Wellington, FL - March 19, 2011 - It was a fun night of competition with a highlight event, the $50,000 Vita Flex Match Races at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. Advancing through five rounds of races, it was Richard Spooner (USA) and Lady Like, owned by the C&S Partnership LLC who finished as the winners. In the final round, they topped Daniela Cordero of the Dominican Republic and T Cavalier.
The FTI WEF's tenth week of competition, sponsored by Artisan Farms, continues through Sunday, March 20. Sunday will conclude week ten at The Stadium with the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix at 10 a.m. and the $78,000 Pennfield Feeds FEI CSI 2* Grand Prix at 2 p.m., each held on the grass field at The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Stadium. The 2011 WEF will continue through April 3 and award more than $6 million in prize money.
There were 32 combinations in tonight's Match Races. The course was set by Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC, and it featured a race down the middle of the ring over the final line on the mirror-image courses. The class was held in bracket format with head-to-head competition.
In the first round, Spooner won over Karina Aziz. His second round saw a tough opponent in Todd Minikus, and he beat Irishman Paul O'Shea in the third round. Another Irishman lost to Spooner in the fourth round when Jonathan McCrea finished slightly slower.
Cordero beat the likes of Jordan MacPherson, Danielle Goldstein, Reed Kessler, and McLain Ward to make it to the final round. The 19-year-old amateur rider was very excited to ride under the lights in a Saturday Night Lights event.
"The class was awesome, it was a good experience for any rider. It is fun and you just go for it. You don't even get nervous, you just get excited!" she said.
Cordero has owned T Cavalier, an 11-year-old KWPN gelding by Cavalier, for three years. "I kind of grew up with him, and we just kind of built up together," Cordero noted.
Spooner and Lady Like, a 1999 Holsteiner mare by Limbus x Caretino, gave it their all in every round. Spooner chose Lady Like out of his string of great horses. "Choosing a horse for this class is easy. They have to be able to just run and be very careful. I am very impressed with Lady Like. She did all five rounds and I think she just had the one rail," he said.
Spooner has competed in match races before in Spruce Meadows and other events. He remarked, "It is great for the audience and it is good for the sport because it brings people to the sport and shows it to them in an exciting manner. It is nice to see everybody let their hair down and go out and have a good time. It was kind of like horse racing, people really enjoy going fast with their horses from time to time, and I think people like to see that sort of thing."
Talking about his victory he said with a laugh, "I am very happy to win obviously and I think that is financially the biggest class that I have won here! And we got a wonderful new Nespresso machine."
Final Results: $50,000 Vita Flex Match Races
1 Lady Like, Richard Spooner, C&S Partnership LLC
2 T Cavalier, Daniela Cordero, Daniela Cordero
3 Starburst, McLain Ward, McLain Ward
3 Victor VDL, Jonathan McCrea, Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables
5 Chin Chon, Ronan McGuigan, Eduardo F Cepeda
5 Flight, Reed Kessler, Reed Kessler
5 Primo Level, Paul O'Shea, Michael Hayden
5 Jason De Carene, Santiago Nunez Riva, Santiago Nunez Riva
9 Libertina, Gemma Paternoster, Julia Harrison-Lee
9 Serval, Nicole Bellissimo, Far Niente Equine LLC
9 Caprifol, Jimmy Torano, Palm Meadow Farm LLC
9 Lady Carthago, Danielle Goldstein, Starwyn Farm
9 Allisson, Vincent Byrne, Spy Coast Farm LLC
9 Little Big Mama, Todd Minikus, Todd Minikus Ltd
9 Logan de Noblat, Katherine Dinan, Grant Road Partners
9 Wiloma III, Shane Sweetnam, Spy Coast Farm LLC
Photo Credit: Richard Spooner and Lady Like won the $50,000 Vita Flex Match Races. Daniela Cordero of the Dominican Republic and T Cavalier. Richard Spooner and Lady Like with Pam and Charlie Pasquel, Shannon and Jared Debehnke, and ringmaster Cliff Haines. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.