Italy's Lorenzo de Luca and Elky van het Indihof sped their way to an exciting win in Friday's $34,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.45m on a beautiful afternoon at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL. De Luca and Elky van het Indihof have had several top finishes at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) recently and finally got their victory with a fantastic round to beat out USA's Caitlin Ziegler and Christine.
Showing in the International Arena at PBIEC on Friday, the $34,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.45m saw 41 entries in total with 15 clear rounds. The second entry to show over Richard Jeffery's (GBR) speed track, Caitlin Ziegler set a very fast pace in 67.10 seconds with Artisan Farms LLC'c Christine that would hold the lead through most of the class. Not until Lorenzo de Luca entered the ring, third to last in the order with T & L NV's Elky van het Indihof, did the lead change hands. The pair blazed through the course in 65.98 seconds for the win.
Abigail McArdle (USA) and David McArdle's Cosma 20 finished in 67.57 seconds to place third. Ben Maher (GBR) and Kavanagh IV, owned by Maher and John Renick, finished fourth in 67.71 seconds.
De Luca (26) first got Elky van het Indihof in July of 2013 and has had great results with the ten-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Toulon x Thunder van de Zuuthoeve), including wins and top finishes throughout Europe. This was Elky's first time traveling to Florida for the winter, and she has made consistent improvement with each week of competition.
The mare started out with sixth and seventh place finishes during week five in the $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m and $84,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic respectively. In week six, she moved up to place fourth in the $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m and fifth in the $34,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.45m. During week eight's CSIO competition, she stepped up her game once more to finish second in the $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m. Now in week ten, the speedy horse kicked things off by placing third in Wednesday's $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m and then finally got her win in the $34,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.45m speed class.
De Luca was thrilled with the win and praised his horse on an excellent round. "It is nice to finally win a class with her here," he smiled. "She is fantastic. She is a super fast horse, and she wins a lot. She is so competitive, and she loves the speed classes. Sometimes I try to jump some grand prix classes with her, but she is very competitive in the speed ones."
"We made 65 seconds," de Luca said of his time. "That was actually my plan to do 65, because I saw Caitlin go and her horse has a really big stride, but I think my horse is faster on the turns. She is very quick. It was quite a tricky, delicate course, but it was really nice."
This was Elky van het Indihof's last day showing this week. She will go to the Equine Conditioning Center for some pampering and then head home to rest up for the last two weeks of FTI WEF competition. De Luca will show his top horse, Zoe II, in Saturday night's $125,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix 3*. Zoe is also already qualified for week twelve's $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5*.
De Luca came to the FTI WEF for the first time last year and explained that this is the first year that he has had some really good horses here. He is from Italy, but has spent the last three years living in Belgium, riding for Neil Jones Equestrian. This year they brought seven horses, some for sale, some for the small classes, and four for the bigger classes. They are stabled with sponsor, Tim Collins.
"Mr. Collins has a stable here, so we started the partnership with him last year, and now we are going to keep coming in the winter. It is beautiful to come here," de Luca noted. "It is a perfect show to go to in the winter. In Europe it is really cold, and we don't like showing indoors that much actually. This is the best show to make the horses ready for the season."
"It was quite a shock," de Luca said of his first trip to Wellington last year. "The level of competition is unbelievable. That is the top level in the world I think. They are the best riders with the best horses, and you just learn a lot staying here. Last year I didn't have too many horses to compete, but it was a great experience just being here because you meet some people who have always been your idols for a long time. McLain Ward is I think one of the best, Nick Skelton, Laura Kraut, they are all here. Ben Maher, Ben is unbelievable. Scott Brash, I mean, the best are here. It is a perfect way to compete with them and get stronger and learn a lot."
"You just learn from watching the classes, and the jump-offs are amazing," de Luca added. "I think last year, when I came back to Europe, I was way better after the three months here because you get better so quickly. Three months here is like one year in Europe to show in the big level."
After competing in Wellington in 2013, de Luca moved up to jump at the five-star level for the first time and felt confident because of the experience that he had gained.
"When we went back to Europe we got two very good horses," he explained. "We started to do the 5* Nations Cup with my good mare, and we also got a horse to show at the World Cup in Verona. It was actually very good because then you go there and you are already competitive. If you go there and maybe you have not come here to compete, you try just to get around, but this show makes you so much stronger."
Earlier in the day, a $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m Speed Challenge was held in the International Arena with the second win of the week for Hannah Selleck (USA) and Descanso Farm's Bauer. Ireland's Paul O'Shea guided Skara Glen's Sienna to victory later in the afternoon in the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m jump-off class.
Final Results: $34,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.45m
1. ELKY VAN HET INDIHOF: 2004 Belgian Warmblood mare by Toulon x Thunder van de Zuuthoeve
LORENZO DE LUCA (ITA), T & L NV: 0/65.98
2. CHRISTINE: 2004 Holsteiner mare by Cassini I HLP x Unknown
CAITLIN ZIEGLER (USA), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/67.10
3. COSMA 20: 2003 Hanoverian mare by Couleur Rubin x Stakkato
ABIGAIL MCARDLE (USA), David McArdle: 0/67.57
4. KAVANAGH IV: 2002 AES gelding by Kannan x Carousel
BEN MAHER (GBR), John Renick & Ben Maher: 0/67.71
5. UNEX OMELLI: 1996 KWPN gelding by Burggraaf x Equador
TIM GREDLEY (GBR), Unex Competition Yard: 0/67.99
6. WEEZER: 2003 KWPN mare by Drossan x Furinos
EIKEN SATO (JPN), Stephex Stables: 0/68.77
7. BRIGHTON: 2006 KWPN gelding by Contender II x Quick Star
TIFFANY FOSTER (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/69.28
8. LANDINI: 2002 Oldenburg gelding by Loranos x Liberty M
MICHAEL DESIDERIO (USA), Sharon Milchovich: 0/70.51
9. CORAL REEF AAJEE: 2005 KWPN gelding by Lupicor x Mermus R
ANN KNIGHT KARRASCH (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 0/72.51
10. HH CALVANO: 2002 BWP gelding by Clinton x Latano
QUENTIN JUDGE (USA), Double H Farm: 0/76.00
11. QUATTRO QUEEN: 2004 Oldenburg mare by Quattro B x Landcapitol
JUDY GAROFALO TORRES (USA), Juan Torres: 0/76.48
12. BARNETTA: 2004 Westphalian gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Polydor
FEDERICO SZTYRLE (ARG), Sky Group: 0/77.17
Source: Press release from Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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