Wellington, FL - March 4, 2012 - Nick Skelton of Great Britain continued his winning ways at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) with a victory in Sunday afternoon's $150,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix CSIO 4* riding Beverley Widdowson's Carlo 273. The pair beat out Laura Kraut (USA) and Cherry Knoll Farm Inc.'s Cedric and Richie Moloney (IRL) and Equinimity LLC's Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve, who finished second and third respectively.
Today's competition concluded the FTI WEF's CSIO week eight, sponsored by G&C Farm. Week nine, sponsored by The Bainbridge Companies, will run March 7-11. The week will feature the $200,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier Grand Prix CSI 4* presented by The Bainbridge Companies as well as the $20,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Team Event. The 2012 FTI WEF has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 1, 2012, and will be awarding more than $6 million in prize money through the circuit.
Forty-eight entries showed in Sunday's grand prix, jumping a course set by Anthony D'Ambrosio, of Red Hook, NY. Eleven riders representing eight different countries made it to the jump-off. Great Britain and USA were represented by two riders each, along with competitors from Australia, Italy, Colombia, Ireland, Germany, and The Netherlands.
Just five entries were able to jump without fault over D'Ambrosio's shortened jump-off course. Italy's Luca Moneta guided Neptune Brecourt, owned by Mastroeni Nicoletta, to the first double clear in 46.92 seconds, which eventually finished in fifth place.
Richie Moloney and Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve cleared the final course in 39.76 seconds to take the lead, but finished third in the end. Moloney and his mount were immediately pushed from the top when Skelton and Carlo 273 blazed through the course in 36.60 seconds to take over.
Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum was next to compete in the jump-off and rode EOS Sport's Bella Donna 66 to a double clear in 45.94 seconds to land in the fourth position. The final jump-off round belonged to Laura Kraut and Cedric, who came the closest to Skelton and Carlo 273 with their clear round in 37.14 seconds to finish in second place. Colombia's Daniel Bluman was faster than Kraut in 36.87 seconds with his mare Sancha LS, but had a rail at a tall liverpool vertical in the jump-off to finish in sixth place.
Skelton and Carlo 273, an eleven-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Contender x Cascavelle, have excelled in this year's competition and today was their biggest win yet. The pair earned back to back victories in the $32,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series during weeks two and three and finished second in this week's $32,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 8. Skelton has had more victories with his other top mounts Unique and Big Star.
Commenting on his win today, Skelton stated, "I was sweating a bit at the end, to be honest. I knew I didn't have the best draw. I went relatively early and the fast ones were at the end. Carlo jumped amazing; he was absolutely brilliant today."
With Kraut and Cedric, as well as several other fast combinations to follow, Skelton knew he could not leave the door open. He noted, "I didn't leave a lot. Maybe to the double I could have left one more stride out. I went a little bit wide to that, but the rest he was very, very good."
The first few competitors did nine strides down the last line, but when Skelton saw Moloney do the line in eight, he decided to do the same. "I saw the jump-off course before, but I didn't really study it that well because the second part of the double was in the way, so I went along and stepped it off on the side of the ring," he explained. "I thought it would probably be nine strides, but then Richie went in eight, so I thought I'd better do that."
Skelton also watched Kraut and Cedric go at the end, and knew it was going to be very close. "Cedric jumped great. He is a fast horse," Skelton said. "He is a little horse and he takes a lot of little strides, which makes you think he's not very quick, but he is very quick."
Commenting on her round, Kraut noted that she did not get to see Skelton's whole jump-off round. "I only saw the last line and he did seven and then eight strides," she said. "When I was standing on the platform watching, Beezie (Madden) and George (Morris) and I thought I should do eight and nine because he's not big and doesn't have a very big stride. I tried to go fast as I could to that point. I did eight on the first line. I got there so well and landed strong, so I thought, 'What the hell, I'll give a try,' and got the second eight easily. In hindsight maybe I should have tried for the seven, but that's not always the best thing for him. It's hard for him to win when it's a gallop like that; he does better with a lot of turning."
On competing against Skelton, Kraut explained, "We pretty much stay apart and stick to what we do. We are both super competitive. He's not going to give me advice to beat him, nor would I give him any. We both do what we think we can do. I went as fast as I could today and he was just that much faster."
Both riders commented on Anthony D'Ambrosio's course designing, both today and throughout the week. Skelton stated, "I think Anthony has done an absolutely amazing job the whole week. Nothing was gut-wrenching or really testing the horses. He has built brilliant courses every day. It shows what can be done. All of these horses jumped today and maybe Friday night, and they are still fresh and capable to go on again next week; that is what it's all about."
"Anthony is the sort of guy you can talk to, and he oversees the whole courses, with all of the course builders that come," Skelton acknowledged. "I take my hat off to him; he has done a very good job. All of the riders said that as well, it's not just my opinion."
Kraut agreed, reflecting, "I think he did an incredible job this whole week. There are not many course builders in the world who can build for 86 entries the first day and then today and Nations Cup and all of the 1.50m classes, and be so right on with every course he built; he should be celebrating."
Third place finisher Richie Moloney was pleased with his horse Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve in the class and also thought D'Ambrosio did a great job course designing. "It was a good course and a nice amount of clears for the amount in it," Moloney said. "My horse is a ten year old and I got him last summer in June. He's a really good horse. I don't think you could build a big enough course for him. He's quite straightforward to ride and he has a really big stride, that's why I knew the eight to the last would be easy for him. I'm very happy with him today."
Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Derly Chin De Muze, owned by Torrey Pines and Ashland Stables, Scott Brash (GBR) and Intertoy Z, owned by Stan Brash, and Kent Farrington (USA) and Uceko, owned by RCG Farms, all had four faults in the final round. Lamaze stopped the clock in 38.47 seconds to place seventh, Brash completed the course in 39.58 seconds to finish eighth, and Farrington finished in 41.80 seconds to earn ninth place honors.
Harrie Smolders (NED) and Exquis Walnut De Muze had eight faults in 39.64 seconds to place tenth, and Matt Williams (AUS) and Samantha Tuerk's Watch Me VD Mangelaar rounded out the jump-off finishers with eight faults in 43.62 seconds to finish eleventh.
Paige Johnson and Chiron S Top Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
Earlier in the day, the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic had 44 entries, with 10 clear to the jump-off. Setting the early pace was Nick Skelton (GBR) on Beverley Widdowson's Unique, who won this class in the first week of the FTI WEF. They were clear in 40.350 seconds, which would hold up for second place. Immediately after Skelton, Laura Kraut and another Widdowson-owned entry, Belmont, stopped the timers clear in 41.515 seconds for third place.
Paige Johnson and Chiron S Top Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
Paige Johnson and Chiron S, a 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Contender x Liostro, went second to last in the jump-off. They sped around the course and brought the winning time down to 38.048 seconds for victory.
"I did not see Nick go, I was schooling. I caught a glimpse of him on the screen. Our plan normally is that (my trainer) Joe (Fargis) stays up there to watch," Johnson said of her jump-off plan. "He came back and told me what Nick did. He said Nick went inside to (jump) three, but for my horse personally, I thought I'd be safer galloping around. I knew I could make up time by leaving out and doing seven (strides) to the last wall and galloping to 13 a-b."
Fourth place went to Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) and Polasko, who finished in 41.726 seconds, while Jos Verlooy (NED) and Axel Verlooy's Domino were fifth in 43.008 seconds.
Johnson said, "I was in such good company in this class. I thought it was a really good class. It's nice to compete against these riders and feel like you can compete with them on that level. I'm really happy with my horse and I'm proud of myself too. It's been a while."
After nearly a year off from injury, Chiron S has returned to the show ring for success in 2012. Johnson has competed with Chiron S in the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers, and they won the classic in week four. Johnson noted, "I gave him two weeks off (after that). He showed last week and was double clear and fourth in that classic. This week I saved him just for this class. It was worth saving him. This was my first 1.50m of the circuit, so it's not a bad one! It was a nice start. I thought we were a great team today. He listened to what I asked him to do. I thought I put him where he needed to be. It was great teamwork."
Johnson and Chiron S have been competing together for five years. "He's been a great horse," she said. "I've had some unlucky stuff with him soundness-wise, but that comes with the sport. Everybody has that. It's been hard to consistently stay at this level. But he's so talented, he's so much fun, he's so brave, he's so fast. It's really nice when he's on, and these are the results. I'm really happy."
Johnson gave credit to her team for her success. "I have to thank Joe and Kent Farrington, they both help me. Kent also helps me with schooling the horses. I couldn't do it without them and Rob Jones and the whole big team. It all came together today and when it does, it's a great feeling."
Holiday and Carson Gibson Are Champions in Marley Goodman Small Junior 16-17 Hunters
Carson Gibson of Houston, TX, rode to the win this weekend in the Marley Goodman Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division. Gibson and her mount, Holiday, scored two seconds and first over fences and finished second in the under saddle to claim the championship tricolor with 28 points. A close reserve tricolor went to Schaefer Raposa of Clinton, NY, who scored two firsts, a third and a fifth over fences and finished fifth in the under saddle atop her mount, Sincere, a ten-year-old BWP owned by Reid Patton.
For the winning mount, Holiday, the recent change in weather from warm and muggy to chilly and windy did little to deter his focus. Originally imported from Germany by Peter Pletcher, the bay gelding began his show career in the Pre-Green and First Year Green Hunter divisions several years ago. Since then, Holiday has been successful in the Adult Hunter, Small Junior Hunter and Amateur-Owner 3'3" Hunter divisions and has competed in several seasons at FTI WEF.
Following today's victory, Gibson commented on Holiday's history in the family. "We've had him for a long time now," Gibson explained. "My aunt originally showed him in the Adults and the 3'3" A-Os and then she kind of stopped showing, so we got him next. My sister showed him for a few years in the older Small Juniors and when she went to college, I got to start riding him. I just started showing him last year. He's the sweetest horse."
Describing Holiday's performance in the show ring, Gibson commented, "He was phenomenal in the first round yesterday. Unfortunately, in the second round I made a mistake to a single oxer in the handy, but he was great. Then, today, he was perfect. Actually, last weekend was my first weekend here because I play soccer. As soon as the soccer season ended, I got to come to Florida."
As a student athlete at St John's School in Houston, Gibson balances classes, soccer practice and riding practice carefully. "During soccer season I would just ride on weekends," Gibson explained. "Now that it's over, I'm a little sad, but it's definitely bittersweet because there was a lot of time juggling involved."
Reflecting on her past involvement in equestrian sports, Gibson added, "I've been riding since I was really little. We have our own farm, Shadyside Farm, and we lived there when I was really little. There were always horses around and my mom rides too. She never wanted to push us into riding so we would practically have to beg to go to the barn!"
In the coming weeks, Gibson plans to continue showing Holiday in the Marley Goodman Small Junior Hunter 16-17 division while finishing up her senior year of high school and finalizing her plans for college.
The ninth week of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival will run on March 7-11. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Final Results: $150,000 Wellington Equestrian Realty Grand Prix CSIO 4*
1. CARLO 273: 2001 Holsteiner gelding by Contender x Cascavelle NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverley Widdowson: 0/0/36.60
2. CEDRIC: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Chambertin x Carolus Z LAURA KRAUT (USA), Cherry Knoll Farm, Inc: 0/0/37.14
3. AHORN VAN DE ZUUTHOEVE: 2002 Hanoverian gelding by Acorado x Calypso II ICHIE MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity LLC: 0/0/39.76
4. BELLA DONNA 66: 2003 Holsteiner mare by Baldini II x Calido I MEREDITH MICHAELS-BEERBAUM (GER), EOS Sport: 0/0/45.94
5. NEPTUNE BRECOURT: 2001 Selle Francais gelding by Cumano x Kayack LUCA MONETA (ITA), Mastroeni Nicoletta: 0/0/46.92
6. SANCHA LS: 2003 SLS mare by Chin Chin x Polydor DANIEL BLUMAN (COL), Daniel Bluman: 0/4/36.87
7. DERLY CHIN DE MUZE: 2003 BWP mare by For Pleasure x Nebab de Reve ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Torrey Pines & Ashland Stables: 0/4/38.47
8. INTERTOY Z: 1999 Zangersheide gelding by Interadel x Centauer SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Stan Brash: 0/4/39.58
9. UCEKO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Celano x Koriander KENT FARRINGTON (USA), R.C.G. Farm: 0/4/41.80
10. EXQUIS WALNUT DE MUZE: 1999 BWP gelding by Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED), Team Exquis: 0/8/39.64
11. WATCH ME VD MANGELAAR: 2003 KWPN gelding by Heartbreaker x Wolfgang MATT WILLIAMS (AUS), Samantha Tuerk: 0/8/43.62
12. DON CESAR: 1997 Westphalian gelding by Drossan x Fruhlingsball DAVID WILL (GER), Deitmar Gulder Reitsport: 4/71.75
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
1 CHIRON S PAIGE JOHNSON SALAMANDER FARM: 0/0/38.048
2 UNIQUE NICK SKELTON BEVERLEY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/40.350
3 BELMONT LAURA KRAUT BEVERLEY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/41.515
4 POLASKO NICOLAS PIZARRO NICOLAS PIZARRO: 0/0/41.726
5 DOMINO JOS VERLOOY AXEL VERLOOY: 0/0/43.008
6 O'SPLENDIDO SHANE SWEETNAM SPY COAST FARM LLC: 0/4/39.587
7 UDIANA KEVIN BABINGTON CHLOE WORMSER: 0/4/40.023
8 CARISSIMO MOLLY ASHE-CAWLEY MAARTEN HUYGENS: 0/4/41.283
9 VALENTE TIM GREDLEY MRS. R. GREDLEY: 0/4/42.417
10 HH CISKE RODRIGO PESSOA DOUBLE H FARM: 0/8/44.326
11 VON DER GRAAF ROBERTO TERAN ARK PARTNERS: 1/79.740
12 SANDRO KATHERINE DINAN GRANT ROAD PARTNERS: 4/74.045
Photo Credit: Photos © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.us.sportfot.com.