The second week of the 2011 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida concluded on Sunday with the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Classic. In a fantastic display of speed and power, Great Britain's Ben Maher and Oscar were able to top the field for an exciting victory.
Showing over a course set by Luc Musette of Belgium, 13 of the original 31 entries were able to jump clear in the first round to advance to the jump-off. Six of those horse and rider combinations finished double clear, and it was the fastest jump-off round of Ben Maher and Oscar in 38.723 seconds that earned the victory.
Maher bested the previously leading time of 39.125 seconds set by Nick Skelton (GBR) and Carlo 273, to move the pair into second place. Finishing in third was Sarah Treddenick (USA) riding My November Guest, with a time of 40.620 seconds.
Class winner Oscar is a 15-year-old KWPN Dutch Warmblood gelding (Harcos x Animo). Oscar jumped at the international Basel CSI Horse Show in Switzerland just one week ago and flew straight to Florida this week, arriving on Wednesday. Maher explained that they had not intended to show the horse this week, but decided to jump when Oscar felt fresh upon his arrival.
"The plan worked," Maher smiled. "He is quite a hot, sharp horse, so I think the warmer weather helps to quiet him out a little bit. He is a great 1.50m horse and that is why we brought him here, for these classes and maybe the WEF Challenge classes on Thursdays. As far as I am aware this is his first time in the United States and this is his first time competing outdoors for a few months now, so it was quite a good round being that he did not have any training rounds previously."
"The course was difficult enough; I am surprised that there were 13 clear," Maher added. "There were some good horses, some up and coming grand prix horses just getting going early in the season. It was quick, and there were a lot of turns as well, so you needed a fast, careful horse to win. He is naturally a fast horse in the air; he doesn't jump too high, so he saves time and I think I was pretty quick to the last fence."
Saturday’s biggest class – the 2* $40,000 Equine Couture/Tuff Rider Grand Prix - was won by Nick Skelton. The British rider has been showing off cracking form in Florida, and notched his third major victory of the circuit tonight with Big Star.
Source: Equestriansport.com - Press release by Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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