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Highlights from Week Four of the 2005 Winter Equestrian Festival
Phelps Media Group, Inc
A crowd of 10,876 enthusiastic fans turned out for the fourth Sunday Grand Prix of the 2005 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) season and were rewarded with a fantastic afternoon of show jumping excitement. The $60,000 Idle Dice Classic CSI-W, presented by the Palm Beach Post, brought to a close the Lincoln Florida Classic/WCHR Hunter Spectacular at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida.
Sunday’s main event was the first World Cup qualifying class of the season in Wellington and the third event on the American Grand Prix Association (AGA) tour.
The course was designed by Guilherme Nogueira Jorge of Brazil. Jorge has also been tabbed to design the courses for this year’s Budweiser World Cup in Las Vegas in April. Scoring was under FEI Art 238.1.2, Time First Jump-Off. USEF International Level.
44 starters went to the post for the 2p.m. start on the Internationale Arena field. Twelve horse and rider combinations produced fault free first round efforts to advance to the timed tiebreaker while ten duos came home with four faults. Thirteen competitors had two knockdowns and nine had 12 or more faults over the first round course.
In the jump-off, the first four competitors knocked down fence number 9, the second fence on the course, a tall vertical at the far end of the arena.
Sheila Burke and the Athlone Partner’s Caya held on to the early lead until the halfway mark in the jump-off. She led with the four faults she accumulated at fence 9 and the impressive time of 43.28 seconds. Ireland’s Kevin Babington on the veteran Carling King, owned by the Kindle Hill Farm, produced the first clean ride out of the sixth spot in the order. Babington was clean in 43.88 seconds.
Babington lost the lead when four time Olympian Anne Kursinski joined the fray on Roxana 112, owned by Scott Hakim. Riding ninth in the order Kursinski flat out flew around the timed challenge and flashed across the finish line in 43.32 seconds, edging out Babington by .56 seconds.
Laura Kraut, WEF’s hottest rider and Anthem, from the Summit Syndicate fell victim to fence 9 and finished up in third place with the fastest four fault time of 41.32 seconds.
Kursinski, who last appeared in the Sunday winner’s circle over five years ago, was thrilled to be back. “Roxana was great. Last Sunday was the first really big Grand Prix that I’ve ridden that mare in and she handled that great,” she said. “She’s just so fast and I felt I could let her go fast and I just hoped we could leave all of the jumps up when everyone else was knocking them down. I just finally got lucky, or the others got unlucky; I don’t know,” she chuckled. “She loves to go fast. Even though she’s a German bred, she’s very much a thoroughbred ride. You can really let her gallop to the fences. She’s really an athlete in that sense,” related Kursinski. “But, with the thoroughbred type and being a mare too, it’s a bit of a compromise ride. I can’t tell her everything to do. I trust her and she trusts me.”
For second place finisher Kevin Babington, it was a rewarding afternoon. “I was halfway through the group in the jump-off and there was nobody clear when I went in,” Babington explained. “The jump-off really didn’t suit my horse that well. He’s a little difficult off of the right hand turns. There was a right turn to the second jump, a right turn back on the double and then a right turn back on the wall so I knew it wasn’t a class I could go all out in. I had to give him a little time on those right turns, so I was very pleased with the way it worked out,” said Babington. “I knew when I came out of the ring that somebody was definitely going to beat me. You had Anne and Laura (Kraut) following and they’re both very, very fast so I knew I was not going to win, but I was confident of the top three finish.”
Kursinski loved today’s course, especially the jump-off. “The jump-off was great! You had the right number of horses. You really had to run. You had to turn and you had the big tall verticals and at the end of the day, I thought it was great for the crowd and wonderful for the horses.” Babington concurred, “There was a nice flow to the course. I think of the last three weeks, this was the handiest course we’ve seen. I thought it was a good course with plenty of places to get a rail today.”
Fifteen competitors had the final fence on the first round course down today. Babington had an explanation. “I think the last jump, with the liverpool set back from it, is always a difficult jump,” Babington offered. “I think that was a great test by the course designer today,” said Babington. “And, along with that,” Kursinski added, “The last fence was headed right at the in-gate. He used that same fence in the WEF Challenge the other day, and I’m sure we’re going to see that fence, that backwards liverpool, at the World Cup. He loves that jump.”
Kursinski speculated on her chances of being one of the seven East Coast riders that might qualify for the World Cup in Las Vegas in April. “I was a little ways down the list, but sure, if I can work my way up to a qualifying spot, I’d love to get back to the World Cup.”
Babington detailed his April plans, too. “I had 22 points coming in today and said if I got a piece of it today, I would continue going after it and that’s my plan right now. If I don’t qualify for the World Cup in Las Vegas, then I’ll plan for the Budweiser American Invitational in Tampa.”
For veteran campaigner Kursinski, the love of the sport continues to grow. “I’ve got say that I think I love it more than I ever did,” she said. “ You know, the wins, the going to the Olympics, there’s nothing like that, that’s totally different. But, as I get older, I seem to appreciate it so much more. I love all of my horses. I have a nice group of horses and nice owners and I’m still in love with what I do.”
Week Four Jumper Results- Friday through Sunday
One knockdown over four rounds of jumping separated first and second place in the $10,000 WEF Young Riders Individual Competition CSI-Y on Sunday. The Young Riders Competition, held over two days, featured both team and individual events.
Aimee Aron, aboard Ostara, owned by the Kinloch Enterprises, came away with the Individual Gold Medal after finishing four rounds of action without any penalties at all.
Carolyn Kelly on her mount Omona finished with the Individual Silver Medal with a single knockdown. The Bronze Medal went to Whitney Goulart on Megan Goulart’s Eclat with a four round total of 21 faults.
The team of Carolyn Kelly, Nikko Ritter and Brianne Goutal gathered in the Team Gold Medal with a total score of 23 faults. The Team Silver Medal went to Whitney Goulart, Maggie Macalary and Sloan Coles with 34 faults in team scoring. Despite Aron’s fault free contribution, her team could only manage the Bronze with a team total of 109 faults.
For Gold Medalist Aron, her Winter Equestrian Festival success continues unabated. “Winning never ever gets old for me. Laura (Kraut) always tells me to never take any class for granted, so whether it’s a 1.60m or a schooling jumper, they’re all equally important to the overall plan.”
Thirty-five competitors turned out for the fourth round of the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup CSI 3* on Friday. The hunters, spotlighted this week at the Winter Equestrian Festival, competed in the Internationale Arena, so Friday’s WEF Challenge Round 4 was held in the adjacent DeNemethy Arena.
The Challenge Cup classes alternate between jump-off classes and first round speed events. Scoring for Friday’s class was under FEI Table A. One Round Against the Clock. Art. 238.2.1 or “Fastest Clear Round.”
Laura Kraut, already a Grand Prix winner three times this circuit, made a bid to make it four with a clean round and a time of 66.94 seconds. Aboard Joyous owned by the Summit Partners, Kraut rode out of the second spot in the jumping order.
Following Kraut, nine entries challenged, and while a couple had the time, none could produce the clean round to go with their fast times. Three riders, in fact, had the time to win but had a single rail down. The exacting course saw only seven clear rides on the day. Twelve horse and rider combinations had four faults and another six had eight faults. Ten duos accumulated 12 or more jumping penalties.
Friday’s Challenge Cup headlines came from the 14th spot in the jumping order and were made by Cara Raether and News, owned by the Trelawny Farms. Raether piloted her chestnut gelding around the twisting and turning course in a new top time of 65.91 seconds to take over the number one spot. Raether’s only challenge after that came from Little Big Man, owned and ridden by Laura Chapot, as the second last to go in the class. Chapot finished short of the mark however, in 67.87 seconds, winding up third.
The win was the biggest of the 25 year old Raether’s career. “This is my biggest win for sure. I won with News in Culpepper, Virginia and in Lexington, Kentucky, but for sure today was the biggest and the nicest,” she said, smiling.
Raether noted that getting a chance to watch Kraut go earlier was a big help. “I watched Laura Kraut go first and I know she’s fast and I knew her horse is similar to mine, so I watched her plan,” Raether explained. “I know that News is very fast and I had a chance to catch her. I just had to be sure to slow it down to the double combination that was causing all of the problems today and then work my plan and hope for the best,” she said.
Raether also acknowledged the change of venue. “You’re in a much smaller space in the DeNemethy Arena,” she said. “So really, the only place you can be faster is in the turns. In the Internationale Arena you definitely can leave out some strides here and there. The big ring favors the big, long striding horses, so this really favored me today,” Raether admitted. “My horse doesn’t have that biggest stride but can make the really tight turns.”
The partnership with her mount News is beginning to develop into something special. “I’ve been with him four years. I know him very well,” Raether related. “He’s a ten year old that I purchased as a six year old. He’s really come on strong since last year in Europe, where he won a lot of the speed classes. That’s why I chose the ‘speed’ WEF Challenge Cups as my classes.”
For Raether, being healthy is something she’s really cherishing right now. “For sure. I was injured twice during the 2003 season. I had reconstructive shoulder surgery and then I broke my humerus (long bone of the arm),” noted Raether. “The shoulder was a bit of an ongoing situation that they finally insisted I fix and just as I was coming back from that surgery, a horse in France flipped over on me and I broke my arm. Each injury kept me out of the saddle for three months, so I pretty much missed the entire 2003 show season,” she said. “It took almost all of last year to get back to where I was before the injuries.”
Hunter Results- Wednesday through Sunday
The hunters were in the spotlight this week at the Winter Equestrian Festival during the Lincoln Florida Classic/World Championship Hunter Rider Spectacular at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, FL. They competed today in the big grass field of the Internationale Arena, where many horses have never shown before. The wide rolling course gave horses the opportunity to open their stride, gallop down long, bending lines, and show off their talent. However, it also presented a challenge to some horses that were not used to showing in such a big venue.
This past week’s hunter judges were Diane Grod, Patrick Rodes, Jimmy Torano, Kim Williams, Julie Winkle, and Tom Wright. Hunters in the Internationale Arena were scored by judges in three positions, and their scores were averaged for the final results.
The Regular Working Hunter class on Wednesday saw a new face receive the blue ribbon in the first over fences class. Firsthand and Robert Crandall, who rode for owner Selma Garber, had a strong score of 85.166 to stay in the lead, despite stiff competition. This tough competition included Scott Stewart again, riding Prove It for Alexa Weisman. Prove It and Stewart were second behind Crandall in the first over fences class, and had a high score of 88 to win the second class.
The Green Conformation Hunter division also saw a new name on the leaderboard, as Rio Renoir and Holly Orlando, riding for Thomas Deibert, picked up the championship ribbon. Orlando also rode Volunteer and Cast A Spell in the conformation division, who picked up a second and third place over fences yesterday. “I had three horses in this division, and none of them are conformation horses. We threw them in an extra division for practice,” revealed Orlando. “It ended up that Rio was the best in that division. It was just kind of an afterthought to put them in the conformation, but it ended up paying off. I was thrilled with him.”
Reserve champion went to Regi Baker’s Without Question and Rob Bielefeld, who also were champions in Section A of the First Year Green Working Hunters. Shaw Johnson Price’s Costello and rider Louise Serio were reserve champions in Section A.
Scott Stewart and his string of top hunters were unbelievable on Thursday, as he racked up champions and reserve champions all day. Four of the five divisions were held in the familiar Grand Hunter Field, and Stewart was in the winner’s circle six times.
Stewart was champion in Section A of the First Year Green Working Hunters with Music Street, owned by Alexa Weisman. Music Street won all three classes on Wednesday and had the high score of the day on Thursday, with a 90. Reserve champion in Section B was Heart & Soul, ridden by Shachine Belle and owned by Debbie Perkins. At the end of the day on Thursday, Stewart pulled one more championship out of the hat, by winning the Second Year Green Working Hunters with Cool Blue, owned by Carolyn Kelly. Reserve champion was Noir, ridden by Ken Smith and owned by Mrs. Quentin Alexander.
Stewart started Thursday with a bang in the Regular Conformation Hunters, placing first and second in both over fences classes with Tribute and Chopard, both owned by Krista Weisman. Tribute made it a hat trick for the day as he won the under saddle class, and Chopard came in fourth. The three wins on Thursday, plus a second place from Wednesday, gave Tribute the championship. Stable-mate Chopard settled for the reserve.
The streak continued in the Regular Working Hunter division, where Alexa Weisman’s Prove It and his own horse, Beyond, battled it out for champion and reserve. Beyond took second place in the under saddle class and had a high score of 88 to win the first over fences class, while Prove It was fourth. Prove It proved his worth to everyone, as he matched the high score of 88 in the second over fences class and Beyond was third. Prove It walked away with the tricolor ribbon, while Beyond was reserve champion.
The grass field of the Internationale Arena was the site of the final classes in the Amateur-Owner division, and In Return took the move to the new location completely in stride. The gorgeous bay mare had high scores of 87.3 and 88 to win both over fences classes on Friday. Added to her second and sixth place ribbons over fences from Thursday, Moran squeaked by Pavarotti and Teri Kessler for the championship by half of a point. Pavarotti and Kessler won both over fences classes on Thursday and had a second place on Friday morning.
Although Paige Johnson’s name is well-known this season for challenging the top grand prix riders in the nation, she is also very competitive in the hunter ring. Johnson was second in the $50,000 Bayer Wellington Cup to Olympian Chris Kappler two weeks ago, but this week her focus was on qualifying for the American Hunter Jumper Foundation Hunter Spectacular.
The Amateur-Owner 18-35 division was spread out over three days. On Thursday, Johnson and Regall were very consistent, as they placed first and second over fences and were second under saddle. Friday, the pair was fourth over fences, and on Saturday they had a smooth trip on the big field of the Internationale Arena for the win. Johnson was pleased with the victory, and commented, “I’m really excited to be champion this week, because I get to do the night class. Regall is fabulous under the lights, so I’m really looking forward to this evening.” Reserve champion went to Prove It and Krista Weisman.
Phillips rode Sale and Daisy Johnson’s Libre to the championship in the Small Junior Hunter 15 & Under division, and was reserve champion on Fern Walk, owned by Don Stewart. Libre won two over fences classes, while Fern Walk won the third jumping class. Fern Walk was also third under saddle.
In the Large Junior Hunter 15 & Under division, Phillips rode another of the Johnson’s horses, Rio Bravo, to the championship. She also rode her own horse, Who’s On First, to the reserve championship
The top Adult Amateur Hunters from this week competed in the Grand Hunter Field on Sunday afternoon in the $5,000 Peggy Cone Adult Hunter Classic (NAL/WIHS). It was held in memory of Peggy Cone and is sponsored by her sister, Carol Cone. Peggy Cone was an accomplished songwriter, singer, performer, and equestrian.
Attache and Ellen Toon came into the second round with a score of 85.75. Their beautiful second trip scored a high 88.5 to lead the class with a total score of 174.25. As the final entry in the classic, Eye Remember Rio and Victoria Watters had to have a solid round to beat Toon. Watters did just that, as she flawlessly executed the course and scored an 87.5 to add to a first round score of 87.75 for a total of 175.25.
Watters has a visual disability, but it does not stop her from being one of the best adult riders on the circuit. She and “Rio” have been champions in their division for the past two weeks. Watters says she could not do it without her wonderful mount. “I can be a little long, a little short, a little off-center, and he still helps me and covers it and jumps it like a million dollars,” she said. “I have never known any horse that could be so forgiving, adjustable, and consistent. My trainer, Ken Smith, did a great match.”
The Children’s Hunters made the move to the Grand Hunter Field on Sunday morning to compete in the Florida Children’s Hunter Classic. The classic had 42 entries, and twelve were called back for the second round.
Infamous and Jennifer Waxman had a first round score of 84.75 and a second round score of 84 to have a total average of 84.375. This score held in first place until the last horse entered the ring. North York and Alexandra Skiffington, riding for Anne Casson of Lake Forest, IL, had the best first round score of 87.5. Skffington rode the charming bay gelding to a second round score of 86.5, and had a total average of 87.
Although most riders feel the pressure of going last in a classic and having to maintain a good score to win, Skiffington was confident that her horse would go well. “You always know he’s going to be fine. It’s nice knowing you can go in and win because you have a nice horse,” said Skiffington. “It’s just up to you not to make a mistake.”