Ocala, FL — The most anticipated day of driving at the 2015 Live Oak International arrived in full Live Oak International Marathon style. March 21, the third day of the celebrated driving competition, brought more sunshine, bigger crowds, and several top drivers vying to take the leading spot in the four-day competition. Chester Weber, one of the world’s top-ranked four-in-hand driver and a gracious host of Live Oak International, lived up to the equestrian world’s expectations once more as he held on to his first-place stance in the FEI Four-In-Hand division. Ellen Epstein, Boots Wright, Craig Grange, Suzy Stafford, and Casey Zubek were just some of the other competitors who drove out of the marathon phase still in the lead of their divisions.
The excitement was palpable throughout the beautifully green grounds of Live Oak Plantation, owned by Live Oak International presidents Chester Weber, Charlotte Weber, and Juliet W Reid, as the competitors took to the marathon course designed by Gabor Finta. “This is my first opportunity to work with Gabor Finta,” comments Ed Young, an FEI Official whose notable driving background includes serving as chef d’equippe for the United States World Equestrian Games Four-in-Hand in 2006 and as the vice-chairman of the USEF International High-Performance Committee for Driving. “I was very impressed with Gabor Finta’s course design—it was so creative, and provided a safe yet challenging course for the competitors.” Young added, “The competitors all drove extremely well today.”
Chester Weber started his morning live on the air with NBC Sports Radio Horse Talk radio show, and ended his day with another marathon notch in four-in-hand. “The horses were fantastic,” Weber smiled after driving his team through the hazards to a score of 104.79— leading over his new closest contender, Allison Stroud, by nearly 40 points. Like Weber, his KWPN team of Ultra, Splash, Dancer, and Boris commanded the crowd’s attention with their powerful presence as they seemed to move through the obstacles with one mind. True to his nickname of “Mr. Dressage,” Weber’s winning dressage phase score on Friday brings his overall score to a 138.24—making him very hard to catch in Sunday’s cones phase (March 22).
Although Weber is one to beat in today’s cones phase, the close margins going into the cones phase for other divisions are already putting competitors and spectators at the edge of their seats. Two-time NFL Superbowl linebacker Max Montoya placed second today to Scott Adcox in the Intermediate Pair Horse marathon— but still retained his overall division lead. In the FEI Single Pony division, Tracey Morgan and her German Riding Pony also held on to their overall lead even after coming in second to Miranda Cadwell in the marathon phase. FEI Pair Pony division leader Amy Cross followed suit, and, after her second place marathon, will enter the cones phase only .9 points ahead of yesterday’s marathon winner Katie Whaley.
Uncontested winners of the week include Casey Zubek, of Manhattan, IL in the FEI Pair Horse division, Doris Leacy—driving Katydid Baroness— in Intermediate Single Pony, Craig Grange in Intermediate Four-in-Hand, and Ocala’s own Ellen Epstein with her KWPN in Intermediate Single Horse. Suzy Stafford of Wilmington, DE and her Morgan, PVF Peace of Mind, pulled even further ahead of competition yesterday by retaining her lead in the FEI Single Horse division with a marathon score of 91.97.
As the tailgating soirees around the intense day of competition began to break up, competitors and supporters departed to get ready for the pirate-themed Competitors Party, held on the show grounds and sponsored by Hermitage Farm and Lugano Diamonds. Today will bring even more excitement at Live Oak International as drivers take their last chance at claiming a winning title, or fighting to keep their current leads.
Follow results and learn more at www.LiveOakInternational.com.