Star Wins Again with Skelton in $25,000 Suncast
Wellington, FL - February 13, 2011 -
The fifth week of competition at the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival concluded on Sunday with the $25,00 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic, and it was Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star, owned by Beverly and Gary Widdowson, who proved victorious over a field of 65 entries.Alan Wade of Co. Tipperary, Ireland, designed today's courses and set a first-round track that 11 combinations would clear. Skelton and Big Star, an eight-year-old KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor, cleared the jump-off in 40.985 seconds, a blazing time that beat second place finisher McLain Ward (USA) and Louisburg Farm's Esplanade 7, by more than two seconds. Ward and Esplanade were clear in 43.131 seconds. Marie Hecart (FRA) and Babbe Van't Roosakker, owned by Haras De La Rogue, were third in 43.314 seconds.Skelton did not see Ward's jump-off ride. "He told me he wasn't very fast, but knowing him I didn't believe him," Skelton joked. "I've never seen him not go fast! I thought I'd go nice, but every time I turned I had a good distance. He's a fast horse anyway. I think I got it into that double (combination). I had an unbelievable shot to it and I think it got sent from above. It was perfect. I didn't think I was almost three seconds faster."
This is the second big win for Big Star, who also claimed victory the $40,000 Equine Couture/Tuff Rider Grand Prix in week two. Skelton won another Suncast 1.50m classic in week one.
"He's a freak of a horse for eight years old," Skelton said of his mount. "You have to remember how old he is and not get carried away. He's still got to get the experience, but he's a great jumper. He has everything: scope, the mind, unbelievable talent. I'm very lucky to have him."
The $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix was the morning feature in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Today's class was the first of four qualifiers for the EY Cup Finals, held at the FEI World Cup Finals in Leipzig, Germany. The top three riders at the conclusion of the series will have the opportunity to travel to Germany to compete. The second qualifier will run under the lights in the International Arena on Friday, February 25. The third event, which is a Team Event, will be held on Thursday, March 10 in the International Arena. The final $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix will be held on the grass derby field at The Stadium on Sunday, March 20, 2011.Through their sponsorship, The Dutta Corporation & International Horse Transport will provide round-trip shipping for the winning horse to the EY Cup Finals.
Speaking on behalf of The Dutta Corporation, Tim Dutta stated, "Guido Klatte and I are delighted to join the Zeigler family in supporting the Young Rider program, as these riders are our future. We are excited to be part of the process that gets our best and brightest to Leipzig along with our senior squad. We wish this series much success and hope that the young riders have a great experience in the journey and may the best represent us. Guido and I, along with the rest of The Dutta Corporation team, are looking forward to giving the winning horse 'wings' to the World Cup Final."
Fifty-five riders started in today's qualifier and nine jumped clear to return for a jump-off. Four horse and rider combinations jumped double clear, and Christina Kelly and Camirage, owned by Diamond Edge Farm, had the fastest time in 35.432 seconds for the win. Reed Kessler and Onisha clocked in just 4/10ths of a second shy of that time to finish in second place in 35.829 seconds. Katie Dinan and Vancouver finished in 37.864 seconds to place in third. Navona Gallegos and No Fear had the only other double clear round in 38.640 seconds to take home fourth place.
Seventeen-year-old Christina Kelly has had an outstanding circuit so far, winning the $10,000 High Junior Jumper Classic four weeks in a row prior to today's victory. From Oxford, England, Kelly trains with show jumper Margie Engle and has had her winning mount Camirage, a 10-year-old Holsteiner mare by Charisma, for three years.Commenting on her recent success, Kelly smiled, "My horses have been really awesome and I have had a lot of luck so far, so hopefully it keeps on going. The horses are really great and the courses have been good too."
"The class was great and it is really exciting that they have started this series because I think they really needed to do something like this for juniors coming up instead of just going straight into the bigger classes," Kelly added. "It was a great course, an awesome jump-off and I thought the height was good for the first class."
Speaking about Camirage, Kelly explained, "She needs a lot of leg; she gets very careful and backed off. The faster you go the more confident she is, but she does lose a little bit of her heart if you don't give her a confident ride."Kelly spoke about her plan for the jump-off, stating, "I was a little nervous about going early on because I didn't know how fast the others were going to be. Normally I am in the juniors so I know most of the juniors, but I didn't know some of these horses and I was a little nervous about that. My plan was just to go at a good pace and be careful around all of the jumps. I was planning on doing nine strides to the last jump, but I saw the eight early enough, so I took a little shot at the end."She concluded with a smile, "It is awesome. Thank you to my horse, my groom, my parents, everyone."
Although Kelly won the class today, she declared her second mount Navarre D'Olueis to count for her points in the series standings and is therefore not actually leading the series. Second place finisher Reed Kessler and her mount Onisha earned points with their finish today and are currently in the lead for a place in the finals.
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic
STAR NICK SKELTON BEVERLY AND GARY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/40.985
Final Results: $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Riders Grand Prix
CHRISTINA KELLY DIAMOND EDGE FARM: 0/0/35.432
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.