January 10, 2014--The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, hosted its second day of competition for the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) on Thursday with a win for Wilton Porter (USA) and Sleepy P Ranch LLC's Paloubet in the $25,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 1.
Week one of the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, sponsored by The Mar-a-Lago Club, runs through Sunday, January 12. The week's highlights include the $75,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes on Saturday, January 11, as well as the $30,000 Mar-a-Lago Club Grand Prix, which will be held on Sunday, January 12. The FTI WEF, held at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) features 12 weeks of world-class competition through March 30, 2014, awarding close to $8 million in prize money.
Eric Hasbrouck is the course designer in the International Arena at PBIEC for week one competition. In Thursday's $25,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 1, Hasbrouck set the course for 46 entries with nine clear rounds to advance to the jump-off. It was then an exciting race against the clock as six of those cleared the short course without fault.
Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Solerina, owned by Sweet Oak and Spy Coast Farms, set the pace to beat at 37.498 seconds to eventually finish fourth. Ronan McGuigan (IRL) and Capall Zidane were next to go and upped the ante with their time of 37.222 seconds, which earned the third place prize. Paris Sellon and Heracross also cleared the course and earned fifth place honors with their time of 38.870 seconds. Up next, Wilton Porter and Paloubet raced through the course in 36.052 seconds to take the lead. Their time held up to the end as Charlie Jacobs and CMJ Sporthorse LLC's Flaming Star were just off the mark in 36.797 seconds to finish second. Michael Dorman and Wyndmont's Valinski S also jumped a clear round, and finished sixth with their time of 39.968 seconds.
Thursday's win was a big one for 19-year-old Wilton Porter, showing against many of the world's top international riders to earn the third grand prix victory of his young career. Porter is in his freshman year at Vanderbilt University and began his first spring semester this week, coinciding with the first week of FTI WEF competition. He flew into Palm Beach at 1 a.m. Thursday morning, and definitely made the trip worth it with a great start to the season.
Porter, of Dallas, TX, trains with John Roche and has had his winning mount Paloubet, a 13-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Baloubet Du Rouet x Voltaire, for three years . The pair has moved up the ranks, winning their first grand prix together in Kentucky this summer. The WEF Challenge Cup win was significant for the rider in many ways.
"I have been doing 'WEFs' for about three years now and haven't won one yet, so it is especially exciting, and there are a lot of really good riders," Porter acknowledged. "I haven't won a competition where there are this many top riders, so that is exciting."
Speaking about his partnership with Paloubet, Porter noted, "Definitely it has been improving. He is a little bit of a quirky horse, and he has a funny mouth. My trainer, John, does a lot of the hard work. I have to always mention him because he does most of the hard work with the flat work and everything while I'm gone, and even when I'm here, he is the one who flats him in the morning. I think it has definitely developed. I have gotten stronger, and we have gotten him more accustomed to the way I ride. For sure it has come a long way."
Porter showed his cool under pressure, topping the times of two very fast Irish riders in Shane Sweetnam and Ronan McGuigan, with top competitors like McLain Ward still to go. He took a chance at the end of the jump-off that earned the winning time.
"To the second to last jump, I kind of took a flier out of the turn," he explained. "It was a little bit of a risk, but it ended up paying off, and then that made the line pretty easy. I did the same numbers of strides as everybody down the last line. I think it looked like I was flying, but I was able to slow up a little bit right before the last jump."
"It was a great course, and I liked the jump-off because it had just the right amount of turns and galloping, so it was pretty fun," Porter added. "I thought there were probably just about the right amount of clears to make a good jump-off."
Paloubet also seemed to like the jump-off, handling some very tight turns and big gallops.
"He turns really fast," Porter stated. "I have to be really soft on his mouth, but that is something he is good at. Then his stride really does open up as the course goes on, so at the end when you had to gallop down that last line, he had no trouble doing that."
In addition to the prize money for Thursday's class, Porter earned a special $3,000 bonus as part of the SSG 'Go Clean for the Green' promotion. Each week of the Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Series, a $3,000 bonus will be awarded to the winning rider if they are wearing SSG 'Digital' Riding Gloves in all rounds of competition with the SSG logo clearly visible. Porter was the first bonus winner of 2014.
Also showing on Thursday, Samantha Senft (USA) kicked off the morning with a win in the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m jump-off class with her ride aboard Early Morning. The class saw 27 entries with 17 advancing to the jump-off, and 12 double clear rounds. Senft and Early Morning completed the fastest jump-off round in 36.67 seconds.
Yann Candele (CAN) and Carol Sollak's Brooklyn Blues finished second in 37.038 seconds. Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Mike Collin's Cornetiero placed third with a time of 37.905 seconds.
The $2,500 Engel & V?lkers, Sollak, Carr High Amateur-Owner Jumper speed class was also held in the International Arena on Thursday morning with a win for Jay Land and Nepal. The pair had the fastest of six clear rounds out of 20 entries with the winning time of 69.806 seconds. Robert Jornayvaz IV finished second with a time of 73.334 seconds aboard Like A Dream. Kelly Soleau and Centre Ice were third in 74.047 seconds.
Final Results: $25,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 1
1. PALOUBET WILTON PORTER SLEEPY P RANCH LLC: 0/0/36.052
2. FLAMING STAR CHARLES JACOBS CMJ SPORTHORSE LLC: 0/0/36.797
3. CAPALL ZIDANE RONAN MCGUIGAN RONAN MCGUIGAN: 0/0/37.222
4. SOLERINA SHANE SWEETNAM SWEET OAK & SPY COAST FARMS: 0/0/37.498
5. HERACROSS PARIS SELLON PARIS SELLON: 0/0/38.870
6. VALINSKI S MICHAEL DORMAN WYNDMONT: 0/0/39.968
7. WINGS MCLAIN WARD MCLAIN WARD: 0/8/36.763
8. WHAT EVER KAREN POLLE KAREN POLLE: 0/8/37.772
9. AX-CENT KENNETH BERKLEY RIVERS EDGE: 0/8/41.066
10. BOCKMAN'S LAZIO LAUREN HOUGH KARINA ROTENBERG: 1/76.085
11. VDL TORLANDO CALLAN SOLEM TORLANDO GROUP: 1/76.887
12. WILFORD LJUBOV KOCHETOVA LJUBOV KOCHETOA: 1/76.907