The tenth week of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) concluded with a day full of jumper competition at The Stadium on the beautiful grass field. Nick Skelton (GBR) and Beverly Widdowson's Big Star earned yet another victory at the FTI WEF in the $80,000 Pennfield Feeds CSI 3* Grand Prix. Skelton and Big Star beat out Cian O'Connor (IRL) and KEC Alligator Alley and David McPherson (GBR) and Chamberlain Z in a three horse jump-off.
Today's course was set by Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC. The class saw 45 competitors and just three were able to clear the first round course to advance to the jump-off. Returning to defend their title as the winners of the same class in 2011, Skelton and Big Star were the only pair to go double clear for the victory and also completed the fastest round in 39.95 seconds.
Cian O'Connor and KEC Alligator Alley, owned by Sinead and Oonagh Kennedy, had one rail at the last jump and a time of 41.93 seconds to finish second. David McPherson and Chamberlain Z, owned by McPherson and Mr. & Mrs. Holtgers, also had a rail in the jump-off and their time of 42.49 seconds placed third.
Big Star is a nine-year-old KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor. Skelton and Big Star were the first pair to show in the day's class and held the only clear round for most of the afternoon. O'Connor and McPherson did not show until 40th and 41st in the order of go, and cleared the course back to back.
Commenting on the jump-off, Skelton detailed, "He's a quick horse, but I didn't go crazy fast. He jumped really good. When you've got two like this after you, you never know what's going to happen. Don't believe any of them when they tell you they're just going for a steady clear. Even if there are only two in the jump-off, you've still got to go. You can't be nonchalant about it. You've got to get stuck in and go."
Skelton acknowledged the great success that he has had with all of his horses during this year's FTI WEF. "The horses have gone really well here," he said. "I'm lucky because I've got two very, very good horses. Probably as good as anybody's got. That makes life a lot easier. They make me look good."
Second place finisher Cian O'Connor has also had a great circuit and was pleased with his mount today. "I'm very happy with Alligator. I just got him at the start of this circuit. Before that he was doing 1.40m in Ireland," O'Connor noted. "He has never really even traveled outside of the country, so he has come a long way. When you look at the start list, you would think Nick Skelton and Big Star are the class act in the field. To be second to them is a big honor and a big deal. I'm certainly very, very pleased with my horse today."
Commenting on his round, O'Connor stated, "I knew Big Star would be very quick. Even naturally he's very quick without going fast, and Nick is a fast rider. I reckoned even if I had a couple down, I was going to be third. I went for a medium round. As it happened, if I had left the fence up, I was still going to be second, so it didn't really make any difference. When the horse is learning to jump this level, there's no harm to turn back inside and across fences. He was off the pace, but if they don't get closer to the pace, you can't just go from schooling to going fast. It's all part of this horse's career, which will hopefully take off at the bigger shows in Europe this summer."
Third place finisher David McPherson was also happy with his horse Chamberlain Z and today's outcome. "He has finally got it together today and he jumped great," McPherson said. "Under no circumstances would he ever catch Nick. Also I have not been in many jump-offs with him. He has jumped fabulous round after fabulous round, but I didn't want to go and do anything lunatic. I'm pleased with him."
McPherson praised Skelton, a fellow British rider, on his success. "He's brilliant on two fabulous horses at the moment. He's riding with absolute confidence. It just looks like he's in the groove," he acknowledged. "It is very rare that you have those 'purple patches' that are so sustained. It looks like he's going to have a phenomenal year."
On his placing in today's class, McPherson noted that it will help in qualifying for the $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix in week 12. "This was actually quite important for me to get a place here because I have only done three or four grand prix. I needed to get some points, so good job for me. I'm really pleased," he said.
Outside of the jump-off, Alexandra Thornton (GBR) and Blue Curacao, owned by Dunwalke LLC, finished the first round course with one time fault in 85.57 seconds to earn the fourth place honors. Thornton was also presented a special award as the Leading Lady Jumper Rider for the tenth week of competition, an award sponsored by Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler.
Richie Moloney (IRL) and Equinimity LLC's Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve also had one time fault in round one with a time of 87.91 seconds to place fifth. Jonathan Asselin (CAN) and Attache Stables' Showgirl had two time faults in 91.70 seconds and earned the sixth place prize.
Final Results: $80,000 Pennfield Feeds CSI 3* Grand Prix
1. BIG STAR: 2003 KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly and Gary Widdowson: 0/0/39.95
2. KEC ALLIGATOR ALLEY: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Aldatus Z x Clover Hill CIAN O'CONNOR (IRL), Sinead & Oonagh Kennedy: 0/4/41.93
3. CHAMBERLAIN Z: 2001 Zangersheide gelding by Chellano Z x Peter Pan DAVID MCPHERSON (GBR), David McPherson & M/M Holtgers: 0/4/42.49
4. BLUE CURACAO: 2001 BWP mare by Mr. Blue x Dark D'Amour ALEXANDRA THORNTON (GBR), Dunwalke LLC: 1/85.57
5. AHORN VAN DE ZUUTHOEVE: 2002 Hanoverian gelding by Acorado x Calypso II RICHIE MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity LLC: 1/87.91
6. SHOWGIRL: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Gold De Becourt x Elf III JONATHAN ASSELIN (CAN), Attache Stables: 2/91.70
7. AMARETTO D'ARCO: 2000 BWP stallion by Darco x Tenor Manciais SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 4/78.96
8. MADEMOISELLE: 1997 Holsteiner Mare by Libertino I x Silvester BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 4/81.36
9. QUINTENDER 2: 2001 Holsteiner stallion by Quinar x Contender HENRIK GUNDERSEN (DEN), Emilie Martinsen: 4/82.22
10. CHE GUEVARA 17: 2001 Holsteiner stallion by Concept x Rebel Z JORG OPPERMANN (GER), Heinz Eufinger: 4/82.66
11. VOYEUR: 2002 KWPN gelding by Tolano Van't Riethof x Goodwill KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Amalaya Investments: 4/82.83
12. UTAH: 2001 KWPN gelding by Andiamo x Jus De Pomme LESLIE HOWARD (USA), The Utah Group: 4/83.04
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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