this season, so today's class was more of a "check-up" on how things are proceeding.
Lamaze explained, "This was kind of a ride on Take Off to reassess and make sure that everything that I know about the horse is still there. It's always good for the professional to ride their student's horse sometimes, to feel them out for yourself. A lot of answers you can't quite get without riding them. With Take Off, it was just to reassure myself that was everything was in order. As you could see, everything was good."
Ziegler and Take Off have already started winning in the High Junior Jumpers here at the FTI WEF, and Lamaze said that the pair getting to know each other has been "a pretty fast moving process." He added, "We're pretty happy about that. It's a horse I started when she was young. She's very competitive and in an event like this you definitely have the upper hand."
While Lamaze has brought along Take Off since she was a young jumper, the plan was always for her to become Ziegler's jumper. "It's good to see them together. The Zieglers have been very generous to give me horses to ride that are eventually going to be for Cait," Lamaze acknowledged. "That was always the plan with this horse. We did a little bit last year but felt it was too soon for Cait, given how careful the horse is. We really picked this winter as the get-started time. It's all about timing things. When you have such a quality animal, you have to pick the right time when the rider is ready to handle it."
Lamaze believes that the two "suit each other great." He noted, "Cait is extremely competitive. I think she'll have to actually slow down a bit with her! She doesn't realize how fast the mare is on her own. The mare thinks before you do, so she's always ahead of you. She's also a fast rider. There's been many clear rounds, and we even used her in the Young Riders class last time. It's a fun process for her, and the horse is ready for it."
The ninth week of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will continue tomorrow with the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 at 12 p.m. in the International Arena. The first round of the Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Team Competition will start at 3 p.m., while the second round will run at 7 p.m.
Final Results: $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers
1. Take Off Eric Lamaze Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/34.339
2. Oh' D Eole McLain Ward McLain Ward: 0/0/34.758
3. Valhalla Kent Farrington Haity McNerney: 0/0/35.089
4. Woodstock O Laura Kraut Joan Kalman: 0/8/39.032
5. Diktator van de Boslandhoeve Shane Sweetnam Spy Coast Farm LLC: 1/71.377
6. Quainton Quirifino Z Ben Maher Quainton Stud: 4/65.705
7. Vernon G Kirsten Coe Ilan Ferder Stables Inc.: 4/65.937
8. Derly Chin de Muze Eric Lamaze Ashland Stables: 4/66.729
9. Faroukh Sarah Wayda Sarah Wayda: 4/67.236
10. Starlight Kate Levy Kate Levy LLC: 4/68.008
11. Gowran Park Andrew Bourns Andrew Bourns: 4/69.434
12. Candlelight van de Warande Nicole Shahinian-Simpson Monarch International: 4/69.813
Photo Credit: Eric Lamaze and Take Off won the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers during week nine at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.