February 24, 2016 - Week seven of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), sponsored by Suncast®, began Wednesday morning at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, with a win for McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z in the $35,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m Jumper Classic.
WEF 7, sponsored by Suncast®, runs February 24-28, 2016. The week's highlight classes include the $130,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 7 on Thursday, the $35,000 Illustrated Properties 1.45m Classic on Friday, the $380,000 Suncast® Grand Prix CSI 5* on Saturday evening, and the $86,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic on Sunday. The 12-week WEF circuit runs through April 3 offering more than $9 million in prize money.
Santiago Varela of Spain is the course designer in the International Ring for WEF 7. In his first time setting tracks at the Winter Equestrian Festival, Varela saw 73 entries compete over his opening 1.45m speed track, with 22 clear rounds. Third in the order of go, Laura Chapot (USA) and Quointreau Un Prince set the challenge with the first clear round in 66.17 seconds. Their opening pace held on to finish third in the end.
Fifty-three rounds later, McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z stole the lead, clocking in almost three seconds faster in a time of 63.69. Near the end of the order, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Spy Coast Farm LLC's Cyklon 1083 jumped into second place in 64.53 seconds.
HH Carlos Z, the 14-year-old Zangersheide gelding (Chellano Z x Voltaire) owned by Double H Farm, continues to be an incredible partner for Ward since the duo joined up in the beginning of 2014. The pint-sized gelding became one of the most competitive horses in the North America under the guidance of his indomitable rider, racing to wins with unbeatable speed, agility, and confidence.
This week, Ward hopes to qualify his talented young mount HH Azur for the Saturday night grand prix, but if things do not go as planned, HH Carlos Z is always ready to step up as a willing and dependable counterpart.
After his impressive win to start the week on Wednesday, Ward spoke of "Carlos," and his plan heading into the class.
"I was lucky enough to see Laura go at the beginning, and I know that horse well because I own part of him, so I know he is fast," Ward said of Chapot and Quointreau Un Prince. "But Carlos is also very fast. He came to compete and support Azur this week, so our game plan was to try to win a few classes."
"I thought I started a little slow," Ward said of his round. "Carlos has a tendency to jump very high over the first few jumps, particularly in the first class of the week. I really thought I was quite slow through jumps one, two, and three, so I picked it up a lot, and that is probably why the time was the way it was. I thought two turns made the difference. The turn on the red oxer, and the turn on the last double were quite quick, and like I said, he is just a really fast horse."
Ward was happy to see a new face course designing in the International Ring this week.
"I do not think Santi has been here before, but he is great. I am a huge fan," Ward said of Santiago Varela. "I have jumped his courses quite a bit in Europe, and also in Calgary, and I think he is a really great builder."
Also competing in the International Ring on Wednesday, the $6,000 1.40m speed, sponsored by Illustrated Properties, was held in a California split. Laura Chapot and Mary Chapot's Zealous were the winners of Section A with the fastest time overall. Cian O'Connor and Chansonette Farm LLC's Balance topped Section B with the second fastest round.
The seventh week of competition at the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival continues on Thursday with the $130,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 7 featured in the International Ring. In the Rost Ring, the Antares Pre-Green Hunter 3' division will award championship honors for week seven. For more information and full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.