The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival featured events at two facilities Friday. At the Stadium, the $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 had grand prix competition with Reed Kessler, taking three of the top four spots. She scored the win with Cylana, was third on Ligist, and fourth with Pacha de Nantuel. Tina Fletcher and Unique IX were second.
There were 34 entries in today's grand prix, and they competed over a course designed by Richard Jeffery of Great Britain. There were eight that went clear to advance to the jump-off. Kessler had the daunting task of going first on Cylana, put they turned up the speed and set a clear round time of 40.492 seconds that couldn't be beat. "I wanted to take a shot," Kessler admitted. "The one jump-off I've done with her, the turning with the pelham is a little bit harder. Obviously I wanted to win, but I really wanted to take a shot and work on the speed and the turns. There's no reason not to go for it because you don't really know what you have. So I thought I'd just go and try and win!"
Mario Deslauriers and Cella had the second jump down to finish with four faults in 44.423 seconds for sixth place. Nicolas Pizarro and Crossing Jordan took down the first jump and the first in the double combination for eight faults in 48.121 seconds and seventh place. Kessler and her next mount, Ligist, had a rail at jump 6 for four faults in a very fast time of 40.140 seconds and third place. Lauren Hough and Casadora had a time of 43.982 seconds, but a rail at jump 15 gave them four faults and fifth place.
The next and only other clear round in the jump-off came from Tina Fletcher and Unique IX. They recorded a time of 48.817 seconds for the second place position. Kessler rode her third mount, Pacha de Nantuel, next in the order. They pulled a rail at the second element of the double combination for four faults in 41.204 seconds and finished in fourth place. The final ride in the ring was Pablo Barrios and G&C Sinatra. With 12 faults in a time of 43.488 seconds, they finished in eighth place.
Kessler was beaming after her fantastic performance. "It was a good day," she agreed. "I'm really happy. I've had a little bit of four-faultitis the past few weeks, had the last jump down. I've made some dumb, novice-ish mistakes. I was glad that I could just have a day where everything was executed correctly. I made a few mistakes in the jump-off with the other two, but I was happy. They all went well."
The move to The Stadium was a welcome one for Kessler. "The international ring is huge, so you're already on a gallop. But for me, on the grass you're always on a big hunt, almost at jump-off speed than a normal class in a sand ring. I think the way the ring is laid out, I always feel like everything is getting hunting on the gallop. I think that's the major change for me," she explained.
"I love when they put natural obstacles in there, they should," she continued. "It's great for all of us, for me, to practice. It's a treat to come out here and jump the naturals. I love showing on grass, picking up a gallop and hunting around. I think I have the best three horses to do it! I'm lucky."
Kessler has only had Cylana, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Skippy II x Darco, since last summer, but it took until this winter to get her fit. "We got her at the beginning of the summer, but we were showing in Europe and had a bunch over there, so I didn't get to do that much with her. When we first got her, she was not as athletic, a little unfit. We really just worked on her fitness all summer and she's like a totally different horse this year when we brought her," she noted. "She's hot, she's got blood, she's got a lot of natural impulsion. Even though in her lifetime I don't think she's done much more than 1.40m or 1.45m, every time we move her up she's great."
Top Five: $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 6
1 CYLANA REED KESSLER REED KESSLER: 0/0/40.492
2 UNIQUE IX TINA FLETCHER TINA FLETCHER: 0/0/48.817
3 LIGIST REED KESSLER REED KESSLER: 0/4/40.140
4 PACHA DE NANTUEL REED KESSLER REED KESSLER: 0/4/41.204
5 CASADORA LAUREN HOUGH LAURA MATEO: 0/4/43.982
For full results visit www.showgroundslive.com
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood, Inc.
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