Skelton and Big Star Light Up Saturday Night With Victory
Wellington, FL – January 22, 2011 –
Nick Skelton (GBR) notched his third major victory of the circuit tonight with Big Star, owned by Beverly and Gary Widdowson, in the $40,000 Equine Couture/Tuff Rider Grand Prix, CSI2*. Tonight’s class was the first of 11 events in the “Saturday Night Lights” series at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). A crowd of 3,800 spectators were there to enjoy world-class show jumping and all that the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center has to offer.
The second week of the FTI WEF concludes with tomorrow’s competition. The 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition through April 3, 2011, and they will be awarding more than $6 million in prize money through the circuit.
This week’s course designer in the International Arena is Luc Musette of Belgium. There were 37 entries in tonight’s grand prix, but only three were able to go clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off.
Skelton noted, “It wasn’t overly big, but it was quite tricky. He did a very good job; he is a very good course builder.”
There were four riders with just one time fault over the 76 second time allowed. Reed Kessler (USA) and Mika finished fourth (76.65 seconds), Ljubov Kochetova (RUS) and Lapsus du Lavoir were fifth (77.03 seconds), Emily George (CAN) and Quidam’s Ramiro placed sixth (77.83 seconds), and Angela Covert-Lawrence (CAN) and Utan were seventh in 78.11 seconds.
Brianne Goutal and Nice de PrisseyThe first clear round and pathfinder in the jump-off was 22-year-old Brianne Goutal of New York, NY, on Nice de Prissey, a 2001 Selle Francais stallion by Rosire x Amarpour, put down a solid trip and kept all the jumps up, which put pressure on the two remaining riders in the jump-off. They stopped the timers in 43.85 seconds. Goutal and her mount, owned by Cloverleaf Farm, would finish in second place.
Following the class, Goutal said, “It was a big class for my horse tonight. He is ten, but still a little green. I have had him less than a year. I was really excited with how well he jumped in the first round, (and) I had two very fast riders behind me. I tried to just go smooth and keeps the jumps up; I just wanted to give it a shot without losing control. He is still young and hasn’t been in that many jump-offs, especially at this height, so I was thrilled with him tonight.”
Next in was Skelton, who already won two classes in the opening week of the FTI WEF. This time on Big Star, an eight-year-old KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor, Skelton took risks throughout the jump-off and made a daring gallop to the final oxer. It paid off when the scoreboard flashed his time of 40.80 seconds for the win.
Skelton said of his jump-off ride, “I watched Brianne go and I thought she was quick, but I was worried about Yann because I know he can go faster than I could, so I thought that I had better get going. I rode badly really, because one to two I got too quick and then I couldn’t turn him back to three, so I was very lucky at three.”
He also noted that the long run to the final oxer didn’t faze the young horse. “It didn’t seem to bother him,” he agreed. “You can do whatever you want with him.”
Yann Candele (CAN) and Redefin, owned by Susan Grange, were the last to contest. When a rail fell in the first of the double combination, the class results were determined. Candele finished the jump-off with four faults in 44.83 seconds for third place.
Of his final ride, Candele explained, “I went last and I was hoping for them to have a rail somewhere so that I could keep having a chance, but they both went clear and Nick put some pressure. The jump-off wasn’t that good for me because it was a long gallop and my horse gets distracted for that kind of stuff. I came to the double and he knocked one down and it was over, that was it. We just went around and finished up for confidence.”
Skelton has had Big Star since he was five years old. Although Skelton has competed in six Olympic Games and has ridden some of the most prolific show jumpers in history, he feels that Big Star is something really special. He said, “I have had some really good horses, but I don’t think I have ever had one as good as this one. He is a freak. For an eight-year-old horse, he has the brain of a 12-year-old. He is really something else, and he has all the qualities that you need.”
Tomorrow is the final day of week two at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, and the highlight class of the day is the Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic in the International Arena at 1 p.m.
Results: $40,000 Equine Couture/Tuff Rider Grand Prix, CSI 2*
The 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of top competition running from January 12 through April 3. WEF is run by Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC, and Wellington Equestrian Partners and held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. All 12 shows are "AA" rated and Jumper Rated 6, and more than $6 million in prize money will be awarded.
Please visit www.equestriansport.com or call 561-793-5867 for more information.
Photos: © Sportfot