The 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) kicked off its fifth week of competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on Wednesday with a win for Ireland's Ronan McGuigan and Capall Zidane in the $34,000 1.45m FEI speed class. McGuigan topped his trainer and fellow Irishman, Conor Swail, who finished second aboard Ariana. Meagan Nusz (USA) and Vesuvius finished third.
The course designer in the International Arena for week five is Robert Ellis of Great Britain. Ellis began the week with 57 to show in Wednesday's 1.45m speed competition with 19 clear rounds.
Lillie Keenan (USA) and Chansonette Farm LLC's Balance were first to go and set the pace at 65.71 seconds to hold the lead through 25 rounds, but were eventually pushed to fifth place. Meagan Nusz and Amalaya Investment's Vesuvius upped the pace in 63.79 seconds and ended in third. Ronan McGuigan and Capall Zidane soon came along to take the lead in 63.54 seconds. Andrew Ramsay (USA) and Shalanno Farms LLC's Welfare jumped into fourth with their time of 64.64 seconds. In the end, Conor Swail and Susan Grange's Ariana were just of the mark in 63.67 seconds to finish in second.
McGuigan and Capall Zidane had a great 2014 season, including most recent wins in ESP's Holiday Series in November and December. After a little time off, Capall Zidane was back in action in week two of WEF and jumped to his first win of 2015 in week three's $8,000 1.45m jump-off class. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Concorde x Baloubet du Rouet) had last week off and came back fresh and ready to go to kick off week five with a win.
"He felt good today. He was very fresh, and he was going forward," McGuigan noted. "The course ideally did not suit me. There were a lot of turn backs and stuff. He prefers more of a gallop, but I'll take it. Usually I give him quite a bit of room on the turn backs, but he is very fast over the ground, so once I get over the jump I am able to get away fast." The win feels greater for McGuigan after winning over his friend and trainer, Conor Swail.
"I got to beat my trainer, which is even better," McGuigan smiled. "He helps me a lot. We are best buddies, but that made the win even sweeter. I'll have lots of bragging rights now!"
With great prize money and FEI world ranking points on the line, the classes are very competitive, and riders have to do everything they can to finish on top.
"When you go in there you have to go for it from start to finish," McGuigan professed. "There is no steadying up at all or you're further down the line." Meagan Nusz held the lead before McGuigan entered the ring, and he detailed the difference between their rounds.
"Meagan went inside to number five, the in and out. I went around. She had also done five strides after the double and I had actually done six, but that helped me better in the next turn back. I think the five maybe threw you too far away."
"I didn't see Conor go, but he said he lost it on the second to last jump," McGuigan added. "He came around the corner and got a bad stride and he had to get a little deep to that jump, so he lost a bit of speed on her. It was close."
McGuigan and Capall Zidane will show again in Thursday's $34,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 and hope to qualify for Sunday's $127,000 Ariat® Grand Prix CSI 3* on the grass derby field. They were third in that class last year.
Also showing on Wednesday, the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m speed class was held in a California Split with wins for Laura Chapot (USA) with Mary Chapot's Zealous as well as Ramiro Quintana (ARG) with St. Bride's Farm's Bialda. The $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m jump-off class concluded the day with a win for Conor Swail (IRL) and Blue Hill Farm LLC's Tahiti Island.
Competition continues on Thursday with the $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 featured in the International Arena and the presentation of championship honors to the Equine Tack Second Year Green Hunters in the E.R. Mische Grand Hunter Ring. For full results and more information, please visit www.pbiec.com.
Final Results: $34,000 1.45m Speed
1. CAPALL ZIDANE: 2004 KWPN gelding by Concorde x Baloubet du Rouet RONAN MCGUIGAN (IRL), Ronan McGuigan: 0/63.54
2. ARIANA: 2001 KWPN mare by Oklund x Damiro CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Susan Grange: 0/63.67
3. VESUVIUS: 2002 KWPN gelding by Numero Uno x Expert MEAGAN NUSZ (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/63.79
4. WELFARE: 2003 KWPN gelding by Pacific x Zortin ANDREW RAMSAY (USA), Shalanno Farms LLC: 0/64.64
5. BALANCE: 2006 KWPN gelding by Cantos x Peter Pan LILLIE KEENAN (USA), Chansonette Farm LLC: 0/65.71
6. BRIGHTON: 2006 KWPN gelding by Contender II x Quick Star TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/66.02
7. HERACROSS: 2000 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Ramiro B x Clover Hill PARIS SELLON (USA) Paris Sellon: 0/66.67
8. BALOU DU REVENTON: 2006 Oldenburg stallion by Cornet Obolensky x Continue LJUBOV KOCHETOVA (RUS), Ljubov Kochetova: 0/67.44
9. WIRMA: 2003 KWPN mare by Hors La Loi III x Lux BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/68.80
9. CHAQUI Z: 2006 Zangersheide stallion by Chacco Blue x Quinar Z SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/68.80
11. ROMANTOVICH TAKE ONE: 2000 KWPN gelding by Numero Uno x Karandasj CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/68.84
12. BABALOU 41: 2005 Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Silvio I TODD MINIKUS (USA), Two Swans Farm: 0/68.99
Source: Press release from Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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