Wellington, FL - January 12, 2012 - Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward (USA) was able to beat a field of 39 competitors to take the first round victory in the $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. He and Oh' D Eole triumphed in the jump-off over Charlie Jayne (USA) on Chill R Z and Darragh Kerins (IRL) with Hot Wheels. Today's grand prix marked the start of an exciting show jumping season, where riders will compete over 12 weeks to win bonus money in the $100,000 FTI Consulting Rider Challenge.
The first week of the FTI WEF runs through Sunday, January 15, and is sponsored by Surpass. The 2012 FTI 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. The highlight jumper class in week one is the $30,000 Surpass Grand Prix on Saturday, January 14, at 7 p.m.
This week's course designer in the International Arena is Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL. Seven of the original starters were clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off. The first to contest the shortened course was Merlin, ridden by Jeffery Welles (USA) for Noel Gross. They pulled a rail at the last fence to finish with four faults in 39.130 seconds for fourth place.
"It got a little dicey!" Ward admitted. "She's a brave horse at walls and she jumped it great in the first round, but I think she wasn't used to the angle in the jump-off. I tried to hold her together there and she trusted it. We got away with a little rub and kept galloping home. You need the little things to go your way." He added, "That's a tough test to slice that wall. Even though she was a little green about it, she trusted it. I think next time she'll do it even better. She's actually a very fast mare and she's got a really big stride. I had some good people coming behind me. I went second, so it wasn't a position that I could rest on a clear round."
Margie Engle (USA) and Ashland Farms' Lord Spezi contested next, but with eight faults in 40.890 seconds, they would finish in sixth place. Rebecca Conway (USA) and Twister, owned by Blue Hill Farm LLC, had the final jump down for four faults in 44.311 seconds. They placed fifth. Katherine Dinan (USA) and Grant Road Partners' Couletto K James registered eight faults with a time of 43.090 seconds and finished in seventh place.
Although they posted a quick time of 39.028 seconds, a rail at the last jump relegated Darragh Kerins and Hot Wheels to third place. Riding last in the jump-off, Charlie Jayne made a bid for the win with a clear round on Chill R Z, owned by Pony Lane Farm, but finished just off the pace in 40.354 seconds for second place.
Ward was very pleased with Oh' D Eole's win today as she is "still relatively green." The talented mare posted three victories in national level grand prix classes and wins at Spruce Meadows and the Hampton Classic Horse Show last summer. She hadn't competed since the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic in September. "She had a nice rest. We felt that she really finished the year in good form," Ward noted. "We've been working on her fitness and she feels really strong. We were excited coming into this show and it's nice to see we were on target."
Ward commented that starting with a win at the FTI WEF "feels great." He continued, "It feels nice because it's an up and coming horse. We started this horse as a six, coming seven-year-old. I believe in our young horses. My dad and Francois Mathy have done a great job of picking out these horses. It's nice to see them coming into their own in the bigger classes. Like with any young horse, it's an up and down road. Sometimes you get frustrated and sometimes you get excited, but it's nice to see when they look legit."
The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival will continue tomorrow with a full schedule of hunter and jumper competition. The highlight class in the International Arena is the Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge at 2 p.m.
Final Results: $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 1
1. OH D'EOLE: 2002 SFB mare by Kannanx Papillon Rouge MCLAIN WARD (USA), McLain Ward: 0/0/38.420
2. CHILL R Z: 2003 Zangersheide stallion by Chellano Z x A Lucky One CHARLIE JAYNE (USA), Pony Lane Farm: 0/0/40.354
3. HOT WHEELS: 1997 gelding by Liliputiense DARRAGH KERINS (IRL), DARRAGH KERINS
4. MERLIN: 2002 Royal Dutch Warmblood gelding by Hors La Loi II x Emilion JEFFERY WELLES (USA), Noel Gross
5. TWISTER: 2000 KWPN gelding by Goodtimes x Skorpio REBECCA CONWAY (USA), Blue Hill Farm LLC
6. LORD SPEZI: 1998 Oldenburg gelding by Lord Pezi x Grandeur MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Ashland Farms
7. COULETTO K JAMES: 1996 Hanoverian gelding by Continue x Zeus KATHERINE DINAN (USA), GRANT ROAD PARTNERS
8. VATRICIA: 2002 KWPN mare by Niveau x Burggraaf NAVONA GALLEGOS (USA), Bar X Ranch LLC: 1/84.058
9. UNIQUE: 2001 KWPN gelding by Indoctro x Voltaire NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly Widdowson: 4/77.146
10. ROLETTE: 1998 KWPN mare by Lester x Voltaire SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm, LLC: 4/77.224
11. DIKTATOR VAN DE BOSLANDHOEVE: 2003 Belgian Warmblood stallion by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Capital SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm: 4/78.885
12. ALSVID: 2001 Hanoverian gelding by Escudo I x Azur RICHARD MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity, LLC: 4/79.155
About the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival
The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 11 through April 1. The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $6 million in prize money will be awarded.
About FTI Consulting
FTI Consulting, Inc. is a global business advisory firm dedicated to helping organizations protect and enhance enterprise value in an increasingly complex legal, regulatory and economic environment. With more than 3,800 employees located in 23 countries, FTI Consulting professionals work closely with clients to anticipate, illuminate and overcome complex business challenges in areas such as investigations, litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues, reputation management, strategic communications and restructuring. The company generated $1.4 billion in revenues during fiscal year 2010. More information can be found at www.fticonsulting.com.
Photo Credit: McLain Ward with Oh D'Eole were winners at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com.
Videos by Shownet - View 2012 FTI WEF Videos at www.shownet.biz