Wellington, FL - February 17, 2012 - The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival featured events at two facilities today. At the Stadium, the $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 had grand prix competition with Reed Kessler of Armonk, NY, taking three of the top four spots. She scored the win with Cylana, was third on Ligist, and fourth with Pacha de Nantuel. Tina Fletcher (GBR) and Unique IX were second. In the International Arena, the FarmVet Amateur-Owner 3'3" divisions awarded age division championships to Laurie Stevens on Iceman and Elizabeth Faraci and Paramour.
Week six of the FTI WEF, sponsored by Equine Couture/Tuff Rider will run February 15-19. The week is full of exciting events, including Saturday night's USHJA WCHR Hunter Spectacular of Palm Beach, and Sunday's $50,000 G&C Farm Jumper Derby held at The Stadium. The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 1, 2012, and they will be awarding more than $6 million in prize money through the circuit.
There were 34 entries in today's grand prix, and they competed over a course designed by Richard Jeffery of Great Britain. There were eight that went clear to advance to the jump-off.
Kessler had the daunting task of going first on Cylana, put they turned up the speed and set a clear round time of 40.492 seconds that couldn't be beat. "I wanted to take a shot," Kessler admitted. "The one jump-off I've done with her, the turning with the pelham is a little bit harder. Obviously I wanted to win, but I really wanted to take a shot and work on the speed and the turns. There's no reason not to go for it because you don't really know what you have. So I thought I'd just go and try and win!"
Mario Deslauriers (USA) and Cella had the second jump down to finish with four faults in 44.423 seconds for sixth place. Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) and Crossing Jordan took down the first jump and the first in the double combination for eight faults in 48.121 seconds and seventh place. Kessler and her next mount, Ligist, had a rail at jump 6 for four faults in a very fast time of 40.140 seconds and third place. Lauren Hough (USA) and Casadora had a time of 43.982 seconds, but a rail at jump 15 gave them four faults and fifth place.
The next and only other clear round in the jump-off came from Tina Fletcher and Unique IX. They recorded a time of 48.817 seconds for the second place position. Kessler rode her third mount, Pacha de Nantuel, next in the order. They pulled a rail at the second element of the double combination for four faults in 41.204 seconds and finished in fourth place. The final ride in the ring was Pablo Barrios (VEN) and G&C Sinatra. With 12 faults in a time of 43.488 seconds, they finished in eighth place.
Kessler was beaming after her fantastic performance. "It was a good day," she agreed. "I'm really happy. I've had a little bit of four-faultitis the past few weeks, had the last jump down. I've made some dumb, novice-ish mistakes. I was glad that I could just have a day where everything was executed correctly. I made a few mistakes in the jump-off with the other two, but I was happy. They all went well."
The move to The Stadium was a welcome one for Kessler. "The international ring is huge, so you're already on a gallop. But for me, on the grass you're always on a big hunt, almost at jump-off speed than a normal class in a sand ring. I think the way the ring is laid out, I always feel like everything is getting hunting on the gallop. I think that's the major change for me," she explained.
"I love when they put natural obstacles in there, they should," she continued. "It's great for all of us, for me, to practice. It's a treat to come out here and jump the naturals. I love showing on grass, picking up a gallop and hunting around. I think I have the best three horses to do it! I'm lucky."
Kessler has only had Cylana, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Skippy II x Darco, since last summer, but it took until this winter to get her fit. "We got her at the beginning of the summer, but we were showing in Europe and had a bunch over there, so I didn't get to do that much with her. When we first got her, she was not as athletic, a little unfit. We really just worked on her fitness all summer and she's like a totally different horse this year when we brought her," she noted. "She's hot, she's got blood, she's got a lot of natural impulsion. Even though in her lifetime I don't think she's done much more than 1.40m or 1.45m, every time we move her up she's great."
Amateur-Owners Take the Lead in International Arena
Amateur-Owners Take the Lead in International Arena
The Farm Vet Amateur-Owner Hunter 3'3" 36 and Over division concluded on Friday and presented championship honors to Laurie Stevens and her ten-year-old Westphalian gelding Iceman after the pair won over fences in the International Arena today and placed third over fences yesterday. Dominus and Maria Takacs earned the reserve championship with second and sixth place ribbons over fences and a second under saddle.
Laurie Stevens, originally from Chicago, is a six-year Wellington resident with her husband, equine veterinarian Haynes Stevens. Stevens trains with Lainie Wimberly, of Brigadoon Show Stables, and explained how she purchased Iceman last year after the gelding's owner passed away. "Iceman is a horse that I bought last May," Stevens stated. "He had been owned by a man in the barn who had the horse since it was a baby. The man had a brain tumor and passed away last February. On his death bed he said to make sure Iceman found a good home."
Stevens first got on Iceman at the end of last year's winter circuit and purchased the gelding shortly thereafter. She felt that they clicked immediately. "He is very kind," Stevens said of Iceman. "The man who was riding him did the 2'6" and Iceman was always so kind to him. We had no idea that he had this much scope, but he has so much scope and so much step. He tries so hard. He never lets me down, and he likes me. He needed an owner and he likes me and he trusts me, and I trust him."
Since Iceman had not shown above 2'6", Stevens moved him gradually into the 3'3" level. The pair showed at 3'3" once over the summer and then began showing in the division again in January. "This was our fourth time showing and each week he has come together more and more," Stevens smiled. "By the last time I showed him during week four I felt like I was riding a bona-fide amateur horse and today he proved that to me. It was his first time out in the International Ring and he was amazing to ride."
Elizabeth Faraci of Annapolis, Maryland secured her third division championship in the FarmVet Amateur-Owner 3'3" division atop her mount, Paramour. The pair scored a first and second over fences and finished at the top of the under saddle to collect 26 points for the tricolor win. The reserve championship went to Julie Fontaine and her mount, Gitano, who secured 20 points with a first and third over fences and a second in the under saddle.
The victorious equine, Paramour, is a six-year-old KWPN by Samba Hit. Affectionately known as Perry in the barn, the chestnut gelding was named 2011's Circuit Champion in the Adult Hunter 18-35 division. With only a few weeks practice showing at the 3'3" height, Paramour has already won multiple division championships in the FarmVet Amateur-Owner 3'3" Hunters, indicating that the pair may be headed toward a second circuit championship title in 2012.
Following their win, Faraci commented on Paramour's performance in the show ring. "He's been so fabulous and consistent these past few weeks," Faraci explained. "He knows the Rost Arena really well by now, so he just trucked around like usual in there. Unfortunately, he was really good in the big ring today, but he just got a little green at some of the jumps. He was a little spooky but he's only six, so I can give him a break on that."
Describing the level of competition during WCHR hunter week, Faraci commented, "Pretty much everyone comes to show week six, but it's always fun having a lot more people showing. It's also harder having just three classes over fences and one shot in the bigger ring, especially if your horse is green. You don't get a second chance to get him in the ring, so it's definitely harder to make it work with just those eight or nine fences. But, I'm still pleased and it's a lot of fun to ride in the big ring."
Over the weekend, Faraci plans to give Paramour a light hack and trail ride to stay loose before heading up to the International Ring on Sunday for the WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'3 Hunter Classic.
The sixth week of the FTI WEF continues tomorrow with hunters in the spotlight. The Amateur-Owner 3'6" divisions will conclude, as well as all four junior hunter divisions. Those divisions will determine the final qualifiers for tomorrow night's USHJA WCHR Hunter Spectacular of Palm Beach at 7 p.m.
Final Results: $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 6
1 CYLANA REED KESSLER REED KESSLER: 0/0/40.492
2 UNIQUE IX TINA FLETCHER TINA FLETCHER: 0/0/48.817
3 LIGIST REED KESSLER REED KESSLER: 0/4/40.140
4 PACHA DE NANTUEL REED KESSLER REED KESSLER: 0/4/41.204
5 CASADORA LAUREN HOUGH LAURA MATEO: 0/4/43.982
6 CELLA MARIO DESLAURIERS JANE CLARK: 0/4/44.423
7 CROSSING JORDAN NICOLAS PIZARRO NICOLAS PIZARRO: 0/8/48.121
8 G&C SINATRA PABLO BARRIOS GUSTAVO MIRABAL: 0/12/43.488
9 WRIGLEY CALLIE SCHOTT JOHN MADDEN SALES INC: 4/92.063
10 UNIQUE NICK SKELTON BEVERLEY WIDDOWSON: 4/92.136
11 INTERTOY Z SCOTT BRASH SCOTT BRASH: 4/92.676
12 ROUNDTHORN MADIOUS ANDREW BOURNS ANDREW BOURNS: 4/93.549
Photo Credit: Reed Kessler and Cylana, Laurie Stevens and Iceman, Elizabeth Faraci and Paramour at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.