The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival concluded on Sunday with an exciting line-up of world-class show jumping and the presentation of special awards to round out a very successful winter circuit at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL. Although inclement weather caused Saturday night's classes to be postponed, the final afternoon of FTI WEF competition was blessed with beautiful clear skies and sunshine for Sunday's feature events.
Concluding the 2014 competition, the $500,000 FTI Consulting Finale Grand Prix CSI 5* saw an exciting win for the world's number one ranked rider and 2012 Olympic Team Gold Medalist, Scott Brash (GBR), with his talented mount Hello Sanctos. British teammate and world #2 ranked rider Ben Maher took home the top bonus in the $100,000 FTI Consulting Rider Challenge for his incredible success throughout the circuit. Todd Minikus (USA) and Babalou 41 won the $100,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final, and Tim Gredley (GBR) and Unex Omega Star topped the 1.50m series overall to earn a $25,000 bonus.
Anthony D'Ambrosio (USA) designed the courses for Sunday's competition and set a challenging track for the finale grand prix featuring 38 of the best competitors from the circuit. Riders from 14 different countries were represented, including 17 Olympic veterans.
Seven entries from the the first round advanced to the jump-off, where four jumped double clear. Nineteen-year-old Ben Asselin (CAN) and Attache Stables' Makavoy began the jump-off with a clear round in 46.01 seconds to eventually finish fourth. Jessica Springsteen (USA) and Stone Hill Farm's Vindicat W upped the ante in 44.87 seconds to earn third place honors. Richie Moloney (IRL) and Equinimity LLC's Slieveanorra were faster in 44.64 seconds to take home second place honors. The final clear round belonged to Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos, who blazed through the course in 43.44 seconds to secure their victory. Last to go, Kent Farrington (USA) had the fast time of the jump-off in 42.72 seconds with Amalaya Investment's Voyeur, but had a rail at the final oxer to finish fifth.
Along with the winner's share of $165,000, Brash was presented with the Dennis D. Dammerman Perpetual Trophy. The trophy was created to honor the contributions to equestrian sport of Dennis D. Dammerman, a longtime owner of horses and founding member of the Wellington Equestrian Partners. Brash had a lot of top finishes throughout the circuit and was happy to get his win in the end with Hello Sanctos, a twelve-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding (Quasimodo Vd Molendreef x Nabab de Reve) that has given the rider many great moments in his career.
"I have been coming second a lot to this man," Brash said, pointing to Maher. "So to win a class at the end is very rewarding and good for my team that has worked so hard for the circuit, because it is hard work. Sanctos was fantastic today. I gave him a rest when I first came here and then I started him back, and he felt just a little bit rusty and not quite jumping fit. I jumped two weeks and then I gave him last week off. This week he has just felt great and feels like he is jumping back to how he was, and I'm very happy going home looking forward towards Europe. There are a lot of big shows coming up with the championships and everything, so it is good to feel him in such good form early on in the year."
Brash and Sanctos were a new partnership when they were last in Wellington in 2012. That was before they won an Olympic team gold medal in London that year and went on to many other victories that led Brash to his current position as the number one ranked rider in the world.
Looking back on the progression of their partnership, Brash recalled, "It's a bit different now. Back in 2012 I had just gotten the horse. My owners bought the horse with the Olympic Games in mind, so we chose to come to Wellington because there is no better place to get as many rounds in as you can and get to know a horse like you can here. That is why we chose to bring him here then, but we were quite inconsistent. We had a win in the World Cup one week, but we had some bad rounds also. We were just getting to know each other, but since then we have just gone from strength to strength as a partnership. I must say, he is a fantastic horse and he is just an absolute privilege to ride."
Sunday's second place finish was a fantastic conclusion to the circuit for Richie Moloney as well with Equinimity LLC's Slieveanorra. The twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Voltaire x Flagmount Diamond) jumped a great round and was very fast through the course. Moloney got the ride on Slieveanorra a few years ago after his sponsors, Equinimity LLC, bought the horse from his brother as a nine-year-old. The horse had won the nine-year-old national championships in Ireland and has gone on to great things.
"It is a very good finish," Moloney smiled after the class. "Slieveanorra is very good. It is nice for the horse to get his result here in the end. He was double clear week nine in the World Cup and finished seventh, so it is nice to end up second today. My plan was to go as fast as I could and try to leave the jumps up. Maybe I could have been a little bit quicker, but I am very happy with second."
There was long gallop down to the last oxer that caused rails for Beezie Madden and Farrington in the jump-off, but Moloney said he was not worried about that. "Maybe there was one less stride there, but it was a bit risky I thought. I just held steady and kept going on the stride that I knew he could jump from. I would just like to say well done to Scott, and I would also like to thank my owners and all of the staff who work very hard at the farm. It is nice to get this result for them. It is for everybody that works there."
Jessica Springsteen has been very consistent with top finishes throughout the circuit aboard Vindicat W, her twelve-year-old KWPN gelding (Guidam x Libero H) that Peter Charles rode to team gold alongside Brash and Maher in the London Olympic Games. Commenting on her circuit and another top placing, Springsteen smiled, "He has been jumping amazing. I had a week off last week, so he felt really fresh and ready to go. Every time I go out there he always tries his hardest. He never puts a foot wrong, and I could not be happier with him."
Springsteen explained where she thought she lost time in the jump-off, stating, "I was maybe planning on doing five strides to that black vertical so that I could swing back tighter to the oxer, but then the four just kind of showed itself, and I did end up getting a little bit stuck in that turn. I think that's where I could have been quicker, but every where else he was really good, so I was happy."
Brash commented on the day's course from Anthony D'Ambrosio and praised the success of this year's circuit. "I thought the course builder did a fantastic job actually. It was big, it was hard, and to get seven clears was a good number," he acknowledged. "The jump-off I thought was very good and entertaining for the public. It is a really spectacular class. It's a shame it didn't run last night, but no one can help the weather. It is all credit to Mark Bellissimo, who puts on a fantastic tour here, and now with Rolex sponsoring it really brings the prestige of the show up to a top standard of high level sport. I think that is what everyone is looking for, and I think it's great."
Bellissimo was also thrilled with the circuit and the successful finale grand prix, and thanked title sponsor, FTI Consulting, for their longtime support. "FTI has been an amazing sponsor for the last six years," Bellissimo stated. "In the genesis of the transition we have, this festival started at about $2 million in prize money and we have brought it to over $8 million, which is a spectacular amount of money. We are very excited about their commitment to the sport and that partnership that we have had over the years."
"We have really appreciated all of the great competition," Bellissimo added. "I don't think I have ever seen such an amazing number of jump-offs. Scott has been in a lot of them. I think in general it has been a great year. We are very excited about it and very excited about the future. There are a lot of things that we are going to be doing next year to make it even that much more significant, so thank you to everyone for all of their participation and all of their great work throughout the circuit. Also a special call to Rolex, who has been a great addition to the circuit this year and allowed us to take this to a different level in the context of prize money and a huge investment. We have some exciting new initiatives that we will be announcing shortly that I think will be another level, even beyond where we are today."
Final Results: $500,000 FTI Consulting CSI 5* Finale Grand Prix
1. HELLO SANCTOS: 2002 SBS gelding by Quasimodo Vd Molendreef x Nabab de Reve
SCOTT BRASH (GBR), Lady Harris And Lady Kirkham: 0/0/43.44
2. SLIEVEANORRA: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Voltaire x Flagmount Diamond
RICHIE MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity LLC: 0/0/44.64
3. VINDICAT W: 2002 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Libero H
JESSICA SPRINGSTEEN (USA), Stone Hill Farm: 0/0/44.87
4. MAKAVOY: 2003 KWPN gelding by Hors La Loi II x Ahorn
BEN ASSELIN (CAN), Attache Stables: 0/0/46.01
5. VOYEUR: 2002 KWPN gelding by Tolano van't Riethof x Goodwill
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/4/42.72
6. CORTES 'C': 2002 BWP gelding by Randel Z x Darco
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/4/43.72
7. MYSELF DE BREVE: 2000 SFA mare by Quidam de Revel x Grand Veneur
MARIE HECART (FRA), Normandie Connection: 0/8/45.23
8. ZIGALI P S: 2004 KWPN gelding by Kigali x Palfrenier
ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 1/81.65
9. ROYCE: 2004 Oldenburg stallion by Café au Lait x Grandilot
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Elm Rock LLC: 1/82.92
10. ASLAN: 2000 Danish Warmblood gelding by Aston x Blue Hors Agent
LJUBOV KOCHETOVA (RUS), Ljubov Kochetova: 4/76.38
11. ROTHCHILD: 2001 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Artos x Elegant de l'Ile
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 4/77.32
12. CELLA: 2002 BWP mare by Cento x Chin Chin
BEN MAHER (GBR) Jane F. Clark: 4/77.52
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
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