Great Britain's Nick Skelton and Big Star triumphed in Saturday night's $80,000 Adequan CSI 2* Grand Prix during the fourth week of competition at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Nineteen countries were represented in the world-class event with a record 81 starters, the largest recorded weekend grand prix field. Riders from Canada, Venezuela, Great Britain, the United States, Ireland, Germany, and Sweden made it to the jump-off with Skelton leading the way.
Week four of the FTI WEF runs February 1-5, and is sponsored by Adequan. The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 1, 2012, and they will be awarding more than $6 million in prize money through the circuit. This week will conclude with the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic.
This year's Olympic Games course designer, Bob Ellis of Great Britain, set the track for tonight's 81 entries and skillfully narrowed the field down to ten for the jump-off. Skelton and Big Star, owned by Beverley Widdowson, were the clear winners with their faultless round over the short course in 45.93 seconds. Charlie Jayne (USA) and Alex Jayne's Urbanus were the only other pair to clear the jump-off course without fault, stopping the clock in 51.70 seconds for the second place prize.
Class winner Big Star is a nine-year-old KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor. Following the win Skelton spoke about his ride aboard the talented young horse in tonight's class, stating, "He jumped fantastic. I'm really pleased. He had one down in the WEF on Thursday, but I think he was a little bit rusty. He hadn't jumped for awhile. Today he was really very good. I'm very lucky to be riding him. I don't know what more to say really."
Skelton praised Bob Ellis on his course for the evening. "I'll be a bit biased really because he's from my country, but Bob's a great course builder," he smiled. "With 81 starters and he got 10 clear rounds, I think that was an amazing job. Fair play to him; he did a very good job. I thought there would have been 20. It was a good course."
Second place finisher Charlie Jayne agreed, stating, "Eighty-one in a class is a big number, I do agree. But I think if you look at the class tonight, I think everyone in there should have been in there. I think they all had a great shot and I think Bob Ellis did a fantastic job with the course. To only have 10 clear out of 81 with two star specs is great. Fences fell down from fence one to the skinny at the last fence. He did a fantastic job of not over-facing the younger horses but still causing errors at the right places."
On his ride aboard Urbanus, Jayne noted, "My horse is more of a Nations Cup horse. I've never really gone fast with him. Before I walked in the ring, my dad said, 'You know, double clear is going to get you a good check.' It's his horse, so I listened! When you have someone like Nick Skelton and Big Star, who are two amazing athletes, and when they're on, you're the first loser no matter what. I was very happy with my result today."
Venezuela's Andres Rodriguez and Caballito, owned by Arao Enterprises LLC, finished with one rail in 46.06 seconds to place third behind the two double clears. Rodriguez detailed his jump-off round, explaining, "I knew I needed to take a chance. With the riders I had behind, I needed to risk a little bit. I was a little bit too tight for the double and I had the back rail. Otherwise I would have gone clear. I'm happy I took the chance and ended up third than not taking a chance."
Rodriguez is still getting to know his mount Caballito, but was pleased with the horse's efforts tonight. "Caballito I haven't had for a long time. He was supposed to be my ride in the Pan American Games and then at the last moment he couldn't make it. I've had him now for six months. I am really pleased with him. I think I've never had a horse like that. It's a horse that whenever you get to the jump-off, you know you have a real chance. I'm really looking forward to having him for a long time."
Rodriguez had the fastest of several four fault rounds in the top ten. Finishing close behind, Daniel Zetterman put Sweden in the top of the class riding Glory Days, owned by Springfield Jumpers, to four faults in 46.22 seconds to earn the fourth place prize. Beezie Madden (USA) and Abigail Wexner's Cortes 'C' also earned four faults and finished fifth with their time of 46.34 seconds. Ireland took sixth and seventh place with Cian O'Connor and Blue Loyd 12, owned by O'Connor and Ashkirk Ltd., and Richie Moloney and his own and Equinimity LLC's Ahorn Van De Zuuthoeve each incurring four faults.
1. BIG STAR: 2003 KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Nimmerdor/NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly and Gary Widdowson: 0/0/45.93
2. URBANUS: 1997 BWP gelding by Heartbreaker x Ramiro /CHARLIE JAYNE (USA), Alex Jayne: 0/0/51.70
3. CABALLITO: 2002 Holsteiner gelding by Contendro x Argentinus /ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN), Arao Enterprises LLC: 0/4/46.06
4. GLORY DAYS: 2001 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Cardento 933 x Diamond Serpent/DANIEL ZETTERMAN (SWE), Springfield Showjumpers: 0/4/46.22
5. CORTES 'C': 2002 BWP gelding by Randel Z x Darco /BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/4/46.34
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood, Inc.
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