Wellington, FL - Ireland's Kevin Babington and Shorapur jumped to victory out of a competitive 74-horse field on Wednesday afternoon in the $34,000 opening FEI class at Equestrian Sport Productions' Holiday & Horses CSI-W 2*. Competing at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, Babington and Shorapur topped a 17-horse jump-off over Andrew Welles (USA) and Boo van het Kastanjehof to take top honors.
Catsy Cruz of Mexico set the course for Wednesday's class in the International Arena at PBIEC with a total of 19 competitors jumping clear over the first round course. Two entries opted out of the jump-off where ten went double clear. Babington and the nine-year-old Hanoverian mare Shorapur (Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II) raced through the course in 40.73. Welles and Boo van het Kastanjehof finished second in 41.53 seconds. Finland's Nina Fagerstrom and Notaris placed third with a time of 41.76 seconds.
Babington and Shorapur have had a fantastic season, including four major grand prix victories. The mare began the season with two second place finishes in WEF Challenge Cup classes during the 2014 Winter Equestrian Festival and has stepped up throughout the year.
"She was always a good horse. All the other riders will tell you that; everybody liked her," Babington stated. "She just had to get experience. She is only nine, so she shouldn't have been doing it before this anyway."
Commenting on his incredibly fast round in the jump-off, Babington noted, "She is almost better when I don't get in her way because she is so careful. Today's first round she was a little fussy, and in the jump-off, she is almost a little more rideable when I don't try to interfere with her too much."
Welles held the lead before Babington took over and knew that Shorapur could be faster. "She has always been one of my favorite horses," Welles remarked. "I was scared with him following me for sure. These two have been on fire all season."
"Laura (Kraut) went right before me, and that is what I was watching going in the ring," Welles added of his round. "I thought, 'Okay, this is the round to beat. For sure there were a lot of fast riders coming behind me, but in my mind I was trying to see if I could slip by Laura by a margin, and I think she ended up sixth. I guess that is a testament to what the class turned out to be.""This was a fast class," Babington agreed.
"I didn't actually get to see Andrew's round, but I saw some others go. I saw the times, and he must have had an amazing round. Other than really trying to do one less stride from one to two, and I think Andrew and Ramiro (Quintana) were the only ones that actually pulled that off, everything else was just sort of an open gallop. Somebody had said walking up to the ring that there was a six to the last fence and thank God I saw the horse before me go because I said, 'There is no way there is a six there.' The way I met the triple bar, I would have attempted it, and I don't think it would have been a good result."
Speaking of Shorapur's confident attitude, Babington smiled, "She is cocky. I think she knows when she has been good. She is very proud of herself."
Babington and Shorapur will compete again under the lights in Saturday night's $50,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix. The Holiday & Horses CSI-W 2* competition continues at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center through Sunday, November 30, 2014. For more information, please visit www.equestriansport.com.
Final Results: $34,000 Holiday & Horses Opener
1. SHORAPUR: 2005 Hanoverian mare by Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II KEVIN BABINGTON (IRL), Shorapur LLC: 0/0/40.73
2. BOO VAN HET KASTANJEHOF: 2001 BWP mare by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Pachat II ANDREW WELLES (USA), Peter Welles: 0/0/41.53
3.NOTARIS: 2006 BWP gelding by Nonstop x Eclair des Bois NINA FAGERSTROM (FIN), Finca Horses: 0/0/41.76
4. VERSUS: 2005 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Moujik de Sohan x Jasper Ramiro Quintana (ARG), Michael Smith: 0/0/42.34
5. BARONEZ: 2001 Warmblood mare by Heartbreaker x Unknown KIRSTEN COE (USA), Ilan Ferder Lovsta & Tal Milstein: 0/0/42.40
6. CEDRIC: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Chambertin x Carolus Z LAURA KRAUT (USA), Cherry Knoll Farm, Inc: 0/0/42.50
7. RECONNAISSANCE: 2005 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Camaro M x Irco Mena LAUREN HOUGH (USA), Laura & Meredith Mateo: 0/0/42.94
8. DIKTATOR VAN DE BOSLANDHOEVE: 2003 Belgian Warmblood stallion by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Capital LORCAN GALLAGHER (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/0/43.17
9. TINA DE NOYELLES: 2003 Belgian Sport Horse mare by President x Pelican d'Or SHARN WORDLEY (NZL), Ashland Stables: 0/0/43.18
10. ARTEMIS: 2005 Zangersheide mare by Chamberlain Z x Casimir ALI WOLFF (USA), John C. Wolff: 0/0/44.56
11. VDL WIZARD: 2003 KWPN gelding by Gentleman x Ahorn CALLAN SOLEM (USA), Horseshoe Trail Farm Florida LLC: 0/4/42.38
12. EVENING STAR: 2002 Holsteiner gelding by Coriano x Lenz HEATHER CARISTO WILLIAMS (USA), Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Caristo: 0/4/43.73