2004 Winter Equestrian Festival - Week 1 Wrap-Up, January 28-February 1

WELLINGTON, FL – February 2, 2004 –

The first week of the 32nd Winter Equestrian Festival was held January 28 through February 1 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida. The five-day show entitled Nutrena/Western Hay Wellington Classic CSI*** featured topnotch hunters and jumpers competing in eight rings. Javier Fernandez of Mexico was the course designer for the Internationale Arena. Following eight weeks of back-to-back shows in Wellington through March 21, the action moves to Tampa for two weeks at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center, and caps off with the Budweiser American Invitational on April 3 at the Raymond James Stadium. Total prize money for the 2004 WEF is three-million-dollars. Produced by founder Eugene R. Mische and Stadium Jumping, Inc., the Winter Equestrian Festival is the largest and longest consecutively running equestrian sporting event in the world.

Eric Lamaze and Tempete win $35,000 Farr XTN Grand Prix of Palm Beach

The finale event of Week 1 was the $35,000 Farr XTN Grand Prix of Palm Beach presented by Western Hay, CSI*** on Sunday, February 1. Eric Lamaze, 36, of Schomberg, Ontario, aboard Tempete claimed victory over a class of 32 entries. Eleven horses went clear over the 14-fence Round One course with Time Allowed at 114 seconds. In the eight-effort Jump-Off with Time Allowed at 56 seconds, Lamaze was the fastest of three clear rounds, clocking in at 45.17, which bested Georgina Bloomberg of New York, New York, aboard Mila by just 2/10ths of a second (45.75). Roberto Teran of Colombia riding Flubber Cocoy placed third (47.09).

"I was not trying to win it. I was just trying to go double-clear and hopefully get fourth or fifth. I would have been thrilled with that," said Lamaze. Six riders in the jump-off went faster than Lamaze, but all had faults and one, Debbie Stephens of Palmetto, Florida, aboard Cosequin’s CEO, was eliminated in a fall. Lamaze said he was careful over the short course, not wanting to risk running and confusing his mount, an eight-year-old Belgian-bred gelding owned by Stacey Krembil. "It’s a horse that we want to keep and try to capture the single spot that Canada will have at the Olympics this year."

Bloomberg, 21, who was returning to Grand Prix competition after being sidelined for a year after breaking her back, was riding Mila in only their second outing at this level. "It’s a new ride with me so I wasn’t about to go too fast," she said of the nine-year-old Dutch mare owned by Gotham Enterprizes that she’s been partnered with since November 2003. "I think I could have taken a bit more of a shot at 16, but with a new horse, you never go flat out. She was great out there."

"The ‘no-risk’ riders won today!" joked Lamaze.



Photo: Randi Muster

Highlights Wednesday Through Saturday

McLain Ward aboard Quickstar II Z wins 1.45 Meter

Kicking off the competition on Wednesday, January 28, in the Internationale Arena, McLain Ward riding Quickstar II Z won the $7,500 1.45 Meter, Time First Jump-Off, besting 44 entries. Ward put in two clean rounds, completing the jump-off in 35.119 seconds, edging out Federico Sztyrle aboard Who Knows Lilly, who had led for most of the class. "It was nice to start off with a win," said Ward, 28, of Brewster, New York. "Quickstar is a new horse for me and my sponsor, Double H Farm and the Harrison family. We’ve put together a great partnership and a great string of horses, so this is a great start to the year." Quickstar II Z is a 10-year-old, 16.2-hand, French-bred, bay mare.

Jeffery Welles aboard Ursa Major wins 1.40 Meter

In the featured afternoon event in the Internationale Arena on January 28, Jeffery Welles riding Ursa Major won the $5,000 1.40 Meter, Faults Converted class, topping a whopping roster of 120 entries. Welles went 50th in the order and posted a clear round in 64.027, then had to wait for 70 more riders to see if the time held up. "He was good on the turns and jumped very well at the same time – the speed didn’t interfere with his jump," said Welles, 41, of Pound Ridge, New York. Ursa Major is an 11-year-old, bay, 17-hand, Belgian gelding owned by Mr. and Mrs. Fred Croft.

McLain Ward aboard Goldika 559 wins $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup

McLain Ward and Goldika 559 topped a class of 49 entries in the Nutrena/Western Hay $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series – Round I, CSI** on Thursday, January 29, the second day of competition. Nine horses went clean for the jump-off. Going fifth in the order, Ward and Goldika blasted over the eight-effort short course in 41.52 seconds, well under the 58-second Time Allowed. The next four riders chased his time, but Ward could not be caught aboard the 12-year-old bay Holsteiner German-bred mare owned by Double H Farm. "This mare’s very fast and I knew with the likes of Ian Millar and Margie Engle behind me that I had to try to lay down a tough time," said Ward. "The mare went beautiful so I’m thrilled with her."

Shachine Belle and In Disguise qwin Regular Conformation Hunter Championship

Highlighting the morning hunter classes on January 29, Shachine Belle, 30, of South Salem, New York, riding In Disguise won the Regular Conformation Hunter Championship. Over two days of competition, the duo won five of six classes, placing first in the Model, third in the Under Saddle, and first in the four over-fences classes. It was their debut in the 4’ division. "I was a little nervous. I wasn’t sure, even though I never doubt him," Belle said, who admitted the jumps seemed high to her compared to the 3’ 9" division. "But once we got in the ring, we were all set. Every class just got better, more relaxed. He’s a horse you can count on. He never lets me down. Today I went in and felt totally confident." In Disguise is an eight-year-old, bay, 16-hand Dutch warmblood gelding owned by Ellen Toon and trained by her husband Jim Toon with help from Rodney Bross.

Conroy and Southern Lights win Second Year Green Working Hunter Championship

In the Grand Hunter Field on January 29, Samantha Darling Conroy, 26, of Colts Neck, New Jersey, and Wellington, Florida, rode Southern Lights for owner Dr. Sheila Buchbinder to the Second Year Green Working Hunter Championship. Over two days of competition in five classes, the duo placed seventh in the Under Saddle class, earned second and third place ribbons in over-fences classes, and then won two over-fences classes, scoring 90 and 91. "His first round was great," said Mrs. Conroy. "He was great even the first day, but he really tried as hard as he possibly could in that last class and I felt it was definitely our smoothest class. All the jumps came up all the same and he jumped beautifully. He just puts so much effort into it. He’s such a winner." Mrs. Conroy trains with her husband Leo Conroy. Southern Lights is a seven-year-old bay Holsteiner gelding. "I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to ride this horse," said Mrs. Conroy. "He’s certainly the nicest horse that I’ve ever shown."

McLain Ward and Cinderella win NAL Acorn Hill Speed Challenge

Last to go proved to be best as McLain Ward aboard Cinderella, the final duo in a field of 80 starters, won the $5,000 North American League Acorn Hill Farm Speed Challenge on Friday, January 30. "She was a little spooky in the beginning of the course being a little green, baby-ish," said Ward, "but as she went, she warmed up a little bit and she went very well." Ward’s ride was not only fast, but also lucky – the rails rocked on 6A and 6B, but didn’t leave the cups. "She hit A hard behind. She actually jumped out really well. So we got away with a lucky rub and I’ll take a little luck any day," said Ward. Cinderella is a nine-year-old Holsteiner, German-bred mare owned by Double H Farm.

Clara Lindner and Priceless win Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 Championship, Section A

"My horses are all really good in the mud, actually, they’re used to it. We’ve been in the mud a lot," said Clara Lindner, 18, of Cincinnati, Ohio, winner of the Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 Championship, Section A, on Saturday, January 31. Steady rain in the ‘Sunshine State’ created soupy conditions, but did not hinder Ms. Lindner’s performances. "It’s a little harder. Everything is a little slower and we get stuck in there sometimes, but my horses are all generally really good with it." Ms. Lindner brought six horses from her family’s All Seasons Farm and earned the Championship aboard Priceless, an eight-year-old bay Dutch Warmblood gelding. She trains with Tom Wright. With 50 entries, the Championship was divided into two 25-horse sections; each group competed in four over-fences classes and one Under Saddle class over two days. Ms. Lindner placed second in her first over-fences class, was out of the ribbons in the next two classes, but then won the Under Saddle and her last over-fences class to clinch the Championship. "He’s very dependable for the Under Saddle because he’s a really good mover, so he is usually first or second in that." The championship was an especially rewarding win for Ms. Lindner as it was her debut in the Amateur-Owners. "I feel really good about it. It’s my first show in the Amateurs so it’s a great way to start."

Annie Starke and Boston Irish win Children’s Modified Jumper Championship

Prior to the Grand Prix on Sunday, February 1, Annie Starke, 15, of Bedford, NY, was named the Children’s Modified Jumper Champion after two days of competition in which 22 riders participated in three rounds of jumping in three different rings. Starke placed fourth, second, and second to earn the overall high score. "I have the most incredible horse," said Starke, a sophomore in high school who is commuting from New York to Wellington on Thursday through Sunday, with her mother, actress Glenn Close. "We just got him over the summer and I’m totally in love with him." Boston Irish is an 11-year-old, 16.3-hand white Irish sport horse. "He jumps every jump like it’s a grand prix jump – huge." Starke trains with Peter Lutz out of his Davenport stable in Bedford, NY. "She went fast," said Lutz. "She’s learning how to go fast and she did it really well, but she was also really smooth – that’s very important." The victory was Starke’s first-ever championship at WEF. Starke said she would like to compete at Grand Prix in a few years, but will not pursue a career as a professional. She plans to follow in the footsteps of her mother. "I want to do acting like my mom," said Starke. Glenn Close was constantly ringside with her daughter, actively pitching in with groom duties and fulfilling her role as proud ‘horse show mom’.

For complete results, visit www.stadiumjumping.com

NEXT SHOWS: February 4 – 8, Bayer/USET Gold Coast Jumper Classic CSI***
February 5 – 8, Wellington Dressage (Qualifier for Olympic Selection Trials) 2004 WINTER

EQUESTRIAN FESTIVAL TICKET INFORMATION

Show days for the 2004 Winter Equestrian Festival are Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 8:00 am. Ticket Prices: Wednesdays are free to everyone; Children 12 and under are admitted free every day; Young Adults 13 to 18 and Seniors are $5 on Thursday through Sunday; Adults are $5 on Thursday and Friday, $10 on Saturday, and $15 on Sunday. The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club is located on Pierson Road off South Shore Boulevard.
For additional information, visit www.stadiumjumping.com or call 561-793-5867.

2004 WEF SCHEDULE OF COMPETITIONS
February 4 - 8 Bayer/USET Gold Coast Jumper Classic CSI***
February 5 - 8 Wellington Dressage (Qualifier for Olympic Selection Trials)
February 11 - 15 Kilkenny/ICH Internationale CSI***
February 18 - 22 Florida Classic/WCHR Spectacular CSI-W/Y CSI-Ch
February 19 - 22 Zada Enterprises, LLC Florida Dressage Classic
February 25 - 29 PDP Capital Wellington Masters CSI***
March 3 - 7 CN Wellington Open CSI-W
March 10 - 14 CSIO United States Cosequin Finale CSIO***
March 18 - 21 Zada Enterprises WEF Dressage Classic CDI***/Y
(Qualifier for Olympic Selection Trials)
March 24 - 28 Tampa Bay Classic CSI-W (Bob Thomas Equestrian Center)
March 30 - April 3 Tournament of Champions CSI-W (Bob Thomas Equestrian Center)
April 3 Budweiser American Invitational (Raymond James Stadium)
WEF 2004 MILLION DOLLAR GRAND PRIX SERIES
February 8 $50,000 Bayer/USET Wellington Cup, CSI***
February 15 $50,000 Kilkenny/ICH Internationale Cup, CSI***
February 22 $60,000 Idle Dice Classic, presented by Palm Beach Post, CSI-W
February 29 $75,000 PDP Capital Masters Cup, CSI***
March 7 $75,000 CN Wellington Open presented by Estates of Wellington Green, CDI-W
March 12 $50,000 Samsung Nations’ Cup, presented by CN, CSIO****
March 14 $100,000 Cosequin U.S. Open Jumper Championship, CSIO****
March 28 $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, presented by Kilkenny/ICH, CSI-W
April 3 $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, presented by The Tampa Tribune

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