Week three of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) got off to a late start due to inclement weather at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) Wednesday and Thursday, but competition was in full swing on Friday with wins for Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Hardin Towell (USA) in the International Ring. Lamaze and Rosana du Park took home the top prize in the Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Series for the second week in a row, and Towell and Pepperpot were victorious in the Illustrated Properties 1.45m Classic.
Luc Musette of Belgium returns to WEF as course designer in the International Ring for week three competition. In Friday's $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 3, Musette saw 71 entries jump his first round course, with 15 qualifying for the jump-off. Thirteen chose to return for the second round, where Canadian Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze took the win for the second week in a row aboard Artisan Farms LLC and Torrey Pines Stable's Rosana du Park.
Nick Skelton (GBR) was the first rider to clear the short course aboard Niel Moffitt's Untouched in a time of 46.45 seconds that eventually finished fourth. Lamaze and Rosana du Park blazed through the course next in the winning time of 38.57 seconds. Lacey Gilbertson (USA) and Seabrook LLC's Echo D were next to clear the track in 43.65 seconds to finish third. Last to go, Conor Swail (IRL) rode Ruben's LS La Silla to second place honors for owner Vanessa Mannix with a clear jump-off in 42.12 seconds.
Lamaze continues his success with the 11-year-old Selle Francais mare, Rosana du Park (by Kannan), who also topped two Challenge Cup classes in a row in 2015. The rider followed that up with three more wins aboard Fine Lady 5 to total five victories in the series over the 2015 circuit. This year, he is off to another great start.
"It is always great to go in a jump-off knowing that you have one of the fastest horses in the class," Lamaze proclaimed. "Nick was fast on his horse. He made seven strides from (jumps) one to two, which I was hoping I could see somebody do before I did it. I saw everybody do eight strides, and I thought it could be seven, but it always makes you feel better when somebody does it before you. Once Nick did it, I said, 'Okay, the door is open to make seven.' I did eight strides to the double, and then I had the skinny on a big stride and I turned to the other oxer on a big stride, and the last one came forward again. In these jump-offs, the distance has to be in front of you to take. If it is not, it makes a difference."
"She is really careful; she is made up," Lamaze said of Rosana's consistency. "She knows her job. There is nothing she does not know, and she fits in any distances. You are not going from one to two in seven strides thinking that she is going to have a chance to knock it down. If you get one little rub in the warm-up you have full confidence. Her technique is impeccable. Her front end is so quick, and she has a great desire to want to do it."
In addition to the winning prize money, Lamaze picked up a $3,000 bonus for the second week in a row for wearing SSG 'Digital' style riding gloves as part of the 'SSG Gloves Go Clean for the Green' promotion. That brings his total up to $6,000 in bonus money for the circuit so far.
Lamaze will compete with Rosana du Park again in Saturday night's $130,000 Adequan® Grand Prix CSI 3*. The mare will then have a well-deserved holiday for a week or two.
The $35,000 Illustrated Properties 1.45m kicked off competition in the International Ring on Friday morning with a win for Hardin Towell (USA) and Jennifer Gates LLC's Pepperpot. Course designer Luc Musette had 66 entries jump his one-round speed track with eight clear entries. Second to go, Towell laid down a time of 60.48 seconds that would go unbeaten.
Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm LLC's Eregast van't Kiezelhof clocked in three rounds later with a time of 61.53 seconds to eventually finish third. Richard Spooner (USA) came 54th in the order with a time of 61.41 seconds aboard Little Valley Farms' Chivas Z to take second place honors.
Owner Jennifer Gates purchased Pepperpot, a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Heritage Fortunus x Diamonds Are Trumps), following the Spruce Meadows Summer Series in 2015. The experienced mare previously competed under Egypt's Sameh el Dahan, followed by USA's Caitlin Ziegler, and Canada's Tiffany Foster.
"She is just a great horse," Towell stated after his win. "Jenn and I have both shown her. When we first got her, and Jenn and I were away, my girlfriend showed her a little bit to get her in the ring. She is just a really nice horse."
"I jumped the mare last week in the grand prix, and she was very good," Towell continued. "Today I went early in the class. The strides did not suit a big-strided horse because they were all a little bit waiting, but then it was hard to do the leave-outs, so it actually suited her because she has a bit of a choppy stride. All of the lines just ended up really smooth. After I went, I really did not feel like I was that quick, but she is just naturally a quick horse."
"I watched some rounds at the beginning, but I did not see the end," Towell noted. "I know Mclain (Ward) said he had my time, but he had a rail. I just stayed on the rhythm and tried to be smooth. I think I did the same strides as most people, but she is just quick. I went in there early in the class, and did not have any thoughts about what I had to beat, so I just went around and the mare jumped really well."
Towell plans to compete Pepperpot again in Sunday's $35,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic. He might also jump the mare in next week's Great Charity Challenge, presented by Fidelity Investments®.
"You can kind of use her for everything," Towell stated. "She is a nice Irish mare, and she is a little older, but she has jumped everywhere. You ask anything out of her, and she would do it."
Source: Press release from Equestrian Sport Productions News // Picture © Sportfot
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