The first week of the 33rd Annual Winter Equestrian Festival was held January 26 through January 30 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida. The five day show, the Nutrena/Western Hay Wellington Classic CSI 2* featured topnotch equestrians competing in eight rings. Javier Fernandez of Mexico was the Internationale Ring Course Designer. Six more weeks of competition are scheduled at the Wellington venue before the festival moves to Tampa and the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center for two additional weeks of equestrian excellence. The grand finale is the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational at Raymond James Stadium, Saturday night, April 2, 2005.
2004 Athens Olympic Silver Medalist Beezie Madden and Conquest II win the $35,000 Farr XTN Grand Prix of Palm Beach
It was a battle of the Olympic ladies Sunday afternoon at the Winter Equestrian Festival. A stellar crowd of 8,095 enthusiastic fans were on hand to see 2004 Athens Olympic Silver Medalist Beezie Madden and Conquest II edge Casadora ridden by 2000 Olympian Lauren Hough by 8/10ths of a second for the win in the $35,000 Farr XTN Grand Prix of Palm Beach.
The first of seven Sunday features drew a starting field of 48 competitors for the CSI 2* event. A record setting twenty horses completed the first round course without penalty, the largest jump off field in the twenty five year history of the class, topping the previous record of fourteen, set the first year the class was offered back in 1979.
Lauren Hough aboard the Casadora Group’s Casadora was the first to master the first round course and thus was first to return for the timed tiebreaker. Hough knew she would have nineteen challengers that would follow her ride in the speed round and she put the pedal to the metal. Hough’s jump-off ride was breathtaking. The crowd exploded as she flashed across the finish line in 39.05 seconds.
Her performance was so dominating that next fourteen that followed all fell by the wayside. Those that were clean weren’t nearly fast enough and Laura Kraut, who was the only one to top her time (by 1.08 seconds), pulled a rail ending up ninth as the fastest four fault performance.
Hough’s lead lasted until Beezie Madden cruised into the ring in the sixteenth spot in the jump-off. She was up on Conquest II, owned by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Patton. The crowd, already appreciative of her Silver Medal ride at the Olympic Games in Athens, was about to enjoy Madden even more.
Madden’s dash to the first fence gave notice that she hadn’t saddled up to come in second and when her amazing jump off ride was over, the clock delivered the news of a 9/10ths of a second win. 39.05 seconds flashed on the board and the crowd, already on their feet, erupted.
Asked after the class if she had watched Hough’s jump-off ride, Madden laughed, “I did watch her and I figured we were all going for second place after that.”
Hough mentioned that many times a fast round early can put additional pressure on those that follow. “In a class like this with so many in the jump-off, when they have to go after you, they’ll often have some rails while trying to go too fast to catch you. I think that happened to a few today,” she said.
So, where did Madden find the extra 9/10ths of a second? “I think maybe to fence one I was a little faster than Lauren and then I actually added a stride at the original fence two, but that made me faster to the jump on the end,” explained Madden.
How can adding a stride make you faster? Madden gave the details.
“She did seven and I did eight, but her long seven strides took her on a much wider turn after fence two to the fence on the end,” Said Madden. “Because I added a stride I was able to make a tighter turn and had the shorter line to that the jump at the top of the ring. I think that was the difference because we were stride for stride after that.”
Jumper Highlights –Wednesday through Saturday
At the Internationale Arena, two time American Invitational champion Molly Ashe of Wellington, Florida on Rosewood Glen’s King Louie emerged victorious in the 1.45m Jumpers to win the first class on the first day of the 2005 Winter Equestrian Festival. Jeffery Welles won both halves of the 1.40m that afternoon with Penelope and Octavius, respectively.
For the second straight year, Athens Olympic Silver Medalist McLain Ward aboard Double H Farm’s Goldika 559 emerged victorious in Round One of the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series.
Ward cranked it up from the start, made some amazing cuts and let a very fast horse do her thing. Ward flew to the finish with a clean round in 40.62 seconds for the win, their second year in a row in the winners circle. “I was very fast to the double and made a very good cut back to the blue vertical, but the bottom line is, she’s just a very fast horse,” Ward said.
Cara Raether and News, owned by Trelawny Farm in 41.08 seconds finished second and Laura Kraut riding Milona for Peter Wetherill finished third in 41.24
“In the first round we had to knock the rust off a bit,” Ward joked. “But then she felt in perfect form in the jump-off. That’s her forte. She’s so fast and so careful and I was just thrilled with her today,” he said.
Speed was the name of the game Friday as a field of 83 competitors turned out for the $5000 Acorn Hill Speed Challenge on Friday. The format for the Speed Challenge was Table II Section 1, Faults and Time in the First Round, or as it’s sometimes called, “fastest clear round.”
2000 Olympian Laura Kraut aboard the Pasmore Stable’s Antigua RG emerged victorious, coming home fault free and breaking the finish line beams in a blazing time of 55.517 seconds.
Sprite, ridden by her owner, Laura Chapot, finished second. Chapot posted a time of 56.569 seconds to pick up the red ribbon. Third place went to the early leader in the class, Ramiro Quintana and LaBelle, owned by the Turnabout Farm. Quintana crossed the finish line in 56.875 seconds.
A field of 29 jumpers turned out for the $20,000 1.50m Classic, the featured event on Saturday afternoon. 13 of the 29 starters produce clear rounds. Nine horse and rider combinations had four faults in round one.
Poleander, owned by the October Farms with Cody Baird in the irons, had the Internationale Arena crowd buzzing with the first jump and turn. It was apparent that this was going to be a very fast ride. Very fast and very tight turns produced a clean round and a time that wouldn’t be caught for the rest of the afternoon. Baird stormed across the finish line in 32.406 seconds, good enough for a two second margin of victory.
According to Baird, the tight turns were the key to victory. “They were both very fast,” Baird said. “But, the turning is what’s so important. That’s probably where I won the class today,” Baird explained. “The turns were very neat and clean and I just did my best to hold them together, help them as much as I could and stay out of their way,” she laughed.
Hunter Highlights – January 26 – 30
The first hunter championship awarded at WEF was in the Regular Conformation Hunters. Popeye K and Tommy Serio, riding for owner Elizabeth Spender of Keswick, VA, walked away with the tricolor ribbon after winning three out of four classes on Wednesday. Reserve champion was In Disguise and Shachine Belle, who rode for owner Ellen Toon of South Salem, NY. Although Serio is quite used to winning, he smiled when asked about starting the year with a championship. He revealed, “I’m a little superstitious. When I’m playing poker, I hate to win the first hand. Winning the first week here is great though.”
The Regular Working Hunter division had a runaway winner this week. Gray Slipper and Louise Serio won three out of four over fences classes and received second place in the remaining two classes of the division. The elegant gray gelding is owned by Bridget Hallman of Oyster Bay, NY. Reserve champion went to Take Away, ridden by Havens Schatt and owned by Cortie Wetherill of Malvern, PA.
The Second Year Green Working Hunters at WEF have a new star in the first week of competition. High Cotton and Ken Smith won three over fences classes over the past two days and collected the championship. Smith rode for owner Christy Russo of Miami, FL. Reserve Champion in the Second Year division went to Cool Blue and Scott Stewart, who rode for owner Carolyn Kelly of New York, NY.
The First Year Green Working Hunter division was split into two sections due to 61 entries. Section A wrapped up on Friday, with Tim Goguen and Corvet Z walking away with the championship. The collaboration with Corvet Z is new for Goguen, who only recently picked up the ride for Jerry and Kathy Newman of Wellington, FL. “I only rode the horse one other week, and he was quite green. He showed a little bit last year in the Pre Greens, but he doesn’t have a whole lot of mileage,” said Goguen. “This week he was consistent, which was really nice.” Reserve champion in Section A of the First Year Green division went to Endearing and Chad Watridge, who rode for owner Lynn Rogers of Wellington, FL.
Unlike Goguen and Corvet Z’s new partnership, the First Year Green Section B champions, Without Question and Rob Bielefeld, have a winning history behind them. The duo won the 2004 WEF Pre Green Hunter circuit championship, and were champions at this show last year in the Pre Green division. Bielefeld and owner Regi Baker of Venice, FL, were thrilled with the win this week. Bielefeld remarked, “We are going for the circuit championship again this year!” Danny Robertshaw rode Island Heart for Betsy Fauntleroy of Richmond, VA, to the reserve championship in Section B.
The familiar faces of the imposing grey gelding Inverness and rider/owner Sherry Robertson graced the winners’ circle again this year in the Adult Amateur 51 & Over hunters Inverness and Robertson, of Edgemont, PA, were the 2004 WEF Adult Amateur 51 & Over circuit champions. They edged out Red Dragon and Betty Oare, of Warrenton, VA, who received the reserve championship this week. Indian Summer and Holly Caristo, of Hauppage, NY, won the Section B Adult Amateur 51 & Over tricolor. They won three out of the four classes in the division and placed third in the remaining class. Reserve champion for Section B was awarded to Que Sera and Bruce Duchossois of Aiken, SC.
Only one hunter championship was presented on Saturday, and it was awarded to Jazz and Francesca Caroli of Canada in the Amateur Owner 18-35 Hunters. It was a close race for the championship with Danielle Torano and her pretty dappled gray, Mirage. Mirage and Torano, of Fort Lauderdale, FL, won two over fences classes and were third in another and had to settle for the reserve championship.
Equitation riders have their sights set on the R.W. “Ronnie” Mutch Equitation Classic, held during the last week of the Winter Equestrian Festival. They had their first chance to qualify in the USEF Show Jumping Talent Search and the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Class. The USEF Talent Search, with 65 entries, was split into two sections. The Section A winner was Haylie Jayne of Elgin, IL. Sloane Coles of Colts Neck, NJ, was the winner in Section B. In the WIHS Equitation Class Haylie Jayne won both the hunter and jumper sections to be the overall champion.
It was “déjà vu all over again” at the Grand Hunter Field on Sunday, as Pavarotti and Teri Kessler of Bedford Corners, NY, picked up their championship ribbon in the Amateur Owner 36 & Over Hunters. Kessler and her beautiful bay gelding came from a disappointing day yesterday to win the first over fences class and place second in the stakes class today. Kessler edged out Berringer and Kathy Mailloux of Wellington, FL, who settled for the reserve champion. The comeback was eerily reminiscent to Kessler, because her daughter Reed accomplished a similar feat only minutes earlier in the Small Pony Hunters on Cardiff Mardi Gras. Reed Kessler and her pony Cardiff Mardi Gras received no ribbons yesterday, but won both over fences classes today to win the championship over My Little Dickens and Megan Davis of Lutherville, MD.
Katharine Newman won the Small Junior 15 & Under championship on her mount Fancy That. Newman rode Fancy That for owner Whitney Roper of Rumson, NJ. Davis Cup and owner/rider Alexandra Stathis of Essex Falls, NJ were reserve champion.
Rio Bravo owned by Sale Johnson and W.G.H.R. Farm of New York, NY and ridden by Addison Philips handily won the Large Junior 15 & Under championship. Renoir and Kelsey Rae Calabro of Water Mill, NY, won the reserve champion.