Wellington, FL - Week seven of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), sponsored by Suncast®, concluded on Sunday featuring the $86,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL. The win went to Richard Spooner (USA) aboard Little Valley Farms' Chivas Z, with Eduardo Menezes (BRA) and Caruschka 2 in second, and Eric Lamaze (CAN) aboard Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable's Rosana du Park in third. The 12-week WEF circuit runs through April 3 offering more than $9 million in prize money.
Santiago Varela of Spain was the course designer in the International Ring for week seven's competition. Varela concluded the week with 75 entries in the 1.50m class and 25 clear rounds to advance to the jump-off. In the tiebreaker, 11 entries jumped double clear rounds, the fastest of which belonged to Richard Spooner and the 17-year-old Zangersheide gelding, Chivas Z (Cumano x Lord Gotthard).
The second through sixth place finishers all clocked in within the 39-second mark, while Spooner was the only rider to break through to a time of 38.67 seconds for the win. Menezes and Carushka 2 finished second on their time of 39.32 seconds. Lamaze and Rosana du Park were just behind with the third place time of 39.35 seconds. Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Stephex Stables' Egano van het Slogenhof finished fourth in 39.55 seconds. Laura Kraut (USA) and Star and Stripes' Andretti S placed fifth in 39.64 seconds, and Lamaze and his second mount, Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable's Check Picobello Z, crossed the timers in 39.85 seconds to finish sixth.
Speaking of his round on the short course, Spooner detailed, "It was just top speed. With that many in the jump-off and that many fast riders, there is not a lot of thought work that goes into it, which is good for me actually. It suits my brain. The horse was just absolutely fantastic. I am really proud of him. He has been spectacular the whole time here."
"He went clear in one of the other Suncast® classes, and I made a bit of a mistake to the liverpool in the jump-off," Spooner continued. "I just went too fast, and then today I was a bit nervous about doing it again, but today I slowed down for about half a stride before the liverpool and that suited him just fine. He just does not like to hit liverpools full hack, so the fact that I was able to do a little half-halt before the liverpool made it work, and it made the turn to the combination very quick. I would say he really gave me a present, a gift, at the last jump in the jump-off because a) I was on an angle, b) I was going too fast, and c) he does not love the gap and I did that as well. It was also away from the back gate. Everything said, 'Do not jump this jump,' and he did it, so my hat is off to him today."
At 17 years of age, Chivas Z has been around the world, and Spooner is happy to have such a dependable horse in his stable. He explained that it does not take any special care to keep his veteran mount going at the top level. "He is just kind of a fresh horse. Knock on wood; he is a real solid horse physically and mentally. He is just a good egg," Spooner stated.
"It is a horse that I got very late in his career. I got him when he was about 15, so he had already had a career before I came along. I had known him for a long time. Ashlee Bond had him for all those years, and I always had a real affinity for him and a desire to have an opportunity to ride him. When he was older and I saw the opportunity to buy him, I really did not care what the ultimate result was going to be. It was just a horse I always wanted, so for him to do this for me at this point, it really means a lot to me."
Speaking of the courses set by Santiago Varela this week, Spooner remarked, "I think he did a wonderful job. I thought last night's grand prix was incredibly difficult, which it should have been. Funny enough, when I walked the course today, I thought, 'Wow, that is a big 1.50m!' It was big, and it was tricky. This is a great field of horses and riders, and this place brings out top-notch sport from top riders and top horses. Any time you win here it is a good day, so I have to say, this was a good day."
Spooner tries to show his horses two weeks on and two weeks off to keep them fresh and happy, so Chivas Z will compete again next week and then get a break. The gelding has some vision issues, so he does not usually compete in the night classes. Instead, Spooner continues to aim him at the week's 1.45m FEI World Ranking classes and the Suncast® 1.50m classes during the day.
"I am lucky with the format here at WEF because there are some good prize money classes during the day," Spooner noted. "He gets to come out and jump 1.50m instead of 1.55m, which is really nice for him, especially at his age. I have been trying to do him on that second tour with the 1.45m and 1.50m classes because I felt that if I placed him there that he could have quite a bit of success. I have Big Red and Cristallo also here this year for the bigger classes, so it is nice for Chivas to get to take a deep breath and get some good wins. He was fantastic the third week here as well. He has had a lot of good placings, so he does not owe me anything, and I am just proud of everything he gives me."
The 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival continues with its eighth week of competition running March 2-6, 2016, featuring CSIO 4* jumper and "AA" rated hunter divisions. The week will highlight the $150,000 FEI Nations' Cup on the evening of Friday, March 4. The Hollow Creek Farm FEI Children's, Junior and Young Rider Nations' Cups will be featured on Saturday, March 5. The $216,000 Lugano Diamonds CSIO 4* Grand Prix will conclude the week on Sunday, March 6.
For more information and full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.
Final Results: $86,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
1. CHIVAS Z: 1999 Zangersheide gelding by Cumano x Lord Gotthard RICHARD SPOONER (USA), Little Valley Farms: 0/0/38.67
2. CARUSCHKA 2: 2004 Oldenburg mare by Caspar x Continue EDUARDO MENEZES (BRA), Eduardo Menezes: 0/0/39.32
3. ROSANA DU PARK: 2005 Selle Francais mare by Kannan ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms & Torrey Pines Stable: 0/0/39.35
4. EGANO VAN HET SLOGENHOF: 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Electro x Nagano LORENZO DE LUCA (ITA), Stephex Stables: 0/0/39.55
5. ANDRETTI S: 2005 KWPN gelding by Corland x Animo LAURA KRAUT (USA), Stars and Stripes: 0/0/39.64
6. CHECK PICOBELLO Z: 2006 Zangersheide gelding by Cardento x Orlando ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms, LLC & Torrey Pines: 0/0/39.85
7. NEW YORK: 2006 KWPN gelding by Verdi x Watzmann HARDIN TOWELL (USA), Jennifer Gates LLC: 0/0/40.65
8. SHERKAN D'AMAURY: 2006 Selle Francais gelding by Kannan x Quick Star KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Kent Farrington, Haity Mcnerney, & Daniel Crown: 0/0/41.31
9. CYKLON 1083: 2001 Swedish Warmblood stallion by Cardento x Cortus SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/0/42.04
10. DUBLIN: 2007 Deusches Reitpferd gelding by Cobra x Calido CARLY ANTHONY (USA), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/43.11
11. SHOWGIRL: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Gold De Becourt x Elf III YANN CANDELE (CAN), Watermark Group: 0/0/46.10
12. EREGAST VAN'T KIEZELHOF: 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Latano SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm, LLC: 0/4/39.08