Winter Equestrian Festival Week 9 Wrap-Up, March 29 -April 2, 2005
Tournament of Champions - Tampa, FL

Jumper Highlights- Tuesday through Friday

Galant and McLain Ward win
1.45m at Tampa
Photo: Randi Muster

The early morning feature on Tuesday was the 1.45m Jumpers with twenty-one starters. Grand Prix star McLain Ward’s brightest and best this season has been his speed horse Galant. The duo proved how dominant they can be on Tuesday, producing a jump-off clear and an amazingly fast time of 31.142 seconds. Ward’s time was 5.4 seconds faster that second place finisher, Kate Levy and 15.2 seconds faster than Alison Firestone in third.

Finally, a win!” said Ward following his 1.45m win. “Actually, Galant has been great this circuit, I’m the one hurting for victories. Galant has won five or six on the tour, so he’s been fantastic,” laughed Ward. “The key today was to be double clean. There were only three clear, and I know with Galant, if I leave the jumps up, he’s going to be among the top three.”

A total of 40 starters went to the post for the 1.40m Jumpers, the second feature of the Tuesday schedule. Joyous and Laura Kraut, riding for the Summit Partners, came home with the victory. Kraut cruised across the finish line clear and tripped the timers in 31.456 seconds. While Ward totally dominated the 1.45m jumpers earlier, Kraut was just fractions faster than second place finisher, Ramiro Quintana.

The old saying goes “timing is everything.” On Wednesday, Alison Firestone made good on the old saying with a debut win with her new mare, Intrepide Du Valon, in the $30,000 Ariat WEF Challenge Cup Series Final at the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida.

With four of the eight available spots for the Budweiser World Cup in Las Vegas still at stake going into today’s event, the pressure was on throughout the class and the tension could be felt in every corner and all across the arena.

Alison Firestone and Intrepide de Valon
Photo: Randi Muster

Alison Firestone and Intrepide du Valon entered the ring as the last duo to go and with the class on the line. Intrepide Du Valon, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, was making her grand prix level debut. You would never have known this was their first big class. Firestone was amazing. Firestone’s pace was torrid. She was over a second ahead of Sheila Burke and Caya when she duplicated the inside cut that Burke had done.

Intrepide Du Valon was literally two feet over the standards on the final fence and Firestone lit up the scoreboard with a finish time of 34.60, exactly two seconds faster than Caya and Burke.

“I don’t know how high she was over that last jump,” Firestone said following the class, “but it was just the most incredible feeling in the world!”

On the final week of the nine week long Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) tour and in the last class of the Acorn Hill Farm Speed Challenge series, Ellen Whitaker and AK Kanselier finally got past Laura Chapot and Sprite for the victory. The $5,000 Acorn Hill Speed Challenge was the featured event on Thursday at the Tournament of Champions at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida.

AK Kanselier with Ellen Whitaker win Thurs.
Acorn Hill Speed Challenge
Photo: Randi Muster

Great Britain’s Ellen Whitaker, riding the Amaro/Whitaker Sporthorse’s AK Kanselier, was two horses after Laura Kraut, who posted the fastest time thus far. Whitaker laid down a fast and furious trip, clearing the course with no knockdowns and knocking a whopping 3.04 seconds off of Kraut’s previous top time. Whitaker posted the new time to beat at 64.991 seconds.

Sprite and Laura Chapot would be the next challengers to Whitaker, eight horses later. Sprite and Chapot, the winningest 1.40m speed horse/rider combination in recent WEF history, were going after win number thirty-three on Thursday. Chapot, in her usual no holds barred fashion, let out all the stops. When she tripped the timers, it was apparent that Thursday’s win would go to Whitaker. Chapot came up 0.47 seconds short of Whitaker’s time, crossing the finish line in 65.470 seconds.

”Whew!” exclaimed Whitaker after watching Chapot’s round. “She had me riveted to the chair. She’s super fast, but finally today I got the edge on her.”

AK Kanselier and Ellen Whitaker at Tropy
Presentation with Bob Drennan.
Photo: Kenneth Kraus

For the second day in a row, Ellen Whitaker on her extraordinary speed horse, A.K. Kanselier, laid down the gauntlet and then held off all challengers in Friday’s main event, the $20,000 1.50m Classic, at the 2005 Winter Equestrian Festival at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida.

Ellen Whitaker and Thursday’s Acorn Hill Speed Challenge winner, AK Kanselier, entered the ring as the first of five remaining in the jump-off. Making an inside cut that no one else in the fifteen horse field attempted, Whitaker flew around the course and across the finish in a breathtaking time of 30.966 seconds. She had topped Callan Solem’s previous top time by an incredible 4.12 seconds.

Hunter Highlights- Wednesday through Saturday

Although Scott Hofstetter is not in the running for a circuit championship, he and Alena had no problem competing against horses that showed all winter in Palm Beach. Hofstetter, who spends the winter at the Ocala Winter Circuit, came away easily with the Second Year Green Working Hunter championship on Wednesday in Tampa.

Alena and Scott Hofstetter,
Champions in Second Year
Green Hunters.
Photo: Randi Muster

Hofstetter enjoys coming to Tampa and competing against new faces. He clarified, “I did Ocala with Alena, so it was nice to come against the competition from Palm Beach. They all come together and there are a lot of the good ones, actually. Even though it’s the end of the circuit, the good ones are here because they’re chasing for that circuit award. So it was nice to see her come up and be competitive in that group.”

Alena won the under saddle class on Tuesday and was fifth and third over fences. On Wednesday, Anne Koch’s big chestnut mare won both over fences classes for the championship over High Cotton and Ken Smith, who rode for Christy Russo.

Another Scott won the Green Conformation Hunter division on Wednesday, but this time it was Scott Stewart. Stewart swept the division on Granted and handily won the circuit championship. Granted received the tricolor over Nancy Breedlove’s Game Plan and Penny Lombardo.

Granted won all six classes in the division, and his success was special for Stewart, who has owned the beautiful bay gelding since he was two years old. However, Stewart revealed, “He’s actually the greenest horse I have. He only showed three times last year.”

In the Regular Conformation Hunters on Thursday, Nairobi and Morgan Thomas came away with the win over The Kamine Family’s Superman and Nona Garson. Thomas rides Nairobi for KW Unlimited.

Nairobi and Morgan Thomas
Champions in Regular Conf.

Photo: Randi Muster

Nairobi’s owner plans to retire him at the end of the year and focus on breeding. Although Thomas will miss competing with Nairobi, he feels that Nairobi’s breeding is a good career choice. “I just think that, with the right mares, he could potentially throw some great babies,” he said. “He’s been very good in the ring and he’s won at quite a few good places, but I think his biggest legacy could be to contribute a lot of young horses over the years that hopefully will end up being special ones.

While Thomas and Nairobi are winding down their time together, Havens Schatt and Take Away are just getting started. Schatt picked up the ride for owner Cortie Wetherill at the beginning of WEF and has already won multiple championships.

Take Away won both over fences classes on Wednesday in the Regular Working Hunters, and then won the under saddle class and was first and fourth in the remaining over fences classes. Reserve champion in the division was Fashion Farm’s Coast to Coast and Amanda Lyerly.

Take Away was originally a jumper in Europe, but has easily made the transition to a hunter. Schatt tried him in Europe, but did not know that they would be together a few months later. “When we were in Indoors last year, Jeff Wirthman (Take Away’s trainer) approached me about riding his horses during circuit. When I got to circuit, I started riding this horse for him and I had no idea it was the same horse that I had ridden in Europe,” she explained.

Schatt also mentioned that Take Away is comfortable now in his new role as a hunter. “I liked him from the minute I started riding him. He’s straightforward and jumps easy and is scopey. He’s consistent all the time and is a very good guy,” Schatt said.

Attache and Ellen Toon,
champions in A/O Hunters
Photo: Randi Muster

Another division was wrapped up on Friday, as Attache and Ellen Toon came away with the tricolor in the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunters over Just Looking and Louise Otten.

This week in Tampa, Attache won the under saddle class and three over fences classes. Their partnership has grown the more they show and it pays off with every blue ribbon they collect. “I think we probably both got better. He’s been very consistent and I’ve probably gotten better on him,” Toon clarified.

Toon is known for riding one of the best hunters of all time, In Disguise, and the new relationship with Attache is shaping up to be just as special. She revealed, “I feel like I’ve bonded my relationship with him and it’ll be great to begin the next season with him and go for it again. To have a horse that’s this scopey and with this much talent, just to be able to get on and do it is great. I can’t say enough about him.”

Lauren Hogan came from the Ocala Winter Circuit, where she was the Medium Pony circuit champion on Heart’s Desire, to go against new faces and stiff competition at WEF.

Hogan and her old partner were third in the under saddle and received first and fourth place ribbons over fences.  In their remaining over fences classes, they were first and second, which gave them enough points for the Medium Pony Hunter championship on Saturday.  Reserve champion went to WEF circuit champions Tuscany and Jennifer Waxman.

The ponies showed in the Charlie Lykes Arena, which was a switch from the outdoor rings of Wellington and Ocala.  It had no effect on Heart’s Desire, as Hogan explained, “She goes the same indoor and out- perfect!”

An old partnership was renewed this weekend when Megan Massaro piloted Elite Hint of Blue to the Large Pony Hunter Championship.  Massaro originally rode the adorable grey pony two years ago at Pony Finals, where they were reserve champions in the Large Green Ponies.  Since then, owner Jessie Matakis has had success with him.

Elite Hint of Blue was third in the under saddle class on Friday and placed first and fifth over fences.  On Saturday, Massaro piloted him to two second place finishes in the remaining over fences classes.  Reserve champion in the division went to After the Laughter and Alexandra Arute, who rode for Scott Stewart.

Massaro was very pleased to be able to ride the pony again and be champion in tough competition.  Elite Hint of Blue has matured since their original union.  “He grew up a lot.  He’s much easier to ride and his lead changes are much better,” she said with a smile.

Avery Dimmig and Due North
Champions A/O 18-35 Hunters
Photo: Randi Muster

Avery Dimmig and Due North made the most of their Florida winter circuit.  They were champions in the last week of WEF and it vaulted them ahead of the competition in the tight race for circuit champion in the Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunters. Dimmig revealed, “It’s a relief to win this week.  It was nice to end on a good note.”

Due North was amazingly consistent and had a tough battle this week with Orange County and Charlie Jayne, who were reserve champions.  Due North won the under saddle class and was first and second over fences on Friday.  They then finished up with three second place finishes in the remaining over fences classes.

Due North has become somewhat accustomed to having the tricolor flapping on his bridle and posing for pictures.  Dimmig divulged, “His personality is so much fun.  He knows when he’s good.  It makes it that much more fun when they really enjoy doing their job and doing it well.”          

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