Wellington, FL - February 25, 2011 - Meg O'Mara and Sinatra IV jumped to victory in the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix on Friday night at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Showing under the lights in the International Arena of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, O'Mara and Sinatra IV were the only pair to jump double clear in the evening's class to earn top honors over a field of 54 starters.
The FTI Winter Equestrian Festival's seventh week of competition continues through Sunday, February 27. Week seven, sponsored by Fidelity Investments, will feature the $78,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix, CSI 2* on Saturday at 7 p.m. and the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic on Sunday at 1 p.m. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
Today's class was the second of four qualifiers for the EY Cup Finals, held at the FEI World Cup Finals in Leipzig, Germany. The top three riders at the conclusion of the series will have the opportunity to travel to Germany to compete. The third event, which is a Team Event, will be held on Thursday, March 10 in the International Arena. The final $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix will be held on the grass derby field at The Stadium on Sunday, March 20, 2011. Through their sponsorship, The Dutta Corporation & International Horse Transport will be shipping the winning horse to the Finals and covering travel expenses for the highest scoring rider in this series.
Tonight's course was designed by Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany. Petersen set a challenging course for the young riders, and just three were able to jump clear in the first round. Reed Kessler and Ligist returned first for the jump-off and set the standard with a fast time of 45.854 seconds, but an unfortunate rail at the last fence placed the pair in second.
Meg O'Mara rode Don Stewart's Sinatra IV into the ring next and jumped a fast, clear round to take the lead. The pair's time of 45.177 seconds and double clear rounds earned the victory.
Completing the jump-off, Chase Boggio and Hennessey had a rail at the second fence on course to earn four faults in a time of 47.929 seconds, finishing in third place.
David Arcand and Santo's Utopia finished with just one time fault in 77.507 seconds to receive fourth place. Charlotte Jacobs also finished with one time fault riding Promised Land, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables. The pair stopped the clock in 77.778 seconds to finish in fifth place. Coming in sixth, Quentin Judge and HH Manrique Z had two time faults in 78.860 seconds. Navona Gallegos and Bar X Ranch LLC's No Fear finished with three time faults in 79.996 seconds to receive the seventh place prize.
Class winner Meg O'Mara is from Rumson, NJ, and turns 17 years old tomorrow. O'Mara trains with Don Stewart and Megan Edrick and received help from Ralph Caristo this evening. O'Mara usually shows in Ocala during the winter and was excited to get a win tonight after arriving in Wellington just half an hour before the course walk. "It's really, really exciting because I'm never here," O'Mara laughed. "We had someone ride my horse for the week, and he was really good. It is kind of shocking to go into this huge class and do so well. We were gold medalists in the Prix des States and I won my first grand prix three weeks ago, but this is probably one of the biggest classes I have done."
O'Mara has been riding Sinatra IV for just over a year and will soon be purchasing him. Sinatra IV is an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding by Churchill. "He's perfect for me," she explained. "I don't like to kick around the course. He is really fiery. Anyone who has schooled in the same ring knows he is a little feisty! He has his quirks, but once he's in the ring he is perfect and he jumps around great."
Speaking about the course and her ride in the jump-off, O'Mara stated, "When Reed had the last rail, I knew it was going to be hard to go double clean because she's a really good rider! It kind of took a little bit of pressure off so I didn't have to go as fast, but I still went for it because another person had to go after me. The strides were perfect for my horse; it was a good course for him. The time was tight, but we've never had a problem with the time. He was perfect."
O'Mara has her sights set on qualifying to compete in the EY Cup Finals and explained that she has never shown internationally. "This is definitely one of the biggest series that I have done. I really want to try and qualify to go to Europe; it would be amazing. It would be such a great opportunity for me to go at such a young age," the rider noted.
Although she has finished second in both qualifiers so far, 16-year-old Reed Kessler is currently in the lead for the series standings with her clear rounds aboard horses Onisha and Ligist. Talking about her ride tonight aboard Ligist (also known as Goose) Kessler stated, "Last time Goose was in here, we did the six bar and we jumped 6'4". His eyes were definitely wide open tonight. It looked small to Goose, so I guess that was a good warm-up!"
Ligist is an 11-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by Levantos II x Robin Z. Praising Ligist, Kessler explained, "He has been fantastic and he has been jumping the WEF Challenge Cup Grand Prix, so he was ready for this height and I think this was the best he has ever gone."
"Goose has a lot of power, but the jump-offs take a bit of finesse," Kessler continued. "He is not the kind that you can whip back and be wrong and figure it out; you just have to be on it. I was a little conservative here and there because I was trying to be neat and sweeping. I knew Meg was behind me and her horse is so naturally fast, so I didn't want to be too conservative. It was a shame that we had that rail; he really just touched it behind. He is usually so brilliant behind, but what can you do? He did all the hard parts so beautifully. It was one of the best jump-offs he has ever done and I am really lucky to have him. I am really, really happy that I have a lead in the series."
Commenting on what it would mean to qualify, Kessler laughed, "I'd kill for it. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life; I want to be an international rider and compete for the U.S. I have shown in Europe multiple times and I love it. There is no better feeling in the world than when you win a class and they fly the flag and play the anthem. It is fantastic exposure and I am so thankful to the Ziegler family and Artisan Farms for sponsoring the series. It is an amazing opportunity to not only be there, but to have the opportunity to compete against the best young riders in Europe. It is a really great way to get your name out there and represent your country and it is hopefully foreshadowing what can come."
Enrique Gonzalez and Katina Gallop to Victory in $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers
Enrique Gonzalez (MEX) and Katina were the winners today in the $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers. The new class is part of an initiative to increase FEI ROLEX ranking classes at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Thanks to the support of G&C Farm, owned by Gustavo and Carolina Mirabal, the FTI WEF was able to add eight new FEI ROLEX ranking classes to the schedule. There are now 27 ranking classes during the FTI WEF. G&C Farm has kindly sponsored the 1.45m Jumper division, which adds five of the additional FEI ROLEX ranking classes.
Enrique Gonzalez and Katina Gallop to Victory in $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers
There were 55 entries in today's class, and it was run as a speed class. The course, designed by Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany, featured 12 numbered obstacles with three double combinations. The early leader in the class was G&C Sinatra (owned by Barrios and Gustavo Mirabal) and Pablo Barrios (VEN), who went first and set a time of 67.76 seconds. They would finish in fifth place.
Thirteen horses later, the lead changed hands when Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Coriana van Klapscheut, owned by Artisan Farms LLC, finished the course. The little mare sped around the course and crossed the timers in 66.47 seconds. They would finish in second place.
McLain Ward (USA) and Rothchild, owned by Sagamore Farm, placed third in 67.16 seconds, while Brianne Goutal (USA) and Ballade van het Indihof were just behind in 67.17 seconds for fourth place.
As the second to last horse in the ring, Gonzalez of Mexico City, Mexico, set a blistering pace to win in 64.09 seconds. "She's really fast," Gonzalez said. "The combination of verticals that was giving a lot of trouble, was the best for her. You can get there and just let her do it, and she will figure it out. Many people had faults there, but that gave me a chance. She's always really competitive and really fast. If everything goes right, normally she's there."
Gonzalez has had Katina, a 10-year-old KWPN mare by Iroko x Ahorn, since she was five years old. While she sold to his client as a six-year-old, he traded back for her when she was seven. Last year, they won three classes at Spruce Meadows as well as the Mexican Grand Prix Championship. "She's so careful that I had to take my time with her to show her in the bigger classes," he explained. Gonzalez plans to show her in next week's $75,000 FEI Nations Cup, presented by G&C Farm.
Gonzalez is no stranger to top show jumping competition - he has ridden at the Olympic Games, the World Equestrian Games, and the World Cup Finals. He also served as Mexico's Chef d'Equipe in two Olympic Games and two World Equestrian Games. "I've been around," he said with a smile. "The best thing about this sport is that it gives you a chance with age to learn and learn, and be able to keep doing it even when you are a little bit older."
Competing at the top level, Gonzalez feels that the addition of more FEI ROLEX ranking classes is "very important." He continued, "We're at a big disadvantage to European riders because they have so many classes that count for ranking. For us to go up in the world ranking, it's almost impossible. Every time they do something like this, it's super important for us. I really think we should have more like this."
This is the first time that Gonzalez has competed at the FTI WEF in 10 years. "I came last year to help some of my students and then I decided that this year that I had good enough horses to be competitive. You need to have competitive horses to be able to do something here. For me, it is very important to be here competing with all of these fantastic riders."
The seventh week of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will continue tomorrow with the highlight class of the week, the $78,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix, CSI 2* at 7 p.m. in the International Arena.
Final Results: $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix
1 SINATRA IV MEG O'MARA DONALD STEWART: 0/0/45.177
2 LIGIST REED KESSSLER REED KESSLER: 0/4/45.854
3 HENNESSEY CHASE BOGGIO CHASE BOGGIO: 0/4/47.929
4 SANTO'S UTOPIA DAVID ARCAND DAVID ARCAND: 1/77.507
5 PROMISED LAND CHARLOTTE JACOBS CANDY TRIBBLE & WINDSOR SHOW STABLES: 1/77.778
6 HH MANRIQUE Z QUENTIN JUDGE DOUBLE H FARM: 2/78.860
7 NO FEAR NAVONA GALLEGOS BAR X RANCH LLC: 3/79.996
8 ROCKY W KAITLIN CAMPBELL KAITLIN CAMPBELL: 4/71.843
9 VIGARO SARAH TREDENNICK WOOD RUN FARM: 4/73.834
10 BULL RUN'S LA BAMBA KRISTEN VANDERVEEN BULL RUN JUMPERS LLC: 4/74.668
11 WRIGLEY CALLIE SCHOTT JOHN MADDEN SHOW STABLES INC: 4/75.326
12 CAMIRAGE CHRISTINA KELLY DIAMOND EDGE FARM: 4/75.672
Final Results: $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers
1. KATINA: 2001 KWPN mare by Iroko x Ahorn ENRIQUE GONZALEZ (MEX), Enrique Gonzalez: 0/64.09
2. CORIANA VAN KLAPSCHEUT: 2002 BWP mare by Darco x Heartbreaker ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/66.47
3. ROTHCHILD: 2001 SBS gelding by Artos x Elegant De L'Ile MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 0/67.16
4. BALLADE VAN HET INDIHOF: 2001 BWP mare by Thunder Van de Zuuthoeve x Heartbreaker BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/67.17
5. G&C SINATRA: 1999 KWPN gelding by Epilot x Libero H PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), G&C Farm: 0/67.76
6. COCO 135: 2001 Mecklenberg gelding by Elite P.B. Cellestial x Monsum ANDRE THIEME (GER), Seth Vallhonrat: 0/68.58
7. SELECT: 1999 KWPN gelding by Damiro x Voltaire PETER LEONE (USA), Lionshare Farm: 0/69.31
8. UNICA VAN DE ROSHOEVE: 1997 BWP mare by Quickfeuer Van Koekshof x GuildfordÆs Comm Decision ANGELA COVERT-LAWRENCE (CAN), Eastwood Group: 0/70.63
9. DONA EVITA: 2003 BWP mare by Darco x Fleuri Du Manoir LAURA KRAUT (USA), Brutsaert Trading: 0/71.67
10. LAPSUS DU LAVOIR: 1999 Selle Francais Gelding by Animo x Vol d'Amour LJUBOV KOCHETOVA (RUS), Ljubov Kochetova: 0/74.63
11. VIGGO: 2002 KWPN gelding by Quick Star x Cantus BETH UNDERHILL (CAN), Beth Underhill: 0/76.73
12. VOCAS: 2002 KWPN gelding by Hors La Loi II x Voltaire MCLAIN WARD (USA), Louisburg Farm: 4/67.58
Photo Credits: Meg O'Mara and Sinatra IV won the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix, while Reed Kessler and Ligist were second, during week seven of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Meg O'Mara and Sinatra IV with Michael Stone of Equestrian Sport Productions, ringmaster Cliff Haines, and Carlene Ziegler of Artisan Farms. Reed Kessler and Ligist with ringmaster Cliff Haines, Michael Stone of Equestrian Sport Productions, and Carlene Ziegler of Artisan Farms Enrique Gonzalez and Katina won the $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers during week seven at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Enrique Gonzalez and Katina with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Gustavo Mirabal of G&C Farm. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com .