The second week of competition at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded on Sunday with young riders taking the spotlight in the International Arena, followed by the $35,000 Suncast® Championship Classic. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) and Unbelievable 5, owned by Windward Farm and Jessica Siuda, renewed their winning partnership.
There were 10 clear rounds out of 54 entries in the $35,000 Suncast® Championship Classic, and they traveled a course designed by Catsy Cruz (MEX). Michaels-Beerbaum and Unbelievable 5, a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Manhattan x Democraat, posted the fastest time of 34 seconds flat. Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Check Picobello Z, owned by Artisan Farms LLC and Torrey Pines, were just behind in the standings when they set the pace in 34.64 seconds. Third place went to Chloe Reid (USA) on Codarco in a time of 34.81 seconds. Ireland's Cian O'Connor and Sam du Challois, owned by Ronnocco Jump, Ltd. And Jean-Claude Jobin, were fourth in 35.03 seconds, while Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) rode David Gochman's Cannavaro BH to fifth place in 35.08 seconds.
Michaels-Beerbaum watched Lamaze in the jump-off and saw him leave a stride out from jumps one to two. "I didn't even try for that; that was too extreme," she revealed. "I just tried to ride the track how I knew he could do it. I really cut to number three and then I was really short everywhere else. I slowed down a little bit to the last (jump). There was possibly one less stride there that I might have tried had we been in better form together, but it wasn't necessary in the end."
Getting back into form was the goal for Michaels-Beerbaum, who explained the Unbelievable 5 is just back into the main ring after a two-year absence due to injury. The pair was successful at top shows in Europe in 2013 before he was sidelined. Last summer, Unbelievable 5 returned to showing locally with another rider, and Michaels-Beerbaum started back with him in the fall.
"This is his first big win, but also (his first) big track again. It took a long time after an almost two year break to get him going again. This is really nice for him that he showed his form again and was as good as ever. It was nice for the owners because they spent a lot of time and had a lot of patience," she shared. "A lot of people would have given up on the horse and would have thought he wouldn't make it back, but they really gave it the time and proper veterinary care to bring him back in the sport. This is really quite a nice win for him."
While it was the first time that Michaels-Beerbaum could push for speed in a jump-off, she felt very comfortable doing so due to her previous relationship with him. "I know the horse very, very well. He had some outstanding results at 1.60m grand prix. I know he's very, very fast. Until now I've only gone slow with him, so this was the first fast round, but I did feel very comfortable knowing him. He's like an old partner of mine. The speed part wasn't an issue. But it is the first time he's gone fast in over two years! It all came together really nicely. He likes going fast. He's at his most comfortable going fast."
Michaels-Beerbaum was happy to start out the 2016 WEF circuit with a win. She remarked, "It's very difficult to win here. If you win anything here, it's extraordinary. It's a great way to start. My greatest pleasure is that this great horse that has had a rough go is back in form and back in the sport. It's really quite nice."
Source: Press release from Equestrian Sport Productions News // Picture © Sportfot
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