The FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival hosted its first "Saturday Night Lights" event last night with the $30,000 Surpass Grand Prix. Olympic gold medalist Beezie Madden (USA) and new mount Simon, owned by Abigail Wexner, took home the blue ribbon. Nick Skelton (GBR) and Beverley Widdowson's Unique finished second, while Cian O'Connor (IRL) rode Blue Loyd, owned by Ashkirk Ltd and Cian O'Connor, to third place.
In the first round of the grand prix, Olympic gold medalist McLain Ward fell with Oh D' Eole at the 8b obstacle. Ward was taken out of the ring to an ambulance and transported to Wellington Regional Medical Center, where he is being attended by specialists for a fractured kneecap. Oh D' Eole was examined by veterinarians and is doing fine.
There were 36 entries in tonight's class, and seven were clear in the first round. The first to return for the jump-off was Cian O'Connor on Blue Loyd. They set a clear quick round in 42.642 seconds to start the second round.
Nick Skelton and Unique put down a clear round and a speedy time next in 40.880 seconds. Both Reed Kessler and Charlie Jayne finished with four faults, while Andrew Bourns got eight.
Madden and Simon were next and although they do not have fast jump-off experience together, they were able to speed easily around the course and set the winning time at 40.764 seconds for the win.
Margie Engle (USA) was the last to go on Ashland Farms' Lord Spezi. They were quick in 41.340 seconds, but four faults left them in fifth place.
"We just got Simon six or eight weeks ago," Madden stated. "He has been very successful with Jeroen. He was third in the World Cup Finals last year and he won the CN Grand Prix in Calgary the year before. He has been very good in Nations Cups for the Dutch team and this is actually the first grand prix that I have done with him."
Madden explained that she hopes to aim Simon towards the Selection Trials for the Olympics Games, and wanted to start early to get to know him. "This is the first time that I have ridden him under the lights," she said. "I had him at some indoor shows in the fall, but only three, so this is only my fourth show with him. I need to get to know him a little bit and then maybe back off a little bit before the trials."
"I didn't really know what to expect," Madden said of going into the jump-off tonight. "That was the first time that I have tried to go fast with him. He has a history of being a fast horse, so I tried to just give him a good look and take a shot. I didn't get to see these guys go, but they are fast riders, so I didn't really need to ask how fast they were. I am just getting to know the horse, so I had to just take a shot and see what happens, and I was really happy with him. I didn't know how strong he would get, but he wasn't strong at all. Everything has gone pretty smoothly so far, knock on wood. I am happy with the progression."
Second place finisher Nick Skelton was pleased with the performance of his mount Unique as well. Skelton stated, "I was happy with my horse; he jumped good. I was going to jump him this week and then maybe jump Carlo next week just to start jumping him a little bit too, because he has been off. The last show he did was the beginning of December and he is not a horse that likes to sit around. He likes to jump, so he will probably do that next week." "He is a good horse. He is a good user," Skelton said of Unique. "He can do anything, and if you really wanted to he could do even more. He can go quick. He wins a lot of classes through the year. Whatever show you take him to he will win a class somewhere.
"Third place finisher, Ireland's Cian O'Connor, spoke about his horse Blue Loyd after the class. "He has been good this week. The first day in the 1.45m he was sixth, and the second day he was second. Today he was third, so he is earning his keep!" he said with a laugh. "I was happy to have all of the experience my horse had and I am just getting to know him," O'Connor added. "I have just done three shows in the fall as well, like Beezie has, and I wanted to build my horse up and try to get the hang of him early in the year, so that is why I am here. It is a wonderful show and I am delighted to be here."
Final Results: $30,000 Surpass Grand Prix 1.
1. SIMON: 1999 KWPN gelding by Mr. Blue x Polydox BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 0/0/40.764 2.
2. UNIQUE: 2001 KWPN gelding by Indoctro x Voltaire NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverley Widdowson: 0/0/40.880 3.
3. BLUE LOYD: 2000 Oldenburg gelding by Landor S x Hadj Ax
CIAN O'CONNOR (IRL), Ashkirk Ltd. & Cian O'Connor: 0/0/42.642 4.
4. URAYA: 2001 KWPN mare by Farmer x Zeno CHARLIE JAYNE (USA), Pony Lane Farm: 0/4/41.029 5.
5. LORD SPEZI: 1998 Oldenburg gelding by Lord Pezi x Grandeur
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Ashland Farms: 0/4/41.340 6.
6. LIGIST: 2000 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Levantos II x Robin Z REED KESSLER (USA), Reed Kessler: 0/4/41.490 7.
7. GOWRAN PARK: 2001 Irish Sporthorse mare by Obos Quality 004 x Duca Di Busted
ANDREW BOURNS (IRL), Andrew Bourns: 0/8/42.532 8.
8. ALSVID: 2001 Hanoverian gelding by Escudo I x Azur
RICHARD MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity, LLC: 1/88.246
9. PJOTTER VAN DE ZONNEHOEVE: 2001 Dutch Warmblood Gelding by Plato x Emilion MCLAIN WARD (USA), Louisburg Farm: 1/88.916 10.
10. CAPITANO: 1995 Warmblood gelding by Carthago DANIELLE TORANO (USA), Sir Ruly, Inc.: 2/89.798 11.
11. CORTES 'C': 2002 BWP gelding by Randel Z x Darco BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Abigail Wexner: 4/84.712 12.
12. UP CHIQUI: 1997 BWP gelding by Quidam De Revel x Chin Chin
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Alex Boone, William Dobbs, & K. Farrington: 4/85.1
Source; Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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