The 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival concluded its seventh week of competition, sponsored by Hermès, with action at two parts of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center on Sunday. At The Stadium, Irish riders Andrew Bourns, Darragh Kenny, and Shane Sweetnam swept the top three in the $50,000 Hermès Jumper Derby with a win for Bourns and his mount Gatsby. In the International Arena, Praise and Sheila Motley won the Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic. Tina Allen and French Kiss were victorious in the $5,000 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3'3" Hunter Classic.
Richard Jeffery of Bournemouth, England, set a demanding track for Sunday's jumper derby that featured 20 numbered obstacles, including the derby bank, table bank, open water, devil's dyke and more. The number of challenging natural obstacles along with the length of the course and the heat of the day tested the stamina of all of the horses and riders competing. With only two clear rounds completed in the faults converted format, speed was key, and the top three riders finished with just three one-hundredths of a second separating them.
Andrew Bourns and Gatsby went third in the order and cleared the course in 138.27 seconds to take the early lead. Two rounds later, Shane Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm, LLC's Little Emir had the time well in hand in 134.30 seconds, but a rail cost them four faults to eventually finish third in 138.30 seconds. Luis Larrazabal (VEN) and Gustavo Mirabal's G&C Lepanto were even faster in 131.17 seconds, but had two rails down to finish fourth with a final time of 139.17 seconds. Darragh Kenny took the second place prize with Hays Investment Corporation's Any Given Sunday. The pair had a total time of 138.29 seconds with time taken after a refusal at the devil's dyke.
Winning horse, Gatsby, is a nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion by Simba x Cruise On. Andrew Bourns purchased Gatsby four months ago in Ireland and just recently brought him over to the U.S. This is the pair's fourth week showing together and they have had consistent results.
"I am very happy for him today," Bourns stated after the class. "It was a big ask and I think it was a big step up for him and he really answered the call. I was a little worried about the length of the track and the heat. I thought it might take its toll, but he actually held up very well. Coming to the last fence he was pulling me just as hard as he was to the first fence. I was very happy with that."
"He has never shown on this field before," Bourns added. "Our relationship is very new, the combination is very new, so we are still trying to figure each other out. There were a few moments on the course where it got a little bit hairy, but he stayed careful and he just kept trying right away to the end."
Bourns did not think that his time would hold up with the horses and riders that followed in the class, but he knew that he had a great round. "I thought it was a fantastic round and I was extremely happy with the horse," he stated. "I was very confident in a top two or three finish. I did not realize it would be as close as it was. When Darragh was coming down the last line I really thought he had me and then he stopped. As the class went on, I realized the track was quite tough and it wasn't riding as easy as we thought, so I got more and more confident. When you are talking hundredths of seconds, it is very hard to be confident that you are going to win a class right until the very end."
"I am glad I was as fast everywhere because there was nothing in it," Bourns reflected. "It was right down to the wire. For even the top four spaces, it was so close. Over a track that length, you have to be a little bit relentless. You have to keep being fast everywhere because it is so long and it is such a large amount of time to stay riding. It was a big ask, but I think a lot of the horse and everything I have done so far he has been very consistent and extremely brave."
Second place finisher Darragh Kenny was also very happy with his mount, Any Given Sunday. Despite a stop on course the pair still had one of the fastest times. "My horse was brilliant," Kenny praised. "He did everything I wanted, even probably faster than I expected. I didn't even school any of these jumps or test the waters at all, so he was really brave. I was a little bit too fast to the dyke and I probably should have showed it to him first. It shocked him a little bit the first time and I just spun right around. He was fantastic. He is a super horse and he is so easy and brave. It was really simple for him. He stayed really careful at a really fast speed and tried so hard. It makes my life easier."
Third place finisher Shane Sweetnam has had a lot of success with his experienced mount Little Emir, including the same placing in this class last year. Sweetnam noted that he had a fast time last year as well and ironically had the same jump down, but he was very happy with his horse. "He was a good boy and he really tried hard," Sweetnam stated. "My speed was good enough. I thought that I might still have them with one down, but I think I might have gone a bit wider up on the bank than I did last year. I was still very happy with him. He gives you everything when he goes in there, so he doesn't owe me much. I thought it was a good class and a good crowd."
Bourns agreed that the class was a real crowd pleaser. "Any time a class goes down to the wire with such a tight margin, it makes it fun for everybody. It was thrilling," he noted. "I have to thank the sponsors as well," Bourns added. "Thank you to Hermès. I think they did a very nice job and I hope they all had a nice time. We put on a good show for them."
Final Results: $50,000 Hermès Jumper Derby
1. GATSBY ANDREW BOURNS (IRL) ANDREW BOURNS: 138.27
2. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY DARRAGH KENNY (IRL) HAYS INVESTMENT CORP: 138.29
3. LITTLE EMIR SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL) SPY COAST FARM, LLC: 138.30
4. G&C LEPANTO LUIS LARRAZABAL (VEN) GUSTAVO MIRABAL: 139.17
5. WHISTLER BEN MAHER (GBR) JANE CLARK: 139.24
6. FLAMING STAR CHARLES JACOBS (USA) CMJ SPORTHORSE, LLC: 140.85
7. THE MAN TO SEE JAMES NORTH (USA) FAIR PLAY FARM: 144.94
8. UATA BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA) CLOVERLEAF FARM: 152.53
9. FLEXING DARRAGH KERINS (IRL) DUTCH K RANCH: 153.35
10. NIELSON B JEANNE HOBBS (USA) JEANNE HOBBS: 156.09
11. EVENING STAR HEATHER CARISTO WILLIAMS (USA) MR. & MRS. RALPH CARISTO: 164.27
12. SHALIMAR DAVID BLAKE (IRL) PINE HOLLOW FARM: 165.81
Source: Press release from Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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