Wellington, FL - January 22, 2012 - The second week of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival came to a close today, and competition in the International Arena was fierce with the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. Marie Hecart (FRA) was the fastest clear round in the jump-off on Ecurie Michel Hecart's Oceane de Nantuel. Second place went to last week's 1.50m winners, Nick Skelton (GBR) and Beverley Widdowson's Unique. Yann Candele (CAN) and Lansdowne, owned by Susan Grange, were third.
The second week of the FTI WEF is sponsored by Wellington Equestrian Realty. The third week, sponsored by Horseware Ireland, runs from January 25-29. The 2012 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 1, 2012, and they will be awarding more than $6 million in prize money through the circuit.
Today's class was the second in the in the Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series. The Series returns this year with the $50,000 Leading Horse/Rider Combination Award, which gives bonus money to the top three horse/rider combinations in the series.
Luc Musette of Belgium designed the course for today's class. There were 38 entries in the class, and nine were clear into the jump-off. As the second pair into the ring for the jump-off, Hecart and Oceane de Nantuel set the winning time at 37.552 seconds and couldn't be beat.
"I went fast 1-2-3, but then I added a stride to the combination," Hecart said of her jump-off ride. "I thought that I would not win because I added and everybody went fast. The end was fast too, but the combination wasn't fast at all. I was a little bit right, left and I waited a bit. It worked this time."
Skelton and Unique made a great bid for the win but were just 5/10ths of a second slower in 38.025 seconds. Candele and Lansdowne posted a time of 39.783 seconds for third place. Laura Kraut (USA) rode Woodstock O, owned by Joan Kalman, to fourth place in 40.147 seconds. Riding Sinead and Oonagh Kennedy's KEC Alligator Alley, Ireland's Cian O'Connor placed fifth with a clear round and a time of 40.239 seconds.
Hecart has gotten the ride on Oceane de Nantuel, a 10-year-old Selle Francais mare by Diamant de Semilly x Quidam de Revel, since her father Michel was injured. "She jumped the $500,000 (grand prix at the FTI WEF) with my father last year and she went clear. My father got hurt this year; he had a bad fall, so I'm riding the horses," she explained. "It's the third class that I've done with her. She is ready!"
After last year's success, Oceane de Nantuel competed in grand prix classes in Europe with Michel Hecart. She returned to the United States in November, and started back up for competition two weeks ago. Hecart plans to move up to the grand prix classes with her. Marie Hecart said of the mare, "She feels good. She likes when you ride with a nice rhythm all the time. She has good balance and is really careful. She really likes the pace, which helps in the jump-off."
Hecart has made her home base in Wellington, FL, and doesn't currently have plans to show in Europe. "If I have a horse to jump the big, big classes, I will go to Europe, but I don't have any plans right now. I like living here. The show is nice and it's good for the competition," she remarked.
This is Hecart's first win this year at the FTI WEF, and she is happy to have recorded it early in the circuit. "It feels good! I've been doing many rounds with one down, so it is nice to put it all together," she said.
Alexa Effron Sweeps the Coldwell Banker Children's 14 & Under Hunters
Alexa Effron, of New York, NY, swept the Coldwell Banker Children's Hunter 14 & under division during week two of the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Effron and her mount Maxim took home the championship tricolor winning two firsts, a second and a third over fences and finishing fourth under saddle. Maxim was followed closely by Effron's second mount Sirius Black who received the reserve tricolor and finished third, second and fifth over fences and placed first under saddle.
Alexa Effron Sweeps the Coldwell Banker Children's 14 & Under Hunters
This season marks Effron's first year moving up from the pony divisions and into horses full-time. "I was getting a little too big on the ponies," Effron explained, "I can find my distance a lot easier on the horses and I've had great trainers who are helping me move up."
Following her win, Effron explained that this was only her second time showing both Maxim, a fifteen-year-old Holsteiner and Sirius Black, a sixteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood. "It's going really well with these horses," Effron commented. "We did so well yesterday that I went into the show ring today feeling confident about my rides."
Despite having little time to practice during the week due to school obligations, Effron's transition into the Children's Hunter division has been smooth. "It's been really good to start in the three-foot division," Effron said, "I was jumping that height on the ponies anyway, but it's that much easier on the horses because they're bigger."
Effron commutes from New York, NY, to Wellington, FL, for competition every weekend. Describing her winter riding schedule, Effron explained, "I like it better when I'm at home able to practice because it kind of gets boring during the week when I don't get to ride, but at least it gives me something to look forward to on the weekends. It's also great getting to miss school on Fridays, but it does make me have a lot of work to do and it's hard to get it all done."
Effron balances school and competition by completing as much homework as possible before the start of her busy weekends and leaving extra time on plane rides to finish up. She plans to come to attend all weeks of the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival permitting that she and her horses stay fit and healthy.
The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival will continue with its third week of competition, the Horseware Products CSI 2* "AA" show on January 25-29. The highlight classes of the week are the $55,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes on Saturday, January 28, at 7 p.m. and the $50,000 Horseware Products Grand Prix, CSI 2* on Sunday at The Stadium.
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
1 OCEANE DE NANTUEL, MARIE HECART, ECURIE MICHEL HECART: 0/0/37.552
2 UNIQUE, NICK SKELTON, BEVERLEY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/38.025
3 LANSDOWNE, YANN CANDELE, SUSAN GRANGE: 0/0/39.783
4 WOODSTOCK O, LAURA KRAUT, JOAN KALMAN: 0/0/40.147
5 KEC ALLIGATOR ALLEY, CIAN O'CONNOR, SINEAD & OONAGH KENNEDY: 0/0/40.239
6 RAMINA, KEVIN BABINGTON, ALEXANDRA BARTLETT: 0/0/40.898
7 OSIRIS, GEMMA PATERNOSTER, GEMMA PATERNOSTER: 0/0/41.439
8 LIGIST, REED KESSLER, REED KESSLER: 0/4/37.941
9 APACHE, ASHLEE BOND, LITTLE VALLEY FARM: 0/8/42.408
10 KAID DU RY, ALISE OKEN, HI HOPES FARM LLC: 4/77.668
11 RADIO CITY, VICTOR AMAYA, GOTHAM ENTERPRIZES: 4/77.829
12 NOUGAT DU VALLET, KATHERINE DINAN, GRANT ROAD PARTNERS: 4/78.723
Photo Credit: Marie Hecart and Oceane du Nantuel, Alexa Effron and Maxim at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.