The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival concluded competition for week one today. In the International Arena, the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic was the main event. Nick Skelton (GBR) continued his solid week of success and capped it with a win on Unique, owned by Beverley Widdowson. Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Wannahave, owned by The Wannahave Group, finished second, while Alexa Pessoa (USA) on Madison was third.
Six riders were clear in the first round and returned for the jump-off. Katherine Dinan (USA) came back first on Nougat du Vallet, owned by Grant Road Partners, and set a solid clear round in 40.067 seconds, which would hold up for fifth place. Olympic gold medalist Leslie Howard (USA) and Lennox Lewis 2 were next, but they had four faults in 38.190 seconds for sixth place.
The lead changed hands when Alexa Pessoa and her mare Madison lowered the winning time to 38.533 seconds with no faults. They would finish in third place. Cian O'Connor (IRL) and Wednesday's winner Everything (owned by Abdulla Humaid Al Muhairi) were also clear, but with a slightly slower time in 38.634 seconds for fourth place.
Fellow Irishman Darragh Kenny and The Wannahave Group's Wannahave took the lead next with a speedy 38.375 second jump-off time, and they would finish in second place. As the last in the ring, Skelton and Unique had the prime position to know the time to beat with no competitiors left. Skelton took advantage of this and pressed Unique around the shortened course. They won handily by almost two seconds in 36.537 seconds.
It was a good weekend for the pair who also placed second in last night's $30,000 Surpass Grand Prix. "He felt good. He's fresh," Skelton commented. "This is the fourth time he's jumped this week, but he's in a good swing now and he's going well. I thought after last night that I might as well jump him today. There weren't too many in it. I'll rest him now this week. I might jump him next Sunday and see how he goes. I'll start Carlo next week."
Regarding the jump-off, Skelton said, "I did watch Darragh go, and I thought, 'Just keep it tight.' He's a fast horse, and he'd been around this last night so he knew where he was going!"
On his successful week, Skelton said with a smile, "It's always nice to get off to a good start. It's keeping it up that's the hardest thing. We've got 11 weeks to go."
Final Results: $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
1 UNIQUE NICK SKELTON BEVERLEY WIDDOWSON: 0/0/36.537
2 WANNAHAVE DARRAGH KENNY THE WANNAHAVE GROUP: 0/0/38.375
3 MADISON ALEXA PESSOA ALEXA PESSOA: 0/0/38.533
4 EVERYTHING CIAN O'CONNOR ABDULLA HUMAID AL MUHAIRI: 0/0/38.634
5 NOUGAT DU VALLET KATHERINE DINAN GRANT ROAD PARTNERS: 0/0/40.067
6 LENNOX LEWIS 2 LESLIE HOWARD PETER HOWARD: 0/4/38.190
7 RADIO CITY VICTOR AMAYA GOTHAM ENTERPRIZES: 4/76.993
8 WOODSTOCK O LAURA KRAUT JOAN KALMAN: 4/80.499
9 DRYDEN YANN CANDELE ARIEL AND SUSAN GRANGE: 4/82.545
10 ATHENA JENNIFER SANTANA SANTANA STABLES, LLC: 4/82.902
11 O'CONNELL STREET CIAN O'CONNOR RONOCCO JUMP LTD & LANDER DE BRUYN: 4/83.510
12 ALLIGATOR ALLEY CIAN O'CONNOR SINEAD & OONAGH KENNEDY: 5/86.325
Source: Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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