Wellington, FL - March 23, 2012 - The 5th Annual George Morris Excellence in Equitation Championships were held on Friday evening in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. A feature event for the junior riders at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, the victory gallop was led by 14-year-old Victoria Colvin of Loxahatchee, FL.
Tonight's class was held in three rounds with thirty-four riders competing in round one, the top 13 coming back for round two, and the top four returning for the third and final round. The course walk and schooling were the sole responsibility of the riders. Competitors were allowed no contact with their trainers during the class and were responsible for time management, warm up, and schooling of their own horses with the assistance of one groom.
The course was designed by Richard Jeffery, of Bournemouth, England, in conjunction with the judges. The riders were judged by two panels and also received a score in the schooling area after the first and second rounds. Judging Panel 1 included George Morris and Kirsten Coe; Panel 2 included McLain Ward and Kent Farrington.
After two rounds of competition, the top four returned for the final round and switched horses. The top four riders were Victoria Colvin, Schaefer Raposa, Catherine Tyree, and Michael Hughes.
Michael Hughes, of Morriston, FL, rode Missy Clark and North Run's Oban to scores of 92.50 and 88 for a total of 180.5 in the first two rounds. Hughes then jumped the final course aboard Catherine Tyree's original mount Co Co Pop, also owned by Clark and North Run. Tyree, of Barrington Hills, IL, scored an 89 and a 92 for a total of 181 aboard Co Co Pop in rounds one and two and then returned for round three aboard Oban.
Schaefer Raposa, of Clinton, NY, and Heritage Farm, Inc.'s French Kiss scored a 92 and an 89 in the first two rounds for a 181 total going into round three. Raposa then jumped Victoria Colvin's mount VIP Z, owned by Scott Stewart, over the final course. Colvin, of Loxahatchee, FL, rode VIP Z to scores of 90.5 and 95.5 in the first two rounds of competition for a two round total of 186, and then returned for the third round aboard Raposa's mount French Kiss to complete the class.
After a final deliberation from the judges, Colvin was deemed the class winner. Raposa finished in second, Tyree in third, and Hughes in fourth.
On the final decision to pin Colvin at the top of the class, judge McLain Ward explained, "She had a really nice feel, a very good eye. We were looking for nice, consistent riding, obviously making good choices, and keeping it together through three different rounds. She did a good job. She had a pretty significant lead going into the final round. She didn't make any major errors and she kept it together and was consistent throughout."
Colvin, who trains with Scott Stewart, Ken Berkley and Missy Clark in the equitation, has had many big wins in the hunters and jumpers, but this is her biggest win in an equitation championship. This win ranks among Colvin's best, including her recent victory in the $50,000 WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular. That was an impressive feat for a 14-year-old rider against many experienced professionals, but tonight was a different kind of win, one that did not come as easily.
"I am not very good at equitation, so it was good," Colvin smiled. "I have to work harder at the equitation. I don't have the best position, but I try hard. It takes a lot of practice. I work on my legs, my hands, my back, my whole body," she laughed. Commenting on winning in the eyes of judges such as the legendary George Morris and top show jumpers like McLain Ward, Kent Farrington, and Kirsten Coe, Colvin beamed, "It was amazing, it is so cool. It is probably the coolest thing I have won - that and the Hunter Spectacular."
Colvin also showed in this class aboard VIP Z in 2011 and finished twelfth, but explained that her horse was much less experienced then. "He has gotten so much better. Last year he was so green. I did him in this class last year and it didn't go so well, so he has gotten much better."
VIP Z is a ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Hemmingway that Colvin first rode three years ago. "We got him at the Hamptons and I had never ridden him before and I just showed him," she detailed. "He was always supposed to be my equitation horse. He did the jumpers too. He can do it all. He did the hunter derby in Kentucky too."
Schaefer Raposa and French Kiss
Commenting on her ride aboard Raposa's mount French Kiss, Colvin noted, "It was really fun; it was so easy and so nice. Schaefer just said he was pretty easy, so to just let go and go. That is what I told her about mine too. I was just thinking about going forward and just getting a good pace."
Raposa, who trains with Andre Dignelli at Heritage Farm, won the WIHS Equitation Classic on French Kiss earlier this week and was happy with the horse tonight. "Andre just recently bought him and he was doing the jumpers," she explained. "He is awesome. Big stride, light, not spooky, perfect lead change. He is so much fun."
"I was a little nervous. I only showed him twice and I was worried that he would think he was a jumper again going out here, but right when I picked up the canter I knew he was going to be perfect," Raposa smiled.
Commenting on her ride aboard Colvin's VIP Z, she added, "I actually rode him once before, so that was nice; I had a little bit of background on him. I thought he was awesome. Every jump he was right there with me. He was really square in front. He was great."
Commenting on the class and the added experience of showing without a trainer for the night, Raposa acknowledged, "I think it prepares you a lot. I think it is great that they have you school without trainers to kind of see the rider's ability and what they can do. It is fun going out there and once you get out there, your nerves kind of go away. I think it is good that they prepare you with a class like this before the big finals."
Rounding out the top twelve were Charlotte Jacobs in fifth, Shawn Casady in sixth, Liza Finsness in seventh, Lauren Tyree in eighth, Megan MacPherson in ninth, Anna Cardelfe in tenth, Kelcie Brophy in eleventh,and Michael Janson in twelfth.
Tibetano and Michelle Navarro-Grau Win $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge
Fifty-eight entries showed in Friday's $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge with twelve clear rounds over the Richard Jeffery designed course. Peru's Michelle Navarro-Grau had the fastest clear round in 62.493 seconds aboard her eleven-year-old gelding Tibetano to earn the top prize.
Tibetano and Michelle Navarro-Grau Win $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge
Darragh Kenny and Sandor De La Pomme, owned by The Wannahave Group, finished second in 63.815 seconds. Lillie Keenan and Chansonette Farm LLC's Vanhattan were third with their time of 65.806 seconds. Saer Coulter and April, owned by Copernicus Stables, finished fourth in 67.827 seconds.
Michelle Navarro-Grau is based in Lima, Peru, and has spent her winters in Wellington for the past eight years. "I come every winter here for the season," the rider stated. "The show is so good and I love it here. It is so peaceful, so different from Peru. I think it is fun and it is the place to be if you have horses." Navarro-Grau purchased her horse Tibetano in Argentina when he was young. Tibetano was born in Belgium, sired by Darco. "He is eleven years old and he is mine since he was three, so I have had him a long time," she reflected. "We have been together eight years now and he is a super horse."
The pair recently jumped for Peru in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico and also competes in the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers and the 1.50m Jumpers. "We have fun together," Navarro-Grau smiled. "He is so nice. He is willing to please; he does all he is asked for. The job is to jump, no questions asked. Whatever you want, he will do it, no matter what. He is really fun to ride."
Commenting on Tibetano's personality, she admitted, "He is very spoiled. He likes to have my attention all of the time and he is always watching where I am. He is my baby, so we have been growing together." On today's class, Navarro-Grau explained, "I think there are two types that show in this class. You either come to school or you come to try to win. Today we tried to win and we did it. The course was very nice; very easy going. The designer did a really good job and made it really smooth for the speed class. It was fun."
The pair will show again tomorrow in the $15,000 SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. They will remain in Wellington through the end of the circuit and then return to Peru in mid-April.
Also showing today, Laura Chapot continued her winning streak with her string of talented horses. This morning, Chapot began the day with a victory in the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Classic riding Mary Chapot's Shooting Star. The pair jumped the fastest of three clear rounds in the speed class against a field of 37 starters.
Hunter Riders Make Moves
Hilary Jean of Castle Rock, CO, earned her second division championship in the Low Adult Hunter 2'6" division atop her mount, D'Amour. Jean scored first, second, third and fifth over fences and finished fifth under saddle to win the championship tricolor with 22 points. Reserve honors went to Holly Caristo of Saugerties, NY, on a twelve-year-old Saxon Anhalt Warmblood gelding named Saint Patrick. Caristo collected first, second, fourth and fifth place ribbons over fences and finished fourth in the under saddle, earning 21 points total.
Hunter Riders Make Moves
The winning mount, D'Amour, is a six-year-old Oldenburg imported by Hillary Jean and Libby Copeland. The chestnut gelding has found success at FTI WEF in both the Low Adult and Pre Green Hunter divisions. "I have to give a ton of credit to Sandy Ferrell," Jean explained. "She has been riding him in the Pre Greens, and this week he was first and third. This was only his second week showing in the Pre Greens, and I was so pleased with his performance and the way he was going. He was just one and a half points shy of reserve champion."
Following today's win, Jean commented on the bittersweet nature of her victory because her other horse, Just Believe, had foundered. Jean, an equestrian from the young age of two, understands the unlucky nature of such a condition. "I always knew if you heard the word, it wasn't a good thing," Jean commented, "I'd never lived it until now, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone."
Although distraught by Just Believe's condition, Jean feels blessed to still have D'Amour and Spoken For in good health. Describing her decision to follow through with showing today, Jean commented, "I know that scratching is not what Just Believe would want. I am so blessed with D'Amour and I just knew I had to go out there and ride the best I could ride."
Growing up in an equestrian family, Jean developed a knack for horsemanship at an early age and has since put her equestrian instincts to good use. Founder of Barclay Investments, Jean deals with importing horses from Germany along with associate Libby Copeland. "I love having grown up in the industry," Jean said. "My grandfather, Barclay, was the vet at Devon for years and both of my parents were professionals. When I went over to Germany to pick out my two horses this year, I just knew which ones I wanted out of about sixty horses. If you asked me to tell you how, and put words to it, I wouldn't be able to."
Despite the ups and downs of the industry, Jean is grateful for her network of support and extends special thanks to Sandy Ferrell and the Royal Show Hunters staff for contributing to her success this season.
Additional hunter champions this week include Gina Day and Sheila Motley. Day topped the Camping World Adult Amateur Hunter 51 and older division with 30 points with her mount, Premier, a ten-year-old Holsteiner gelding. Motley finished at the top of the Horseware Products Adult Amateur 3'3" Hunter division, earning 26.5 points on her mount, Poker Face, a seven-year-old Holsteiner owned by Gary Young.
Week eleven of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival will continue on Saturday with a full schedule of top hunter/jumper competition. The International Arena will host Round #4 of the USEF Selection Trials for the U.S. Show Jumping Team for the 2012 Olympic Games during the evening. The Grand Hunter Ring will present championship honors to the Bainbridge Companies' Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunter division during the day.
For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Final Results: $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge
1. TIBETANO, MICHELLE NAVARRO-GRAU, MICHELLE NAVARRO-GRAU: 0/62.493
2. SANDOR DE LA POMME, DARRAGH KENNY, THE WANNAHAVE GROUP: 0/63.815
3. VANHATTAN, LILLIE KEENAN, CHANSONETTE FARM LLC: 0/65.806
4. APRIL, SAER COULTER, COPERNICUS STABLES: 0/67.827
5. VAILLANT S, LAUREN TISBO, TEQUESTRIAN FARMS LLC: 0/68.589
6. THE MAN TO SEE, JAMES NORTH, FAIR PLAY FARM: 0/69.468
7. HH CABALERO, QUENTIN JUDGE, DOUBLE H FARM: 0/69.873
8. VALENTINO, HARRISON SHURE, HARRISON SHURE: 0/70.233
9. BOLIVAR, GEMMA PATERNOSTER, ALEJANDRO BARRERO: 0/73.430
10. TOSCANE, HENRIK GUNDERSEN, EMILIE MARTINSEN: 0/75.207
11. CARRABIS Z, RICHIE MOLONEY, EQUINIMITY LLC: 0/75.326
12. S & L SHOEFLY, DARRAGH KERINS, S&L FARM: 0/75.932
Photo Credit: Catherine Tyree and Co Co Pop; Victoria Colvin and VIP Z ; Michael Hughes and Oban; Schaefer Raposa and French Kiss; Michelle Navarro-Grau and Tibetano; Hillary Jean and D'Amour; Hillary Jean and D'Amour in their winning presentationPhotos © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.us.sportfot.com.