Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa and HH Let's Fly galloped to victory in the $30,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 1 on the second day of competition at the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) on Thursday. After kicking the year off with a second place finish in last weekend's inaugural $100,000 Trump Invitational Grand Prix, the duo is off to the races with a win to start their winter circuit.
Eric Hasbrouck is the course designer in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center this week and set the track for Thursday's $30,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 1. Thirty-eight entries contested the class for the first round of competition and nine jumped clear to advance to the jump-off. A tight time allowed kept five others without jumping faults out of the tie breaker.
Seven of the nine jump-off entries cleared the second round course without fault, but it was the trailblazing time of Rodrigo Pessoa and Double H Farm's HH Let's Fly that set the pace and held on through the end. Pessoa and the 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Lordanos x Forrest galloped through the timers in 35.940 seconds, first to go in the jump-off, and no one else would come close.
Peter Wyle (USA) and The Wannahave Group's Sandor De La Pomme finished second with their time of 36.392 seconds. Third went to Shane Sweetnam (IRL) aboard Spy Coast Farm, LLC's Siri with a time of 36.591 seconds. Luis Larrazabal (VEN) and Anabel Simon's G&C Sacramento placed fourth with their time of 36.664 seconds.
"It was definitely a good start, with last week as well," Pessoa smiled. "Last Sunday we were second at the Trump Invitational and now a nice win to kick off the season. Obviously going first is never easy, but the strategy when you go first is to try to have your plan and execute it the best you can and just push the rest to catch you. My plan worked well. I know the horse very well. I have had him for awhile and I have a lot of practice with him with fast courses, so I know what I can do and what I cannot do. I thought it was pretty good. You never know if it is enough, but I thought it would be pretty close."
Pessoa and Let's Fly have had a great partnership for the last several years and Let's Fly seems to be in great form this season. Pessoa detailed, "He is going good. For two years my main horses were injured and I had to use him in the 1.60m all of the time and that took a little bit of a toll on him. Last year on the circuit here he didn't perform as well, so when I went back to Europe I thought I would leave him in the smaller classes and compete him in the 1.45m where it is really easy. I wanted to let him regain confidence and regain all of his potential. From time to time I would bring him up and down."
"He has been a great horse for us; he has had some great wins," Pessoa recalled. "He won the $500,000 Grand Prix in Charlotte and he won the Grand Prix of Rome and he has won a number of classes here. He is not the most spectacular horse, but he is always a sure soldier there for our string."
Going first in the jump-off, Pessoa described his strategy with Let's Fly, stating, "I was trying to be as short as possible. I started really on an angle to number one and did the number of strides there and got a really good one to the double and to the Hermes oxer as well; I really sliced that. I thought with him I didn't really like to do five strides on the last line because I didn't want to open him much, so I kind of jumped the vertical a little bit on an angle to give me the room to do the six and I had to be really patient to the last fence because he opened his stride. His stride was big, so I had to really wait. From start to finish I had good angles; that was how I had imagined the jump-off for him in my head and when you can pass on what you think to execute it, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out."
This is the second event in a row where the duo was first to jump-off and it has paid off. Pessoa noted, "I would rather go at the end and have a little bit more information, but time to time, to go in front when the plan works really exactly, it is also good because you are pushing other riders, putting the pressure on them to make them go a little bit more and make people take risks."
"This circuit is kind of tricky because you really want to show but we are only in the first trimester of the year and the year is still long," he stated. "There are a lot of classes and a lot of prize money that is out there, but you have to be careful that you still have a horse when you finish here and go back to Europe and the big events, so we are going to be really careful with what we show. I have Rebozo that is here and we are going to wait for some bigger weeks with him and I have Ashley. Those two and Let's Fly will be my three grand prix horses and then I have some very interesting seven and eight-year-olds for G&C Farm that we are developing. I am lucky to have two very good supporters in Double H and G&C, to have some very nice quality horses and be able to do this in a fun way and a good spirit."
Along with his prize money and cooler, Pessoa was awarded a $3,000 rider bonus for the SSG "Go Clean for the Green" contest. The bonus is awarded to the winning rider if they are wearing the SSG 'Digital' Riding Gloves in all rounds of competition with the SSG logo clearly visible. It was Pessoa's first time winning the bonus.
"I think it is great. It is a great incentive," he said of the prize. "This week I had to borrow Nick Skelton's gloves, but next week now with my $3,000 here, I will make sure I buy a pair and have my own for the rest of the circuit."
Final Results: $30,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 1
1. HH LET'S FLY RODRIGO PESSOA DOUBLE H FARM: 0/0/35.940
2. SANDOR DE LA POMME PETER WYLDETHE WANNAHAVE GROUP: 0/0/36.392
3. SIRISHANE SWEETNAM SPY COAST FARM, LLC: 0/0/36.591
4. G & C SACRAMENTO LUIS LARRAZABAL ANABEL SIMON: 0/0/36.664
5. QUALITY GIRL TODD MINIKUS TODD MINIKUS, LTD: 0/0/36.813
6. WATERLOOSCHUYLER RILEY M. MICHAEL MELLER:0/0/39.744
7. ASLAN LJUBOV KOCHETOVA LJUBOV KOCHETOVA: 0/0/45.264
8. VENUS MARILYN LITTLE RAYLYN FARMS, INC: 0/4/37.247
9. AX-CENT KENNETH BERKLEY RIVERS EDGE: 0/4/41.277
10. USER ID DARRAGH KENNY ATLANTA EQUESTRIAN CENTER: 1/86.100
11. EVENING STAR HEATHER CARISTO WILLIAMS MR. & MRS. RALPH CARISTO: 1/86.294
12. PATRIOT WILTON PORTER SLEEPY P RANCH LLC: 1/86.454
Source: Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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