The 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) began its sixth week of competition, sponsored by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, on Wednesday with a win for Harrie Smolders (NED) and Exquis Walnut de Muze in the first international jumper class of the week. Smolders and his veteran partner of eight years blazed to victory in the $34,000 1.45m speed class to kick off the week.
Richard Jeffery of Great Britain is the course designer in the International Ring at The Stadium for week six. On Wednesday, Jeffery began the day with 47 entries in the $34,000 1.45m speed class with 16 clear rounds.
Harrie Smolders and Exquis Walnut de Muze, owned by Team Exquis, had the winning time of 64.06 seconds over Canada's Vanessa Mannix and Dooley's Deluxe. Mannix took an early lead that held through most of the class in 66.21 seconds, but eventually settled for second. Peter Leone (USA) and My Pleasure jumped the third place round in 67.18 seconds.
Smolders has ridden Exquis Walnut de Muze, a 16-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin), since she was eight years old. The pair has a long history of success, including many top grand prix victories, and the rider was happy to see his mount back to her winning ways after a little time off.
"I have already had her a long time, and we have had many good shows together," Smolders said of their partnership. "She had a little injury last year, so she is just coming back, but she has already been jumping fantastic the last two weeks. We have already been close to winning a few times and I couldn't stay out (of the winner's circle), the way she jumps. I still needed to be patient and wait for the right moment, but today was it."
"I know her so well. I know exactly how she reacts and what she is going to do, so that makes it a bit easier," Smolders said of his winning round. "It was quite a bit of turning in this class, but she knows the game and she always finds the fence. She has a lot of routine, so I only have to stay quiet in the turns because otherwise she wants to go in front of me. She thinks too fast. I have to think a bit slow and just look in the turns and then she finds the fences herself."
Smolders noted that Exquis Walnut de Muze tends to have her best performances in bigger arenas, but had no problem adjusting to the change of venue this week. The International Ring at The Stadium is a smaller ring that many riders liken to the venues in Europe. When Smolders was last in Wellington in 2012, the facility had just been built to host the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival, and has since transitioned to holding many different events throughout the circuit. He enjoyed the opportunity to compete in a new location and give the horses a different experience.
"I had not been in here yet; this is my first time jumping here," Smolders noted. "It is like the size of most of the rings on the Global Champions Tour. It is different. The International Arena (at WEF) is way bigger and also the derby field here, but I think it is good to have the change in venue. It is good for the horses to have a different place to show sometimes. It keeps them fresh in the mind."
Along with Exquis Walnut de Muze, Smolders has top horses Emerald and Don VHP Z in Wellington for the big classes. The mare will compete again in Sunday's $34,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic, while the two stallions will handle the grand prix duties.
"I started Emerald a bit quiet because these are his first outdoor shows this year, but I want to move him up this week to the grand prix," Smolders explained. "Don, I used the first two weeks for the grand prix, and she [Exquis Walnut de Muze] has done all of the other classes. In the Suncast series she was already clear two times and now she will go again on Sunday."
Also showing at The Stadium on Wednesday, Peter Leone (USA) jumped to victory in the $6,000 Spy Coast Farm 1.40m jump-off class aboard Lionshare Farm's Wayfarer. Adam Prudent (FRA) finished second with Henri Prudent's Si Bella.
Final Results: $34,000 1.45m Speed
1. EXQUIS WALNUT DE MUZE: 1999 Belgian Warmblood mare by Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin
HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED), Team Exquis: 0/64.06
2. DOOLEY'S DELUXE: 2004 Sachsen Anhaltiner gelding by Dinglinger x Lesotho
VANESSA MANNIX (CAN), Vanessa Mannix: 0/66.21
3. MY PLEASURE: 2005 Belgian Warmblood stallion by For Pleasure x Rubens Du Ri d'Asse
PETER LEONE (USA), My Pleasure LLC: 0/67.18
4. LORDIANA: 2004 Oldenburg mare by Lordanos x Quattro B
CIAN O'CONNOR (IRL), International Horses S.A.S.: 0/67.56
5. DARK KNIGHT: 2004 KWPN gelding by Indoctro x Topas
BEN MAHER (GBR), Legacy Stables LLC: 0/69.31
6. ACAPULCO Z: 2005 Zangersheide stallion by Action-Breaker x Lux II Z
DANIEL ZETTERMAN (SWE), Gyllebo Farm LLC: 0/70.50
7. POLYTELLE: 2003 mare
LUIS PEDRO BIRABEN (ARG), Eduardo Braun: 0/71.71
8. AD ARGOS: 2005 KWPN gelding by Padinus x Concorde
ALVARO DE MIRANDA (BRA), Victory Equestrian Sport BV & Alvaro de Miranda: 0/72.77
9. UTAN: 2001 KWPN gelding by Burggraaf x Concorde
ANGELA COVERT (CAN), Angela Covert: 0/73.76
10. QUATTRO QUEEN: 2004 Oldenburg mare by Quattro B x Landcapitol
JUDY GAROFALO TORRES (USA), Juan Torres: 0/73.81
11. CUJO 7: 2005 Wesphalian stallion by Cayetano L x Friedenstraum I
DEREK BRAUN (USA), Split Rock Farm, Inc: 0/74.89
12. CATACHI: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Caretino x Calando I
HENRIK GUNDERSEN (DEN), Henrik Gundersen: 0/77.12