Christine McCrea (USA) and Candy Tribble's Zerly beat an all-star international field in Thursday's $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 during the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival's (FTI WEF) CSI-W 5* week sponsored by The Bainbridge Companies. McCrea and Zerly won the largest portion of prize money in the richest purse ever offered in the 24-year history of the WEF Challenge Cup series over Olympic Gold Medalists Nick Skelton (GBR) and Big Star. Germany's Daniel Deusser and Cornet d'Amour finished third.
Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL, is the course designer in the International Arena at PBIEC for week nine. In Thursday's Challenge Cup competition, Stephens saw 84 entries jump his first round course and 31 competitors make it through to the jump-off. Twenty-eight riders representing six different countries returned for the tiebreaker after three entries opted out of the final round.
The USA's Christine McCrea and Zerly raced to the win in 31.10 seconds, the fastest of 14 double clear rounds. The top five places were all separated by hundredths of a second.
Placing second, Nick Skelton and Beverly Widdowson's Big Star finished in 31.25 seconds. Daniel Deusser and Cornet d'Amour, owned by Stephex Stables and Pedro Veniss, clocked in at 31.43 seconds to place third. Daniel Bluman (COL) and Sancha LS completed the course in 31.44 seconds for fourth place honors and Laura Kraut (USA) and Cherry Knoll Farm, Inc.'s Cedric were right behind them in 31.46 seconds to finish fifth.
Class winner, Zerly, is a nine-year-old KPWN mare by Querlybet Hero x Carthago. McCrea got Zerly last August and explained that she had watched the mare show a lot in Europe with her previous rider, American Andrew Ramsay. When Zerly came up for sale, McCrea jumped at the chance to buy her.
"Honestly, she is like a dreamboat," McCrea praised. "She has a big stride, but she can make it very small. She can jump a really careful jump and she can jump the hugest jump. For me, she is everything."
Commenting on this afternoon's class, McCrea noted, "I never thought there would be 31 clear, but I think this is a big week and people have geared up for it. Everybody knows that this is the biggest money of the circuit this week, so I think everybody is coming here with their 'A' game. There are so many good horses and riders; you can't underestimate anybody."
"The course didn't ride easy," McCrea added. "I didn't think it was small. I think the horses just jumped really well and the footing is good and there are really good horse and rider combinations here."
Nick Skelton and Big Star were holding on to the lead in the jump-off when McCrea and Zerly entered the ring and just edged out their time. "I saw Nick go in the jump-off and I thought there was no way I could beat him, but she is very fast," McCrea acknowledged. "I have no idea how I made the time. I flew from one to two. That is the only thing. The rest I am not really sure."
McCrea was excited to get her first big win with Zerly, especially in Thursday's big money class. "It is fantastic that they had this much prize money, especially when you have so many in the class," she stated. "It is inspiring and we appreciate it."
"I am thrilled," she concluded. "She is only nine and this was my first big win with her. I just started in the grand prixs (with her) down here, so I am really excited."
In addition to the winning check for $37,500 for the class, McCrea was also presented with $6,000 for the SSG "Go Clean for the Green" promotion. A $3,000 bonus is offered each week if the winning rider of the Challenge Cup class is wearing the SSG 'Digital' Riding Gloves in all rounds of competition with the SSG logo clearly visible. The bonus went unclaimed during week eight, so McCrea won two weeks' worth of bonus money. Zerly was also honored with the Champion Equine Insurance Jumper Style Award.
Final Results: $125,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 9
1. ZERLY: 2004 KPWN mare by Querlybet Hero x Carthago
CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/0/31.10
2. BIG STAR: 2003 KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor
NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly Widdowson: 0/0/31.25
3. CORNET D'AMOUR: 2003 Westphalian gelding by Cornet Obolensky x Damiani
DANIEL DEUSSER (GER), Stephex Stables & Pedro Veniss: 0/0/31.43
4. SANCHA LS: 2003 SLS mare by Chin Chin x Polydor
DANIEL BLUMAN (COL), Daniel Bluman: 0/0/31.44
5. CEDRIC: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Chambertin x Carolus Z
LAURA KRAUT (USA), Cherry Knoll Farm, Inc: 0/0/31.46
6. ONIRA: 1996 KWPN gelding by Nimmerdor x Ramiro
BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/0/32.24
7. TALOUBET: 2000 KWPN gelding by Baloubet Du Rouet x Quidam De Revel
PAULO SANTANA (BRA), Paulo Santana: 0/0/32.31
8. LANSDOWNE: 2003 KWPN stallion by Guidam x Wolfgang
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Ariel & Susan Grange: 0/0/33.06
9. UNEX OMELLI: 1996 KWPN gelding by Burggraaf x Equador
TIM GREDLEY(GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 0/0/33.14
10. Z CANTA: 2004 KWPN mare by Casantos x Abantos
CATHERINE PASMORE (USA), Pasmore Stables LLC: 0/0/33.21
11. NOUGAT DU VALLET: 2001 Selle Francais gelding by Scherif D'elle
KATHERINE DINAN (USA), Grant Road Partners: 0/0/33.59
12. UNEX DAMORA Z: 2004 Zangersheide mare by Dutch Capitol x Chellano Z
TIM GREDLEY (GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 0/0/33.99
Source: Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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