A special $84,000 Salamander Hotels & Resorts Valentine's Grand Prix CSI 3* was held on Friday night at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) with another exciting win for Kent Farrington (USA) and his speedy mount, Blue Angel. The pair has been on fire this season and topped the class almost three seconds faster than second place finishers Cian O'Connor (IRL) and Carlous Z. Australia's Benjamin Meredith and Bernadien van Westuur finished third.
FTI WEF week six, sponsored by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, runs February 12-16, 2014. The week features the coveted World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition, with hunters taking to the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) for their daily classes, weekly championships, and a chance to compete in Saturday night's $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular.
On Friday night, Great Britain's Richard Jeffery set the course for 42 starters in the grand prix, held in the International Ring at The Stadium at PBIEC, with eight clear rounds to jump-off. Third to go in the order, Kent Farrington and Robin Parsky's Blue Angel slammed the door on the other competitors, not leaving little room for improvement on their blazing fast time of 36.58 seconds for the win.
Cian O'Connor and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.'s Carolus Z tried their best and finished second in 39.28 seconds. Benjamin Meredith and River Farm Sporthorses' Bernadien van Westuur finished third in 41.56 seconds. The only other pair to clear the short course without fault, Thomas Dresler (DEN) and Never Say Never, placed fourth in 42.52 seconds. Emanuel Andrade (VEN) and Hollow Creek Farm's ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z had the fastest four-fault round in 37.89 seconds.
Kent Farrington and Blue Angel kicked off the winter with a great win in the $125,000 Trump Invitational Grand Prix CSI 2*, presented by Rolex, in January and also had a great start to this week with a win in Thursday's $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6. The momentum of that win just one day prior definitely helped keep the pair on their toes for Friday night's class.
"Blue Angel is a very consistent horse. She has been a real winner for me over the last year, and I think she is just starting to hit her stride for this season," Farrington stated after his win. "Yesterday was a great warm up. A 'Table A' class like that really suits the horse in this venue, and I thought it was the same tonight. It really suited the horse's strengths, and in the jump-off, I really just let her do her thing."
"I thought I got a couple lucky rubs actually in the first round, and she came out for the jump-off and really upped her game and jumped much better," Farrington noted. "She was back on form and felt more like herself in the jump-off."
Talking about his super fast pace through the short course, Farrington detailed, "It's a very competitive horse. She has had a lot of experience and we have gotten to know each other really well, so she's looking for the fences now off the corner. More and more, the more I ride her, the more she knows me. We know each other's moves, and she knows what to expect."
Farrington also acknowledged the great venue at The Stadium at PBIEC for Friday's class, which was a nice change for both horses and riders as well as a more intimate setting with the fantastic Friday night crowd. "I think this is a great change of pace from the other venue," Farrington stated. "It's great for the horses not to feel like they are showing in the same ring over and over again. This has an indoor feel to it in terms of dimensions with a close audience to the arena, and I think they could really use this ring for World Cup qualifiers. I think it would really help prepare our horses for World Cup Finals much better than the bigger arena over there (on the Main Grounds). It's always sort of a shock to our horses to go from a huge gallop outside to a tiny indoor ring, so that could be really beneficial to us in the future."
Blue Angel has won classes in many different venues and proved that she likes the ring at The Stadium with back to back wins this week. "She's pretty versatile like that, but I think as rideable as she is, she can really excel in an arena like this," Farrington said.
For Cian O'Connor, the second place finish was great with Carolus Z, who he explained is a fairly new mount. "It's the first grand prix placing with him, so I'm pretty happy," O'Connor stated. "I knew it was going to be mission impossible to beat Kent, so I just tried to jump a clear round and hopefully hold on for second place. It was great prize money tonight, so thanks very much to the sponsor. It is fantastic to come to a different venue, but also to jump for this kind of money is fantastic. Some people are jumping younger horses or new horses, and it's great, it's worthwhile."
"I just got him in the winter, so I did a few indoors with him," O'Connor said of Carolus Z. "He is a big horse to keep together and I'm just getting the hang of him, so hopefully good things to come."
Benjamin Meredith was quite pleased to get a top finish with his mount, Bernadien van Westuur, and explained that this was his first time showing in a big grand prix at the FTI WEF. "I'm stoked to be here with these guys; this is very exciting for me," Meredith said. "Thank you very much to Sheila Johnson for sponsoring the class. My partnership with this horse is relatively new, and I'm actually not the rider of this horse. My client, Haley Schaufeld, who normally rides it, is up north at a funeral and Fred Schaufeld is part owner of a couple of things with Salamander, so it is really exciting that this could work out."
"This is actually my first big grand prix in Wellington, so it's pretty exciting really, and it's really cool to ride here," Meredith acknowledged. "The horse was really great tonight. She has not jumped this big in a while, so halfway through the first round she was jumping a little too high, and then she went 'Oh right, I remember,' and then it was fine."
"She has to keep going, and I just thought, 'Why not?'" Meredith said of the decision to jump in the night class. "I did the 'WEF' (Challenge Cup) and she was really fun, so I thought I would give it a go and it worked out!"
Sheila C. Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, was thrilled with the fantastic class and praised the riders on a job well done. "First of all, I would like to thank the Bellissimos," Johnson stated. "This is incredible. I think all evening, I have been hearing how much the spectators love this venue and I think the riders like it, it's much more intimate. We love the other ring also, but this is much more of a European-type ring. I just have to say that as the sponsor, I live my life believing in the double bottom line. The sport has been so terrific for my family and my daughter. Kent is my daughter's trainer, which I am thrilled about. This is my way to be able to give back to the sport and I think that's very important. I hope that there are many other families that want to give back to the sport as well."
"It has been terrific for my children to grow up in this environment, and to be able to really see them strive for the passion that they have and for the love of the sport," Johnson continued. "It is really just an honor to be able to be a sponsor tonight. It is also a way of showcasing the third act of my life- this is my third company, so it just really fits into this venue with the equestrian feel. The resort in Middleburg is an equestrian resort of the highest caliber, so we are just very excited for its future and invite anyone to come see it, especially the riders!"
For full show results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.
Final Results: $84,000 Salamander Hotels & Resorts Valentine's Grand Prix CSI 3*
1. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/0/36.58
2. CAROLUS Z: 2003 Zangersheide gelding by Canabis Z x Toulon
CIAN O'CONNOR (IRL), Ronnoco Jump Ltd: 0/0/39.28
3. BERNADIEN VAN WESTUUR: 2001 BWP mare by Toulon x Wibramino
BENJAMIN MEREDITH (AUS), River Farm Sporthorses: 0/0/41.56
4. NEVER SAY NEVER: 2001 KWPN gelding by Heartbreaker x Jus de Pomme
THOMAS DRESLER (DEN), Thomas Dresler: 0/0/42.52
5. ZZ TOP VH SCHAARBROEK Z: 2001 Zangersheide gelding by Zandor Z x Latus I
EMANUEL ANDRADE (VEN), Hollow Creek Farm: 0/4/37.89
6. CORAL REEF VIA VOLO: 1998 BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 0/4/38.50
7. OHLALA: 2003 Swedish Warmblood mare by Orlando x Cardento
LAUREN HOUGH (USA), The Ohlala Group: 0/4/40.23
8. WIRMA: 2003 KWPN mare by Hors La Loi III x Lux
BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/4/40.45
9. ARISTO Z: 2004 Zangersheide gelding by Andiamo Z x Flamenco Desemilly
BEN MAHER (GBR), Jane Clark: 4/66.75
10. SOLERINA: 1999 Irish Sport Horse mare by Cruising x Diamond Lad
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak & Spy Coast Farms: 4/66.83
11. ROCKY W: 1998 KWPN gelding by Libero H x Corofino
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), Kaitlin Campbell: 4/67.54
12. ACORTE: 2003 Hanoverian mare by Acorado x Stakkato
AUDREY COULTER (USA), Copernicus Stables LLC: 4/68.62
Source: Press release from Equestrian Sport Productions
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