Night Train Accelerates to the Win with Rodrigo Pessoa In $200,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix, CSI3*

Wellington, FL - Victory was sweet tonight for Double H Farm's Hunter Harrison as his horse Night Train sped to the win with Olympic gold medalist Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) in the $200,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix, CSI 3*, presented by CN. McLain Ward (USA) on Sapphire, owned by Ward and Blue Chip Bloodstock, was second, while Lauren Hough (USA) and Laura Mateo's Quick Study were third.

The ninth week of the FTI WEF is sponsored by CN and runs through Sunday, March 14. The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 4, 2010, and they will be awarding almost $6 million in prize money through the circuit.

Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela designed a 14 numbered obstacle track for the opening round, and seven of 45 entries were clear to continue to the jump-off.

Ward remarked, "Leopoldo always gets the right number clear. I think he tried to build a little of an indoor format with related distances and tight in between the fences. Leopoldo always sets a challenge. That's the exciting part of the sport though. I think he did another great job, and that's why he's one of the best there has ever been."  

The first to return was Ljubov Kochtova (RUS) on Aslan. With a rail at the second to last fence in the jump-off, she finished in fifth place in 41.14 seconds.

Hough was next in and went for the clear round but was speedy as well in 40.57 seconds to take the lead.  

Hough said, "Quick Study (left) felt super tonight. Last week in the CSIO grand prix I left him a little bit fresh, and I was more prepared this week. We couldn't have had faster horses or faster riders in that jump-off. Going second, I knew I needed to set a good standard, but perhaps I didn't take all of the risks. I slowed him down a little to the plank and also a little bit to the last jump. I'm really, really pleased with him. It was quite a class and quite a competition. The top four were very close in their times."

Hough also gained valuable World Cup points towards the 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals, which are held in Geneva, Switzerland, this April. "I was quite eager to get World Cup points because I was sitting seventh and I hopefully got the points to get to Geneva, because that is definitely on my radar screen with him," she confirmed.

Following her, Ashlee Bond (USA) and Apache, owned by Little Valley Farm, had rails at both of the verticals in the double combination for eight faults in 42.67 seconds for seventh place. Rich Fellers (USA) and Flexible, owned by Harry and Molly Chapman, were double clear, but not quick enough to catch the lead. They stopped the timers in 41.25 seconds for fourth place.

Pessoa and Night Train were next in and they put down a clear trip in high speed to go to the lead in 40.18 seconds.

"With the horses after me, I just had to give everything and hope for the best. It was a good jump-off for me with a bit of a gallop and the combination of verticals, which is always good for him," Pessoa said of his jump-off ride. "When I turned from number two, I had my eye on the plank and thought it would take a while for me to get there, but I was immediately there because he went so fast down the big stretch. Where I lost a little bit was the turn back to the double of verticals. Coming out of the ring, I knew I could have easily been third because Presley Boy and Sapphire were after me. I was realistic about my jump-off. I was happy already and the luck was a little bit on my side."  

Pessoa said of his relationship with the 15.3 hand high Night Train (right), "It took time, and I think each round we've been finding out more about each other. I'm getting to know how he goes. He doesn't go in a very classical way, and I had to get used to that. Most of all was to trust him over the big jumps. When you see those big jumps out there with his size, you get a little bit nervous. You're not sure how you're going to come to the other side. But he's all heart; his heart is so big. He really tries hard and is just an unbelievable little horse. We just needed this time to adapt together. The last three or four rounds we've been consistently improving. It's nice to wrap up the circuit for him with a win like this. I'm really pleased with the work that the whole team has put into this horse. It's my first win with him."  

Jaime Azcarraga (MEX) and Presley Boy were quick in 41.72 seconds, but they had a rail at the final jump on course and placed sixth.

Last in were double Olympic gold medalists McLain Ward and Sapphire (left). Ward turned up the speed throughout the course, but added a stride to the final oxer. They finished just off the pace in 40.32 seconds for second place.

"On Thursday in the WEF (Challenge Cup), she jumped beautiful, and I had the time but with the last jump down," Ward recalled. "I was thinking a little about that going to the last jump today and checked up and was a little conservative. Rodrigo really didn't leave any room. I would have liked to have won, but you can't get too upset over a couple tenths of a second. Sapphire feels great; she's starting to come into form."

It was a fitting win for Pessoa and Night Train since Double H Farm's Hunter Harrison was honored in a ceremony before the jump-off tonight. "The Harrison Cup," a perpetual trophy started this year for the leading owner/farm of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, was dedicated in a special presentation. It is named in honor of Hunter Harrison's incredible contribution to both the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival through his sponsorship with CN and to equestrian sport as a whole.

"It's really nice to win tonight," Pessoa expressed. "Hunter has been an unbelievable supporter of this show and the sport in general. With him being retired and CN not going on with the equestrian sport, it's really a great honor to win on a night like this and with him receiving the award from the horse show organization. A win is always good and this one was really special because of all this that came together."

Tomorrow's competition concludes week nine with the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Classic in the International Arena at 2 p.m. Week 10, sponsored by Equine Couture/Tuff Rider, runs from March 17-21 and features the inaugural Great Charity Challenge, which will raise at least $400,000 for 24 Palm Beach County-based charities. The Great Charity Challenge is on Saturday, March 20, with festivities beginning at 6 p.m.

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Final Results: $200,000 FEI World Cup Grand Prix, CSI 3*, presented by CN

  • 1. NIGHT TRAIN: 1999 Zangersheide gelding by S. Calvaro Z xx Papillon Rouge RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), DOUBLE H FARM: 0/0/40.18
  • 2. SAPPHIRE: 1995 BWP mare by Darco xx Hedjaz MCLAIN WARD (USA), MCLAIN WARD & BLUE CHIP BLOODSTOCK: 0/0/40.32
  • 3. QUICK STUDY: 1999 Selle Francais gelding by Quick Star xx What a Joy LAUREN HOUGH (USA), LAURA MATEO: 0/0/40.57
  • 4. FLEXIBLE: 1996 ISH stallion by Cruising xx Unknown RICHARD FELLERS (USA), HARRY & MOLLY CHAPMAN: 0/0/41.25
  • 5. ASLAN: 2000 DWB gelding by Aston xx Blue Hors Agent LJUBOV KOCHETOVA (RUS), LJUBOV KOCHETOVA: 0/4/41.14
  • 6. PRESLEY BOY: 1997 KWPN stallion by Concorde xx Damiro JAIME AZCARRAGA (MEX), JAIME AZCARRAGA: 0/4/41.72
  • 7. APACHE: 1999 SF gelding by Mescalaro xx Unknown ASHLEE BOND (USA), LITTLE VALLEY FARM: 0/8/42.67
  • 8. CELENA Z: 2000 Zangersheide by Cumano xx Major Reza KEEAN WHITE (CAN), ANGELSTONE FARMS & THE ASHLAND GROUP: 1/88.79
  • 9. CARLOS BOY: 1995 Holsteiner gelding by Campesino xx Ligorett KENNETH BERKLEY (USA), ALEXA & KRISTA WEISMAN: 1/91.90
  • 10. CRISTALLO: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Caretino xx Cicero RICHARD SPOONER (USA), SHOW JUMPING SYN.: 4/81.88
  • 11. BLUE CURACAO: 2001 BWP mare by Mr Blue xx Dark D Amour MARILYN LYTTLE MEREDITH (USA), PAUL AND MARY LOEBER: 4/82.21
  • 12. AS-TARO 2: 1997 Oldenburg gelding by Azett xx Wettstreit LUCIANA DINIZ (POR), ARNOALDO DINIZ: 4/85.70

The 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 13 through April 4. WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $5.5 million in prize money will be awarded.

Photo Credits: All photos © 2010 Randi Muster/Mustphoto, Inc., Official Sport Photographer of the 2010 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.