Wellington, FL - January 15, 2011 - Nick Skelton (GBR) continued his great week today with his second major win in the International Arena. He piloted Beverly Widdowson's Unique to victory in the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Classic. Today's classic is part of the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series, which will track the best horse/rider combinations through week 11 for a bonus of $50,000.
The first week of the FTI WEF concludes tomorrow, January 16. The 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition through April 3, 2011, and they will be awarding almost $6 million in prize money through the circuit. The highlight jumper class is tomorrow's $30,000 Speed Derby on Sunday at 2 p.m.
This week's course designer in the International Arena is Anthony D'Ambrosio of Red Hook, NY. Although entries were light in today's Time First Jump-off class at 12, it was great competition. Three found the route to the jump-off, with Skelton and Unique returning first. They put down the trip to best with no faults in 39.171 seconds.
Skelton said of his jump-off ride, "I thought I was up against it because I was going first, and I know that Ashlee is pretty quick. I went quick and safe, hoping that I'd done enough. I didn't think I had, but it worked out."
Ashlee Bond (USA) and Chivas Z, owned by Little Valley Farm, were next in. After four faults at the second jump, they finished in 43.904 seconds for third place. Blythe Marano (USA) and Urban, owned by Riverview Farm LLC, were the last to compete in the jump-off. Although they were also clear, their time of 44.063 seconds was not enough for the win and they collected the second place ribbon.
Unique, a 10-year-old KWPN by Indoctro x Voltaire, started his career in the United States as a seven-year-old jumper with Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut. Kraut found him in Europe through Jean Claude van Geenberghe and took a liking to him because of his resemblance to her famous show jumper Anthem.
She recalled, "When I tried him, he reminded me of a young Anthem. We call him Junior, for Anthem junior. He looks a lot like him, which was the first thing I noticed. He's got a big long head. He's really careful like Anthem was. It's just in him; he doesn't want to touch a pole. He's got a little bit of the devil in him, which Anthem had early on. (Unique) is just cheeky."
"There was something about him that I really liked," she continued. "I rode him for his eight-year-old year. At the end of the year, I felt like he needed a man (to ride him because) he's a big, strong horse, to make that next big step up."
Through Unique's owners, there a swap made between Unique and one of Kraut's current top mounts, Tortola. "Nick felt Tortola was more of a girl's horse, so we made the trade," Kraut said. "It worked out great on both sides. It was one of those rare times when everyone ends up happy!"
While Skelton was out for injuries for the second half of last year, Kraut rode Unique again. "He was wonderful, like a different horse!" she laughed. "He's come along really well. Now he's much more mannerly and is a really nice horse."
Skelton, a six-time Olympian, has returned to the show ring after a six month break. In August, he had a hip replacement, and then he underwent surgery for his rotator cuff in October. Skelton started riding again on the day before Christmas Eve, when he rode two horses, and then didn't get back on a horse until last Thursday.
Skelton and Unique won the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m class on Wednesday, and Skelton was fourth today with his other mount, eight-year-old Big Star. "If every other week's like this, I'll be happy!" he said with a smile.
The Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series this year features a $50,000 bonus. The $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classics are held weekly through week 11. The final class, the $30,000 Suncast® 1.50 Jumper Championship, will be held on Sunday, March 27 (WEF 11), and it will be an FEI ROLEX ranking class. The top three horse/rider combinations in the Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series will be given bonus awards of $25,000 for first place, $15,000 to second, and third will receive $10,000. The bonus of $50,000 will be presented during the Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final on Sunday, March 27.
For more information on Suncast® Corporation, please visit www.suncast.com.
Week one of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival will conclude tomorrow with the $30,000 Speed Derby, which will run in the International Arena at 2 p.m.
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Classic
- 1 UNIQUE NICK SKELTON BEVERLY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/39.171
- 2 URBAN BLYTHE MARANO RIVERVIEW FARM LLC: 0/0/44.063
- 3 CHIVAS Z ASHLEE BOND LITTLE VALLEY FARM: 0/4/43.904
- 4 BIG STAR NICK SKELTON BEVERLY & GEORGE WIDDOWSON: 4/82.038
- 5 ROGER RABBIT MICHAEL TOKARUK CASTLE POINT FARM LLC: 4/84.559
- 6 S & L SLINGBACK DARRAGH KERINS S&L FARM: 4/86.973
- 7 NEVER SAY NEVER HENRIK GUNDERSEN HENRIK GUNDERSEN: 4/90.715
- 8 TRAFFIC BOY SHANE SWEETNAM SPY COAST FARM LLC: 7/89.912
- 9 GOWRAN PARK ANDREW BOURNS ANDREW BOURNS: 12/81.889
- 10 APEROL 4 ENRIQUE GONZALES ENRIQUE GONZALES: 12/86.482
- 11 VAILLANT S LAUREN TISBO TEQUESTRIAN FARMS LLC: 18/88.772
Photo Credit: Nick Skelton and Unique won the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Classic during week one of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Nick Skelton and Unique with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Lauren Tisbo of Suncast. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.