Wellington, FL - March 20, 2011 - Week 10 of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded with two great events at The Stadium, the grass field venue at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star, owned by Beverly and Gary Widdowson, notched another big win this circuit by taking the top prize in the $78,000 Pennfield Feeds Grand Prix, CSI 2*.
The FTI Winter Equestrian Festival's feature event, the $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix, CSI 5* will be next week on Saturday, March 26. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and awards more than $6 million in prize money.
Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC, was the designer for the classes at The Stadium today. There were 43 entries in the grand prix, and seven of those went clear to advance to the jump-off. The first entry in the class and the first to return was Hector Florentino (DOM) on Stransky's Mission Farm's Ultimo. They had a rail at 8b, the oxer out of the double combination, for four faults in 46.50 seconds. They finished in seventh place.
The early lead went to Mario Deslauriers (USA) and Urico, owned by Jane Clark. They sped around the shortened course with no faults in 42.60 seconds, which would hold up for second place.
Deslauriers said of his jump-off ride, "He's basically fast across the ground everywhere. I turned as sharp as I could and gave it a good run right back on the double. I think Nick did one less stride than me going to the oxer further down, and that's where the second came. He's a quick horse. I don't need to go crazy fast to be the fastest."
Spanish rider Sergio Alvarez Moya rode next on Uno, owned by Mileworld Limited. They finished just off the winning pace in 42.85 seconds and placed third. Keean White (CAN) and Celena Z had a rail at the last jump for four faults in 44.69 seconds for fifth place.
Skelton and Big Star were next in, and they made easy work of the course, powering out of the double combination and galloping steadily down to the final oxer. They stopped the timers in 41.39 seconds with no faults to take the lead.
Skelton said of riding the double combination, "It was a big stretch going out, but he's got the scope. He's careful and he knows where the poles are. You just give him a bit of a kick and he's gone. He reacts very quickly. He's quick away from the jump also. Once he hits the floor, he's ready for the next one."
Quentin Judge (USA) and HH Radco, owned by Double H Farm, had a rail at fence 9 for four faults in 46.01 seconds for sixth place. With the fastest time of the class in 40.35 seconds, Scott Brash (GBR) and Intertoy Z gave it a great go in the jump-off, but a rail at fence 8a after a very tight rollback cost them four faults. They placed fourth in the final standings.
This is the first time that Moya has shown at the FTI WEF, and he is very pleased with Uno, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding by Fuego du Prelet x Power. Moya has only ridden Uno for a few months, having taken over the ride from Katharina Offel. He described, "This was the first outdoor show I've done with him. He was third two days ago and third again in the grand prix, so I'm very pleased with him. He's a bit sharp, he has a huge stride, and he needs a little bit of pace at the end. In the last few strides you have to hold him a little bit, otherwise he gets a bit flat. He is brave and he tries to be careful. He always tries his best."
When asked about his experience at the FTI WEF, he smiled, "I think it's very nice; I would be happy if I could come again."
Today was a return to form for Urico and Deslauriers, who had a fall in the grand prix two weeks ago. Deslauriers commented, "The jump-off felt the best of all of them. He likes to go a little and he showed his best. We were trying to get back on the right track and put in another good round. I'm happy with the way he jumped. We'll hopefully give it a good go next week."
Big Star jumped up to win early in the circuit in the week 2 grand prix. He returned to the winner's circle in the Suncast 1.50m Classic in week 5.
For Skelton, having his young talented horse rise to the occasion again made him break into a big smile as he left the ring. Afterward, Skelton praised, "He's an unbelievable horse. He's eight years old, and he's never been on that field before. I was home all week and came back here last night. I hadn't ridden him since last Sunday when he was second in the 1.50m. I'm very, very lucky to have a horse like this. I've had him for three years, and what he's doing at eight years old is incredible. I've got to look after him and not get carried away."
Skelton voiced the thoughts of many riders when he said of The Stadium field, "The ground is absolutely beautiful. It's the best ground. Horses love to jump on it, (and they) are springing off of it. When they land, they slide a little bit which is good because it's like a cushion. It's like a carpet. I'm old and old-fashioned, so I like the grass ground."
Final Results: $78,000 Pennfield Feeds Grand Prix, CSI 2*
1 BIG STAR: 2003 KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly and Gary Widdowson: 0/0/41.39
2 URICO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor MARIO DESLAURIERS (USA), Jane F. Clark: 0/0/42.60
3 UNO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Fuego du Prelet x Power SERGIO ALVARAZ MOYA (SPA), Mileworld Limited: 0/0/42.85
4 INTERTOY Z: 1999 Zangersheide gelding by Interadel x Centauer SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Scott Brash: 0/4/40.35
5 CELENA Z: 2000 Zangersheide mare by Cumano x Major Reza KEEAN WHITE (CAN), The Ashland Group & Angelstone Farms: 0/0/44.69
6 HH RADCO: 2001 SBS stallion by Darco x Larome QUENTIN JUDGE (USA), Double H Farm: 0/4/46.01
7 ULTIMO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Marlon x Laroche HECTOR FLORENTINO (DOM), Stransky's Mission Farm: 0/4/46.50
8 PJOTTER VAN DE ZONNEHOEVE: 2001 Dutch Warmblood Gelding by Plato x Emilion MCLAIN WARD (USA), Louisburg Farm: 4/74.94
9 CORAL REEF VIA VOLO: 1998 BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 4/75.10
10 CRISTALLO: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Caretino x Cicero RICHARD SPOONER (USA), Show Jumping Syndications International: 4/76.02
11 VORNADO VAN DEN HOENDRIK: 1998 BWP gelding by Darco x Ramiro JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN (USA), Stone Hill Farm: 4/76.91
12 G&C SINATRA: 1999 KWPN gelding by Epilot x Libero H PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), Pablo Barrios and Gustavo Mirabal: 4/77.47
Photo Credit: Nick Skelton and Big Star. Nick Skelton and Big Star with Michael Stone of Equestrian Sport Productions, ringmaster Cliff Haines, and Bob Wagner of Pennfield Feeds. Photos © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.