March 25, 2012--McLain Ward (USA) and his promising young mount Zander were the winners in Saturday night"s $100,000 Suncast? 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final during week eleven of the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) in Wellington. The pair led a high-speed jump-off over second place finishers Janne Friederike Meyer of Germany aboard Cellagon Lambrasco and third place duo Pablo Barrios of Venezuela riding Zara Leandra. Great Britain"s Ben Maher and Quiet Easy 4 topped the eleven-week series championship standings and were awarded the top bonus following the class.
Week eleven, sponsored by Artisan Farms, will conclude on Sunday, March 24, with the $15,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix, Don Little Masters Classic and $101,000 Pennfield Feeds CSI 4* Grand Prix all held on the derby field at The Stadium at PBIEC. The 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival features 12 weeks of competition running from January 9-March 31, 2013, and will be awarding almost $7 million in prize money throughout the circuit.
Richard Jeffery of Bournemouth, England, set the course for 48 entries in Saturday night"s 1.50m final, held under the lights in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Only six were able to master the track to advance to the jump-off and four went double clear in an exciting race against the clock for the tie breaker. McLain Ward and Zander, a nine-year-old KWPN gelding by Cantos x Saygon, took the win with their pace of 43.86 seconds.
Finishing in second, Janne Friederike Meyer and Cellagon Lambrasco, owned by Meyer, Friedrich and Anne Sophie, stopped the clock in 45.12 seconds. Pablo Barrios and ZL Goup, Inc."s Zara Leandra were close behind in 45.32 seconds, and Reed Kessler and Ligist had the fourth double clear round in 45.94 seconds. Brazil"s Carlos Ribas and Ronaldo, owned by Ribas and Roberto de la Real, actually had the fastest round of the jump-off in 43.53 seconds, but had the second to last fence down for fifth place.
In a class that is usually held during the day, it was a different environment for many of the horses on Saturday night, showing under the lights with a big crowd. Some of the horses had more experience than others, and even though it was his first night class ever, Zander seemed to flourish in the impressive atmosphere.
"He"s a horse I"m really excited about," Ward said after the class. "We got him at the beginning of last year with high hopes and then I got hurt and lost almost four months. He was really good last year at Spruce Meadows and he won a nice grand prix at Valkenswaard in the summer. We"ve done him in a bunch of WEF (Challenge Cup) classes here and he won one and he had the fastest time in two others. We hoped he would develop through this Florida and it was just a really nice way for him to end. [It was] the first time under the lights, [and there was] the water under the lights, which he was a bit a green about as a young horse. I think he"s a really exciting horse and I"m lucky to have him."
"He"s got a really big stride and he"s a very careful horse," Ward detailed. "He"s such a flamboyant jumper, he loses his parts once in a while, but through this Florida he has kind of figured that out, where you can really gallop at a fence and he really has control of his body. I think that"s going to continue to get better. He"s been fast from the beginning. He can do some numbers that a lot of other horses have to struggle to do a little bit, so I think the future is bright for him. We"ll keep our fingers crossed."
Each new course and different atmosphere continues to cultivate Zander"s knowledge and Ward counts the competition in Wellington as a great platform for development.
"We have been building his confidence and just showing him a million different experiences," Ward stated. "Florida, on one hand, is very hard when you"re trying to develop a young grand prix horse because they are always a little bit over their head, but if they can make it through and come out on top at the end and they get a rest, they gain a year"s worth of exposure here. It"s just making sure they survive it. I think he finished much stronger than he started, so hopefully it worked well for us."
Second place finisher Janne Friederike Meyer was in Wellington for the first time this winter and has had a great experience herself.
"For me, it"s a really nice time," Meyer noted. "It"s pretty expensive to fly all the horses over and if you don"t know everything, you have to take a little time to get in the system. Like from the warm-up to the office, until you know everything maybe you take one or two weeks and then it"s like normal. But the courses are pretty nice, the money is good and for me it"s kind of a little showing and a little vacation. It"s a little bit in between, so it"s a really nice time for me."
"The last weeks, every jump-off was really fast, so you have to learn that here," Meyer described. "I hurried up a lot, but in the end McLain was faster. What can I do? I think my horse tried his best."
"It"s funny, when you work him at home he is really a lazy horse and he"s relaxed and not hot at all, but when you go in the ring, then he wants to go," Meyer said of Cellagon Lambrasco. "I think that"s a special thing about him. You just go in and he really wants to jump. He wants to run and is looking for the first fence. He likes it here. He likes the weather and he likes the floodlights. It"s good for him. I really have had some nice rounds with him here."
Pablo Barrios finished third with Zara Leandra and was very happy with her performance. The pair won a smaller grand prix pre-circuit under the lights and has been gradually moving up to the bigger classes.
"I"m really pleased with that mare and the way she"s jumping now," Barrios stated. "She won one class in the pre-circuit and then I had a little trouble in the big classes. I think she was not ready, but she grew a lot and she learned a lot. After week eight, in the Nations Cup, she started approaching the jumps in a different way. She was calmer in the ring and she has been amazing the last two weeks. She"s had only one rail in the last two weeks, so I am very pleased with her."
"I know McLain is super fast, but I think the mare was ready to go fast today," Barrios said of the jump-off. "Today I really tried to go for the class, but there were good horses and good riders and I"m still very happy about it."
As the conclusion to the eleven-week Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Series, Saturday night"s class served as the final allocation of points for the overall standings. $50,000 worth of bonus money was presented to the top three leading
horse and rider combinations that accumulated the most points throughout the eleven weeks of competition. Awarding their consistency overall, Ben Maher took home the top bonus of $25,000 with Mrs. Phillips" Quiet Easy 4, Alise Oken won $15,000 for second place with Hi Hopes Farm LLC"s Teirra, and Laura Kraut finished third and was awarded $10,000 for her performance with the Evita Group"s Nouvelle.
Maher and Quiet Easy finished second in the series last year, and this year the rider made it a goal to come out on top. The pair had such great results that they were well ahead of the others without even showing in all of the classes.
"He has been great," Maher said following the presentation. "We missed a few of the classes and he just proved that he was pretty consistent in all of the other classes to be so far ahead today. He loves to show here and he has been on form. He jumped well all circuit, so I am happy with how he finished up."
Also showing in the International Arena on Saturday, Peru"s Michelle Navarro-Grau rode Alfi to victory in the $15,000 RCG Farm SJHOF High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic. Victoria Colvin and Waminka, owned by Rivers Edge, were victorious in the $10,000 Griffis Residential High Junior Jumper Classic. Colvin was later honored with a special award during the night class. She was presented with the Potcreek Meadow Farm Junior Sportmanship Trophy, in memory of Candida C. Fortsmann.
Final Results: $100,000 Suncast? 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic Final
1. ZANDER: 2004 KWPN gelding Cantos x Saygon
MCLAIN WARD (USA), McLain Ward: 0/0/43.86
2. CELLAGON LAMBRASCO: 1998 Holsteiner gelding by Libero x Coriolan
JANNE FRIEDERIKE MEYER (GER), Meyer, Friedrich & Anna Sophie: 0/0/45.12
3. ZARA LEANDRA: 2004 KWPN mare by Metropole x Ahorn
PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), ZL Group, Inc: 0/0/45.32
4. LIGIST: 2000 Swedish Warmblood gelding by Levantos II x Robin Z
REED KESSLER (USA), Reed Kessler: 0/0/45.94
5. RONALDO: 1998 KWPN gelding by Ahorn x Stuyvesant
CARLOS RIBAS (BRA), Roberto Villa Real Jr. & Carlos Ribas: 0/4/43.53
6. TACKERAY: 2000 KWPN stallion by Quick Star x Sandro
LAUREN HOUGH (USA), Nordic Lights Farm, LLC: 0/RT
7. CAMILLE Z: 2003 Zangersheide mare
ATHINA ONASSIS DE MIRANDA (GRE), Athina Onassis de Miranda & Victory Equestrian: 1/85.38
8. KING KOLIBRI: 2002 Hanoverian stallion by Kolibri x Achill-Libero H
LAUREN TISBO (USA), Tequestrian Farms LLC: 1/86.19
9. UNICO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Odermus R x Wuzo
MARIO GAMBOA (COL), Stransky"s Mission Farms, Inc: 4/77.94
10. HH LET"S FLY: 1999 Hanoverian gelding by Lordanos x Forrest
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Double H Farm: 4/79.98
11. GRACE 319: 2002 SATHU mare by Armitage x Beach Boy
JANNE FRIEDERIKE MEYER (GER), Juergen Fitschen & Janne-Friederike Meyer: 4/80.74
12. G & C SONNY: 2001 KWPN gelding by Lux x Concorde
RODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Gustavo Mirabal: 4/81.84