Week 11 of the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival featured the $100,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final last Saturday night at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. McLain Ward and Zander took home first place.
Ward and Zander led a high-speed jump-off over second place finishers Janne Friederike Meyer of Germany aboard Cellagon Lambrasco and third place duo Pablo Barrios of Venezuela riding Zara Leandra. Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Quiet Easy 4 topped the eleven-week series championship standings and were awarded the top bonus following the class.
Richard Jeffery of England set the course for 48 entries in Saturday night’s 1.50m final. Only six were able to master the track to advance to the jump-off, and four went double clear in an exciting race against the clock for the tie breaker. Ward and Zander, a nine-year-old KWPN gelding, took the win with their pace of 43.86 seconds.
In a class that is usually held during the day, it was a different environment for many of the horses on Saturday night, showing under the lights with a big crowd. Some of the horses had more experience than others, and even though it was his first night class ever, Zander seemed to flourish in the impressive atmosphere.
“He’s a horse I’m really excited about,” Ward said after the class. “We got him at the beginning of last year with high hopes, and then I got hurt and lost almost four months. He was really good last year at Spruce Meadows, and he won a nice grand prix at Valkenswaard in the summer. We’ve done him in a bunch of WEF (Challenge Cup) classes here, and he won one and he had the fastest time in two others… I think he’s a really exciting horse, and I’m lucky to have him.”
Finishing in second, Meyer and Cellagon Lambrasco stopped the clock in 45.12 seconds. Pablo Barrios and ZL Goup Inc.’s Zara Leandra were close behind in 45.32 seconds, and Reed Kessler and Ligist had the fourth double clear round in 45.94 seconds. Brazil’s Carlos Ribas and Ronaldo actually had the fastest round of the jump-off in 43.53 seconds, but had the second to last fence down for fifth place.
Second place finisher Meyer was in Wellington for the first time this winter and has had a great experience herself. “For me, it’s a really nice time,” Meyer said. “It’s pretty expensive to fly all the horses over, and if you don’t know everything, you have to take a little time to get in the system.”
Barrios finished third with Zara Leandra and was very happy with her performance. The pair won a smaller grand prix pre-circuit under the lights and has been gradually moving up to the bigger classes. “I’m really pleased with that mare and the way she’s jumping now,” Barrios said. “She won one class in the pre-circuit and then I had a little trouble in the big classes. I think she was not ready, but she grew a lot and she learned a lot. After week eight, in the Nations Cup, she started approaching the jumps in a different way. She was calmer in the ring and she has been amazing the last two weeks.”
As the conclusion to the 11-week Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series, Saturday night’s class served as the final allocation of points for the overall standings. $50,000 worth of bonus money was presented to the top three leading horse and rider combinations that accumulated the most points throughout the competition. Awarding their consistency overall, Maher took home the top bonus of $25,000 with Mrs. Phillips’ Quiet Easy 4, Alise Oken won $15,000 for second place with Hi Hopes Farm LLC’s Teirra, and Laura Kraut finished third and was awarded $10,000 for her performance with the Evita Group’s Nouvelle.
Maher and Quiet Easy finished second in the series last year, and this year the rider made it a goal to come out on top. “He has been great,” Maher said following the presentation. “We missed a few of the classes, and he just proved that he was pretty consistent in all of the other classes to be so far ahead today. He loves to show here.”
Also showing in the International Arena on Saturday, Peru’s Michelle Navarro-Grau rode Alfi to victory in the $15,000 RCG Farm SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. Victoria Colvin and Waminka, owned by Rivers Edge, were victorious in the $10,000 Griffis Residential High Junior Jumper Classic. Colvin was later honored with a special award during the night class. She was presented with the Potcreek Meadow Farm Junior Sportmanship Trophy, in memory of Candida C. Fortsmann.
Also last week, Tracy Scheriff-Muser and her 11-year-old KWPN gelding, Absolut, brought home the championship title for the Bainbridge Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division. Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly for the pair during Friday and Saturday’s classes, which Scheriff-Muser attributed to Absolut’s dependability. “You can always depend on him, and you know he’ll be there for you,” she said. “He’s pretty consistent.”
Reserve honors went to Darwin, owned and ridden by Kelly Tropin. Tropin piloted Darwin to three first place ribbons over fences and a fifth place ribbon under saddle. Darwin and Tropin just barely fell short to Scheriff-Musler in a tightly contested division of 21 entries.
The Winter Equestrian Festival features 12 weeks of competition. More than $6 million in prize money will be awarded through the circuit. For full results, visit www.showgroundslive.com. The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center is located at 14440 Pierson Road in Wellington. For more info., visit www.equestriansport.com or call (561) 793-5867.
Above: McLain Ward aboard Zander. PHOTO BY SPORTFOT