Wellington, FL - March 6, 2011 - Week 8 of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival came to a close today with a highlight event, the $150,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix, CSIO 4*. Out of the strong field of competitors, it was Lauren Hough (USA) who rode to victory on Quick Study, owned by Laura Mateo.
The FTI WEF's ninth week of competition, sponsored by Bainbridge, will run from March 9-13, 2011. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
There were 47 entries in today's grand prix class, and they rode over a track designed by Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL. Twelve found the way to a clear round and advanced to the jump-off. Hough said of the course, "There were a lot of difficulties in the triple combination. You don't very often see a one (stride) to a one (stride) vertical - oxer - oxer, and that proved to be quite difficult. I wouldn't say in general the course was too super technical except for that last line."
The pathfinder in the jump-off was Gemma Paternoster (GBR) on her own Osiris. They set a solid time of 48.49 seconds with a clear round, which would hold up for fifth place in the class.
The next two riders would fault at one jump: Christine McCrea (USA) and Romantovich Take One, owned by Candy Tribble, had a rail at the second jump and stopped the timers in 43.99 seconds. They would finish in 11th place. Andre Thieme (GER) and his own Caesar 322 had a rail in the trouble spot, the one stride combination at fence 12. They took down the "b" portion and finished in 42.91 seconds for 10th place.
The lead changed hands with the next rider, Amy Millar of Canada on Costa Rica Z, owned by Millar Brooke and Ann Matthews. They were careful throughout the course and with speed to the last jump, they finished clear in 44.40 seconds for third place.
Millar said, "I was really pleased with my horse. I know my horse pretty well and I know I couldn't go crazy fast, so I did what I could. I'm pretty happy with how I ended up with the field of riders I was competing against."
Candice King (USA) and Skara Glen's Davos were the first of two horses in a row to have a rail at fence 12a. Their time of 42.88 seconds placed them ninth. Rodrigo Pessoa and Let's Fly, owned by Double H Farm, finished in 41.54 seconds for eighth place.
The next rider in would find a way to shave off four second from the previous leading time, and with his experience and his talented horse, it was no surprise. Nick Skelton (GBR) and Carlo 273, owned by Beverly Widdowson, galloped through jump-off with ease and had a time of 40.61 seconds to take the lead.
Although Skelton didn't win, he noted that he was very pleased with his horse. "I was pleased with my horse. He's doing great. I couldn't have been happier. I lost it going to the last. I had a really good shot going forward and then two to three strides out, he jumped over the tractor wheels tracks and I had to pull back afterwards and lost a stride there. But I'm still pleased with how he jumped."
Beezie Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo were victim to fence 12a, but with their time of 40.73, they finished in sixth place. Pablo Barrios and G&C Quick Star faulted at fences 15 and 4 for eight faults in 40.10 seconds for 12th place.
Ben Maher (GBR) and the stunning black stallion Tripple X 111 put in a solid clear round in 45.99 seconds for fourth place.
Hough and Quick Study were next in, and the speedy bay gelding was very quick through the double combination and across the ground to set the winning pace at 40.18 seconds.
"I had my work cut out for me," Hough said about her jump-off ride. "Nick's horse is very, very fast. Obviously the trick was the double a and b (12) of what was the triple. I took a bit of a risk there and he jumped it really, really well. I'm thrilled to have won. I was quite fast going in and he really backed up really well at 'a' and jumped out unbelievable."
She went on to say, "I don't know where I was quicker. My horse really covers a lot of ground. He just was on everywhere today. The first to the second jump of the jump-off, I was really quick. It was not by much so it is hard to say exactly where. But he was in top form today."
Finishing up the jump-off was Margie Engle and Indigo, owned by Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek, and Gladewinds. They had a rail at fence 15 and with a time of 41.48 seconds, finished in seventh place.
Hough was very pleased with Quick Study, who has come out very well this winter. They won the WEF Challenge Cup Round 4 and were third in this week's Round 8 grand prix class.
Hough noted, "He has had a really good season so far. I want him to peak for the $500,000 here. He's 12 this year and has a lot of mileage, and he's my only one at the moment so I'm going to try and pick and choose the right classes for him without doing too much."
Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Ashley Triumph in $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic
The $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic was held earlier in the day with a victory for Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Ashley. Ten of 41 entries went clear to advance to the jump-off and four jumped double clear in the race against the clock.
Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Ashley Triumph in $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic
Enrique Gonzalez (MEX) and his mount Cantinero were the first pair to jump double clear and stopped the clock in a fast 43.219 seconds, but they were soon bested by Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Ashley to finish in second place. Pessoa and Ashley went fourth in jump-off order and took over the lead after clearing the second round course in 42.648 seconds. The clear trip and fast time held on for the win through six more rounds.
Another clear round followed from Samuel Parot (CHI) and Al Calypso, owned by Daniel Bluman, finishing in 45.213 seconds to earn fourth place. Sergio Nieto Del Rio (MEX) and Fabiana Banco Del Bajio were the final pair to jump clear, crossing the timers in 43.329 seconds, and placing third. Nick Skelton and Big Star had the time in hand in 41.449 seconds, but pulled a rail at the last fence on course to finish with the fastest four fault round in fifth place.
Class winner HH Ashley is an 11-year-old Hanoverian mare by Acorado x Chasseur owned by Double H Farm. Pessoa had a lot of success with the little chestnut mare during the 2010 season, but got off to a slow start this year. He explained that Ashley has been spooky and difficult in some of the classes, but she redeemed herself this week with a fourth place finish in yesterday's $25,000 ESP Jumper Stake and now a win today.
"I was not really satisfied with how she was going," Pessoa acknowledged. "Last week I jumped her in the 1.50m and she had one down, but she was good and she felt good yesterday and again today."
"She is jumping better. She is back to herself, but that's horses; it is a box of surprises," he laughed. "Every day it is something different and she still has to learn her job. She has a lot of potential and a lot of ability, but she has a little bit of her own character and you have to make sure that you stay on top of her. In her defense, she doesn't have that much experience at the high level. She is still in the learning process, but we have a lot of hopes for her in the future."
Speaking about today's class, Pessoa noted, "She jumped very well in the jump-off. I am really trying to get more competitive with her because she is not the fastest horse and she is going to have to learn how to go a little bit faster. I try to do everything in a good way. I cut the turns as short as I could and to the last jump it was a big stride that showed up miles away and we took that one. I think I won it there because the rest of the course I was not faster than Enrique."
Pessoa concluded, "She is a very good mare; she has a lot of quality and we just have to keep her on track and I think she will be very good for us."
Final Results: $150,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty CSIO 4* Grand Prix
1 QUICK STUDY: 1999 SFA gelding by Quick Star x What a Joy LAUREN HOUGH (USA), Laura Mateo: 0/0/40.18
2 CARLO 273: 2001 Holsteiner gelding by Contender x Cascavelle NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly Widdowson: 0/0/40.61
3 COSTA RICA Z: 1995 Holsteiner mare by Carthago x Lacapo AMY MILLAR (CAN) Millar Brooke Farm & Ann Matthews: 0/0/44.40
4 TRIPPLE-X III: 2002 Holsteiner stallion by Unknown BEN MAHER (GBR), Ben Maher: 0/0/45.99
5 OSIRIS: 1996 KWPN gelding by Polydox x Lucky Boy GEMMA PATERNOSTER (GBR), Gemma Paternoster: 0/0/48.49
6 CORAL REEF VIA VOLO: 1998 BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 0/4/40.73
7 INDIGO: 2000 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Indoctro x Unknown MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek & Gladewinds: 0/4/41.48
8 HH LET'S FLY: 1999 Hanoverian gelding by Lordanos x Forrest RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Double H Farm: 0/4/41.54
9 SKARA GLEN'S DAVOS: 2000 Zangersheide gelding by Carthago Z x Pericles XX CANDICE KING (USA), SKARA GLEN STABLES: 0/4/42.88
10 CAESAR 322: 2002 Zangersheide gelding by Canabis Z x Eros Platiere ANDRE THIEME (GER), Andre Thieme: 0/4/42.91
11 ROMANTOVICH TAKE ONE: 2000 KWPN gelding by Numero Uno x Karandasj CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/4/43.99
12 G&C QUICK STAR 11: 2000 KWPN mare by Quick Star x Grannus PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), Gustavo Mirabal: 0/8/40.10
Final Results: $25,000 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic
1 HH ASHLEY RODRIGO PESSOA DOUBLE H FARM: 0/0/42.648
2 CANTINERO ENRIQUE GONZALEZ ENRIQUE GONZALEZ: 0/0/43.219
3 FABIANA BANCO DEL BAJIO SERGIO NIETO DEL RIO SERGIO NIETO DEL RIO: 0/0/43.329
4 AL CALYPSO SAMUEL PAROT DANIEL BLUMAN: 0/0/45.213
5 BIG STAR NICK SKELTON BEVERLY & GARY WIDDOWSON: 0/4/41.449
6 ZYCARLA Z JEFFERY WELLES ABIGAIL WEXNER: 0/4/46.262
7 WOODPECKER DE VILLARS CARA ANTHONY POTCREEK PARTNERS LLC: 0/8/45.420
8 VORNADO VAN DEN HOENDRIK JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN STONE HILL FARM: 0/8/45.785
9 LA GUAYABA BEATRIZ FRANCO SOL BEATRIZ FRANCO SOL: 0/8/45.957
10 REMONTA EDEN LAUREN HOUGH SANDRA VAN DYKE: 0/8/47.526
11 ROMANEE BANCO DE DEL BAJIO SALVADOR ONOTE SALVADOR ONOTE: 2/88.715
12 BILLY BIANCA RICHARD SPOONER MOLLY OHRSTROM: 4/79.871
Photo Credit: Lauren Hough and Quick Study; Lauren Hough and Quick Study with Equestrian Sport Productions' Michael Stone, Chris Desino and Matt Varney of Wellington Equestrian Realty, and ringmaster Cliff Haines; Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Ashley Photos © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.