Wellington, FL - February 24, 2011 - The FTI Winter Equestrian Festival's seventh week of competition continued on Thursday afternoon with round seven of the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series. Held in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the class saw a total of 59 entries with 16 jumping clear to return for the jump-off. After arriving in Wellington just three days ago, California's Richard Spooner and his top mount Cristallo galloped to victory over the talented field.
Navigating a track set by Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany, seven of the 16 entries jumped clear over today's short course. Scott Brash (GBR) and Bon Ami, owned by Liz McTaggart, blazed the leading clear round going second in the jump-off and stopping the clock in 41.91 seconds. That time would hold up through eight rounds until Kent Farrington (USA) and Valhalla, owned by Haity McNerny, entered the ring and crossed the timers in 41.52 seconds.
Immediately following, Richard Spooner and Cristallo flew through the course in 40.39 seconds to take over the lead. McLain Ward (USA) and Sagamore Farm's Rothchild did their best to steal the lead, but finished just fractions behind in a time of 40.51 seconds. In the end, Spooner and Cristallo came out on top with Ward and Rothchild in second, Farrington and Valhalla in third and Brash and Bon Ami in fourth.
Owned by Show Jumping Syndications International, Cristallo is a 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Caretino x Cicero. Spooner and Cristallo have won top grand prix classes all over the world together, but this was their first grand prix win at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. "It's exciting to win; I've never won a grand prix on this field, so it was exciting to get it done," Spooner smiled. "I was proud of my horse. With competitors like this, to win is a big deal. I was very happy with my horse and his performance."
After a four day drive from California, Spooner and Cristallo arrived in Wellington on Monday and were using today's class as a warm-up for Saturday night's Grand Prix. Spooner noted, "I was very happy with the fact that he came fresh so quickly. This was his first class of the week; that was just supposed to be his warm-up!" he laughed.
Commenting on the course and his gutsy gallop down to the last jump, Spooner stated with a smile, "When I was going to the last jump, about four strides out I saw the half-halt, but my shoulders are sore and it's been a long day, so I just went ahead and let him go. I didn't really have a plan; I just wanted to go as fast as I could."
"My wife has done a fantastic job with this horse, teaching him how to turn," he added. "He was not much of a turner before. He could run fast, but turning was not so easy, so I am just really happy that she has given me a horse that is now rideable and can turn; it has made a big difference."
McLain Ward and Rothchild finished just 12/100ths of a second behind Spooner and Cristallo to earn the second place prize. Ward was satisfied with his ride and noted, "Rothchild was great and I basically went as fast as I could go. I was trying hard. I took one check to the last jump, but I don't know if I would have left it up if I had not checked to it. Richard is a top rider and very fast; a lot had to go right to beat him."
As the WEF Challenge Cup classes continue, winning riders still have a chance to win the SSG Glove's bonus for winning in a pair of SSG 'Digital' gloves. This is the third week that no one has received the bonus, and next week the money will go up to $9,000.
Week seven, sponsored by Fidelity Investments, will continue through Sunday, February 27. The remaining feature events include the $31,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Jumpers on Friday afternoon, the $15,000 Artistan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix on Friday at 7 p.m., the $78,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix, CSI 2* on Saturday at 7 p.m., and the Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic on Sunday at 1 p.m. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
- 1 CRISTALLO: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Caretino x Cicero RICHARD SPOONER (USA), Show Jumping Syndications International: 0/0/40.39
- 2 ROTHCHILD: 2001 SBS gelding by Artos x Elegant De L'Ile MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 0/0/40.51
- 3 VALHALLA: 2002 KWPN mare by Voltaire x Calvados - Sable Rose KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Haity McNerny: 0/0/41.52
- 4 BON AMI: 2001 BWP gelding by Pavarotti VD Helle x Unknown SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Liz McTaggart: 0/0/41.91
- 5 BIG STAR: 2003 KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly and Gary Widdowson: 0/0/44.05
- 6 SIDOLINE VAN DE CENTAUR: 2002 SBS mare by Heartbreaker x Vondel Van Het Hendrixhof ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/0/44.58
- 7 CORAL REEF VIA VOLO: 1998 BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 0/0/45.70
- 8 VOCAS: 2002 KWPN gelding by Hors La Loi II x Voltaire MCLAIN WARD (USA), Louisburg Farm: 0/4/41.93
- 9 ONISHA: 1999 Holsteiner mare by Caretino x Athlet Z REED KESSLER (USA), Reed Kessler: 0/4/43.64
- 10 OCEANE DE NANTUEL: 2002 SFA mare by Diamant de Semilly x Quidam de Revel MICHEL HECART (FRA), MICHEL HECART: 0/4/44.22
- 11 UNBELIEVABLE 5: 2001 KWPN gelding by Manhattan x Democraat JESSICA SUIDA (USA), Windward Farm & Jessica Suida: 0/4/46.31
- 12 GAEL FORCE: 1998 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Cavalier Royale x King of Diamonds DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Missy Clark & North Run: 0/4/46.37
Photo Credit: Richard Spooner and Cristallo won the $31,000 WEF Challenge Cup during week seven at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.