Wellington, FL - March 13, 2011 - It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center today as Richard Spooner and Molly Ohrstrom's Billy Bianca jumped to victory in the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival's week ten $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic.
This week's courses in the International Arena were designed by Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela. Forty-seven entries jumped in the first round and seven were clear to return for the jump-off. Billy Bianca and Spooner (USA) had the fastest of four double clear rounds in 36.663 seconds to earn top honors.
Great Britain's Nick Skelton finished second and third with his two jump-off mounts. Skelton and Big Star, owned by Beverly and Gary Widdowson, jumped clear in 37.190 seconds to take the reserve prize. With Caetano, owned by Monarch International, Skelton was clear in 37.641 seconds to finish in third. The final clear round belonged to Mario Deslauriers (USA) and Jane Clark's Cella, who stopped the clock in 37.854 seconds to finish fourth.
The remaining three horses and riders all had four faults in the jump-off. McLain Ward (USA) and Oh' D Eole had one rail down in 36.931 seconds to place fifth. Pablo Barrios (VEN) and G&C Flash had a rail in 38.692 seconds for sixth place, and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm's Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve had one rail in 46.209 seconds to round out the top seven.
Class winner Billy Bianca is a ten-year-old Warmblood mare by Vechta x Iroko. Olympic Gold Medalist Laura Kraut rode and trained the mare up until last year and then Spooner took over the ride in September. He smiled after his win, stating, "I am just so excited about Billy. She is very fast. I have been having problems with her going faster than I am actually able to control. She and I were not really seeing the jump-offs eye to eye, but today I made a strong commitment to take all of my risk to the second jump and then after that try to cool my jets. I had a different bit, a different set up with boots, and I think it paid off."
"I was actually going for second; I think I kind of got lucky," he added with a laugh. "It was all the first turn, from one to two. I think I saved at least two seconds there and then it was done."
Spooner is excited about the future with Billy Bianca and explained, "Laura had fantastic results with her in Europe in the 1.45m and I think some 1.50m classes as well. She showed her in Aachen and different places, so I am just lucky that I get to take off where she left off."
"I think she is fantastic," he praised. "I think she can jump big sticks. I want to take my time with her and get to know her because it is a new combination, but I think she can end up being a horse to do some of the big tracks and I really like her."
Earlier in the day, the International Arena hosted the Junior and Adult Amateur Jumpers for their classics to conclude week nine. The $10,000 Reist Industries Medium Junior Jumper Classic was won by Hayley Barnhill and Toucan Tango. The $10,000 EquiFit High Junior Jumper Classic followed with a victory for Christina Kelly and Diamond Edge Farm's Camirage. Concluding the morning's competition, Morgan Trexler and Wimula jumped to victory in the $10,000 NAL/WIHS Adult Amateur Jumper Classic 36-49.
Today's competition concluded week nine at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Week ten, sponsored by Artisan Farms, will begin on Wednesday, March 16. The week's feature events will include the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 10 on Thursday afternoon, the George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships on Friday evening, the $50,000 Vita Flex Match Race on Saturday evening, and the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix and $75,000 Pennfield Feeds Grand Prix FEI CSI 2* on Sunday afternoon.
Final Results: $25,000 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic
1 BILLY BIANCA RICHARD SPOONER MOLLY OHRSTROM: 0/0/36.663
2 BIG STAR NICK SKELTON BEVERLY & GARY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/37.190
3 CAETANO NICK SKELTON MONARCH INTERNATIONAL: 0/0/37.641
4 CELLA MARIO DESLAURIERS JANE CLARK: 0/0/37.854
5 OH' D EOLE MCLAIN WARD MCLAIN WARD: 0/4/36.931
6 G&C FLASH PABLO BARRIOS PABLO BARRIOS: 0/4/38.692
7 DIKTATOR VAN DE BOSLANDHOEVE SHANE SWEETNAM SPY COAST FARM LLC: 0/4/46.209
8 OBELIX 148 ENRIQUE GONZALEZ ENRIQUE GONZALEZ: 2/82.401
9 CANDLELIGHT VAN DE WARANDE NICOLE SHAHINIAN-SIMPSON MONARCH INTERNATIONAL: 3/83.091
10 JAMES T. KIRK ANGEL KAROLYI HOLLOW CREEK FARM: 4/76.690
11 LA CENTA LAUREN TISBO TEQUESTRIAN FARMS LLC & STEPHEX STABLES: 4/77.961
12 CHIVAS Z ASHLEE BOND LITTLE VALLEY FARM: 4/78.887
Photo Credit: Richard Spooner and Billy Bianca won the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic during week nine at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Richard Spooner and Billy Bianca with ringmaster Cliff Haines and Jeannie and Tom Tisbo of Suncast. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.