Week five of the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) featured another exciting "Saturday Night Lights" event with over 4,000 spectators looking on as Great Britain's Ben Maher won his second grand prix in a row for the winter circuit. Maher jumped to victory in the $82,000 Adequan® CSI2* Grand Prix aboard Jane Clark's Urico after also taking top honors in last week's $100,000 Fidelity Investments® CSI 2* Grand Prix riding Cella. Saturday night's grand prix was generously sponsored by Adequan, which is distributed by Luitpold Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Allyn Mann, Director of the Animal Health Division at Luitpold Pharmaceuticals, was on hand to watch the class on Saturday evening and was thrilled with the success of the event and the great competition displayed. Mann presented Maher with an Adequan Tack Locker for his win.
"We are honored as a company to be involved with this whole sport," Mann stated. "I think tonight was just another example of the commitment by the horse, the rider, and especially the owners, which are really the foundation of everything that happens with this industry. We really appreciate everybody's efforts and it is just exciting to be a part of it."
Olympic course designer Bob Ellis set the track for the evening. Forty-seven entries began the class with 14 advancing to the jump-off and six of those clearing the second round course without fault. Ben Maher and Urico had the fastest time for the win. Argentina's Ramiro Quintana was the first entry to clear the short course aboard St. Brides Farm's Whitney and held the lead for six rounds with his time of 45.90 seconds before eventually finishing in fifth. Mario Deslauriers (USA) and Legacy Stables, LLC's Uraguay were the next pair to jump double clear and placed sixth with a time of 46.82 seconds.
The race for top honors continued with Beezie Madden (USA) and Abigail Wexner's Simon, who took over the lead with their clear round in 45.55 seconds to eventually place fourth. For her success, Madden was later presented with the Leading Lady Rider Award for week five competition, presented by Martha Jolicoeur and Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler.
Madden's lead did not hold on for long as Ben Maher and Urico took their start and blazed through the course in 43.81 seconds to grab the lead. Brianne Goutal (USA) and Cloverleaf Farm's Uata went next and made a great effort with their time of 45.05 seconds to finish third. Last to go, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm, LLC's Siri concluded the class with a swift round in 44.99 seconds to take the second place prize.
Class winner Urico is a 12-year-old KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor and another new mount for Ben Maher riding for owner Jane Clark. Maher and Urico put together a great round on Saturday night and seem to be quickly developing their new partnership.
Commenting on the class, Maher noted, "It was a difficult course tonight. It wasn't as big as last week, but it was technical and it was very careful jumping. Bob Ellis is an English course designer, so I should know his courses pretty well, to my advantage. The jump-off was quick. There was very fast riders after me this week, so congratulations to Brianne and Shane who pushed it right to the end there; I was holding on."
"Urico jumped great," Maher smiled. "I was lucky at fence one; I had a lucky rub. Another day it may have fallen, but somebody helped out today. I think that helped me; he jumped better and better as the jump-off went on. I made sure of the green vertical in the middle of the course. It was a nasty rail that caught McLain and a few other riders, so I took my time there and tried to make up time everywhere else."
Last week Maher explained that George Morris has been helping him get to know the new horses and gave him great advice on how to ride Cella. Again this week, Morris was there to guide Maher in his ride on Urico. "George was amazing again tonight helping me," Maher acknowledged. "He told me that if I felt right that I was seven strides to the last jump, but I think he may have been catching me out on a stretcher if I did that! So I stayed with my plan and luckily it worked out and I didn't get in trouble."
Maher described the difference between his two winning mounts, Cella and Urico, explaining, "They are completely different. They are both amazing horses. I think we picked the right weeks. Cella jumped last week, which was a much more bold, big, scopey class. This week was more careful. Urico feels like he needs a few rounds to get going. He felt very good tonight. This was only his fifth or sixth round, so he is still getting back into the swing of things and I think careful planning beforehand has helped pay off in the last two weeks."
He detailed further, "Urico is a little more conventional. He is a lot more predictable in what he is going to do. He turns very well, which helped with the jump-off tonight. Cella likes to take over and do things her way, but that is good enough for me. They are both a pleasure to ride and every time I ride into the ring I feel that they give me 150% and that is the difference between a positive attitude when you ride in to try and win a class and not have to risk playing it safe."
"I know that I am lucky to ride such great horses," Maher concluded. "I think things are just going my way right now. It is going great. I have a great team of people behind me and a lot of people helped even in the last couple of days to make Urico feel the best that he could tonight. I think the very small attention to detail is new to me. I pay attention to detail, but there are definitely some new things that I am learning even still. I think it is the element of the horses maybe liking me, something new. When things are fresh sometimes they go your way in the beginning as well, but they are great horses and it makes a big difference."
Second place finisher, Shane Sweetnam, was pleased with his rounds tonight with Siri. He stated, "She was very good. She is still green enough at this level. This time last year she only started doing 1.40m, so she has come a long way in only a year. I thought she jumped the first round very well. In the second round, we are not used to going fast with her and there were a lot in the jump-off. I said I would give it a go and I was very happy with what she did."
Brianne Goutal was also very happy with her mare, Uata, who is new to the big classes as well. "I am thrilled with my mare tonight," Goutal smiled. "I didn't think we were going to be here, definitely not at the beginning of the week. She has come a long way since two months ago when I started riding her. She is very unconventional, but she tries harder probably than any horse I have ever had or in the ring I think in general. Conor Swail, my trainer, has been riding her for me and it made a huge difference. A few months ago she wouldn't turn at all, so I was thrilled with her. I made her step up this week because I am trying to save my other two for the rest of the weeks. I don't think she could have jumped any better, so I am really happy."
Final Results: $82,000 Adequan® CSI 2* Grand Prix
1. URICO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor
Ben Maher (GBR), Jane F. Clark: 0/0/43.81
2. SIRI: 2002 Swedish Warmblood mare by Quite Easy x Favorit
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/0/44.99
3. UATA: 2001 KWPN mare by Heartbreaker x Zuidhorn
BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Cloverleaf Farm: 0/0/45.05
4. SIMON: 1999 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Polydox
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/45.55
5. WHITNEY: 2003 KWPN mare by Indoctro x Concorde
RAMIRO QUINTANA (ARG), St. Bride's Farm: 0/0/45.90
6. URAGUAY: 2001 KWPN gelding by Nairobi x Colino
MARIO DESLAURIERS (USA), Legacy Stables, LLC: 0/0/46.82
7. ANTARES F: 2000 Württemberger gelding by Araconit x Cento
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Grand Road Partners: 0/4/44.15
8. CARLOTTA SINGULAR: 2002 Hanoverian mare by Chasseur x Singular Joter
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Susan Grange: 0/4/44.83
9. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/4/45.86
10. VENUS: 2002 KWPN mare by Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Julius
MARILYN LITTLE (USA), Raylyn Farms, Inc: 0/4/46.00
11. USER ID: 2001 KWPN gelding by Namelus R x Goodwill
Darragh Kenny (IRL), OnlyJumpers.com: 0/4/47.20
12. NOPUS DU GUE JOUBERT: 2001 Selle Francais gelding by Oberon Du Moulin x Elf III
HILARY SIMPSON (USA), Quiet Hill Farm: 0/4/50.94
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