Week eleven of the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF), sponsored by Artisan Farms, concluded on Sunday, March 24, with a full day of jumper action on the derby field at The Stadium at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Ireland's Shane Sweetnam and Solerina won the highlight $101,000 Pennfield Feeds CSI 4* Grand Prix in a five-horse jump-off over Marie Hecart (FRA) and Myself de Breve and Kirsten Coe (USA) and Baronez.
Victoria Colvin and Waminka were victorious in the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix, while Chloe Reid took the series win. Olivia Fry Weeks and Woica won the $10,000 Horseware Don Little Masters Classic. RichardJeffery of Bournemouth, England, set the courses on the derby field for all three classes.
In the $101,000 Pennfield Feeds CSI 4* Grand Prix, 34 entries showed over Jeffery's feature track with five clear rounds advancing to the jump-off. Two cleared the short course without fault, and Shane Sweetnam guided Sweet Oak and Spy Coast Farms' Solerina to victory with the fastest clear round in 41.17 seconds.
Marie Hecart and Normandie Connections' Myself de Breve cleared the jump-off course in 42.45 seconds to place second. In third, Kirsten Coe and Ilan Ferder's Baronez had one time fault in 45.58 seconds. Kent Farrington (USA) and Robin Parksy's Blue Angel had one rail down in 42.45 seconds to earn the fourth place honors, and Reed Kessler (USA) and Mika placed fifth with four faults in 43.87 seconds.
Sweetnam's winning mount, Solerina, is a 14-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare by Cruising x Diamond Lad that he owns in collaboration with his sponsor, Spy Coast Farm. Believe it or not, Sunday's win was Sweetnam's first win in an international FEI grand prix as well as his horse's first time ever showing in a grand prix at any level. The stars aligned for the pair on the field this weekend as they earned an exciting victory.
"It is a great result, especially for myself," Sweetnam admitted after the class. "It is my first WEF Sunday win and it is great for Spy Coast as well who own half of her with me. I am very, very happy. It was unexpected. She is a really competitive horse and her results have been great all circuit, but this is the first grand prix that I have done her in. She really surpassed herself; she gave everything she had. She is very fast, so I knew that if I could get in the jump-off that I would have a chance."
Sweetnam has had Solerina since last summer and the pair has done very well together at the 1.45m and 1.50m level. "She has won a few classes; she has been second a lot. She has a very good strike rate," Sweetnam noted. "She has been placed nearly 70%. She has been very, very good."
"She has a bit of character, chestnut mare stuff," Sweetnam said of Solerina. "If she is not fighting you, she is fighting with you, so I prefer if she's fighting with me. Actually she was very relaxed here, so I was happy."
The "chestnut mare stuff" may not be all that bad, as Sweetnam pointed out that three chestnut mares were first, second, and third in Sunday's class. Second place finisher Myself de Breve is a feisty red headed mare as well, but has also proven herself many times in the arena with French rider Marie Hecart. Hecart got the 13-year-old mare as a two-year-old and has had some great results with her.
"She is very small, but she has all the scope," Hecart declared. "When she was younger she was crazy, she was totally wild, but she really started to be good two or three years ago. She has really settled down and started working with me really well."
"She always jumps really well on a big field like that," Hecart said following the class. "She gets a lot of scope and she was great. I didn't start the season really early; I started about five weeks ago. I didn't want to do too much with her, so I wasn't really ready for the first grand prix and this week she really started jumping like she does. She is 13, so she has all the experience and she doesn't need to jump that much. I just try to do the big classes and the most important ones and she was really good."
Third place finisher, Baronez, has had some great results showing on the grass field with rider Kirsten Coe, including a win in week seven's $30,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup. She seems to like the different atmosphere.
"She really likes it out here," Coe stated. "She is brave as a lion, so she really excels in this environment. I didn't start showing that early in the season either; I didn't start showing until week six, so it really feels like things are starting to come together now. She was double clear both times this week, so she has had a nice result."
For Shane Sweetnam, there is no doubt that this year's FTI WEF and Sunday's class, especially, will be one to remember for a long time. Sweetnam praised the show after a fantastic day.
"WEF has done a great job this year," he acknowledged. "Even last night they had such a great crowd and the standard of jumping has been fantastic every week. Personally, I have had a great circuit as well; I have been in the top three or four in the grand prix four times now, which I am very happy with. Every year I think WEF gets bigger and better and the standard is very high."
Final Results: $101,000 Pennfield Feeds CSI 4* Grand Prix
1. SOLERINA: 1999 Irish Sport Horse mare by Cruising x Diamond Lad
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak & Spy Coast Farms: 0/0/41.17
2. MYSELF DE BREVE: 2000 SFA mare by Quidam de Revel x Grand Veneur
MARIE HECART (FRA), Normandie Connection: 0/0/42.45
3. BARONEZ: 2001 Warmblood mare by Heartbreaker x Unknown
KIRSTEN COE (USA), Ilan Ferder: 1/45.58
4. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky:0/4/42.45
5. MIKA: 2000 Selle Francais gelding by Nidor Platiere x Rubis Rouge
REED KESSLER (USA), Reed Kessler: 0/4/43.87
6. ROTHCHILD: 2001 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Artos x Elegant De L'Ile
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Sagamore Farms: 4/84.66
7. OLYMPIC DE CHAMANT: 2002 Selle Francais gelding by Gentleman IV SF x Apache D'adriers
JOHNATHON CORRIGAN (IRL), Sagamore Farms: 4/85.25
8. ROMANTOVICH TAKE ONE: 2000 KWPN gelding by Numero Uno x Karandasj
CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 4/85.39
9. ROUNDTHORN MADIOS: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Condios x Clover Hill
LAUREN TISBO (USA), Tequestrian Farms, LLC: 4/85.66
10. AVENZIO 3: 1999 KWPN gelding by Animo x Erdball xx
TAIZO SUGITANI (JPN), Yvonne Young: 4/86.02
11. MARTHA LOUISE: 2004 Swedish Warmblood mare by Maloubet de Pleville 1039 x Wolfgang
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Chinook Valley, Inc: 4/87.00
12. CORTES 'C': 2002 BWP gelding by Randel Z x Darco
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 4/88.15
Source: Lauren Fisher and Laura Cardon for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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