March 17, 2016 - Week ten of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) continued on Thursday with a win for Margie Engle (USA) and Elm Rock LLC's Abunola in the $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 10. Competing at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, Engle and Abunola bested a field of 83 horses and riders, with Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Houston finishing second, and Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) aboard Venturo 9 placing third.
Please note that the $130,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3* has been moved to Saturday morning due to expected heavy rainfall in the evening. The grand prix will begin at 11 a.m. in the International Ring at PBIEC.
WEF 10, sponsored by Horseware Ireland, features CSI 3* jumper and 'AA" rated hunter competition running March 16-20, 2016. The week features the $35,000 Illustrated Properties 1.45m Classic on Friday, the $130,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3* on Saturday, and the $35,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic on Sunday. The 12-week WEF circuit continues through April 3 offering more than $9 million in prize money.
Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) set the course for 83 starters in Thursday's WEF Challenge Cup, with 14 entries going clear to advance to the jump-off. Vaillancourt's tiebreaking short course then yielded six double clear rounds. Engle and Abunola clocked the winning time of 41.68 seconds, sixth to go in the jump-off order.
Eric Lamaze with Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable's Houston immediately followed in the second place time of 41.87 seconds. Lorcan Gallagher and Spy Coast Farm LLC's Venturo 9 completed their round in 43.78 seconds to finish third. Danielle Torano (USA) and Callas III earned fourth place honors in a time of 43.94. Ilan Bluman (COL) and Blue Star Investments' Ladriano Z placed fifth in 43.98 seconds, and Chris Surbey (CAN) and Linda Southern Heathcott's Doremi finished sixth in a time of 50.97.
Engle put together a partnership with Rich DeMartini and Lea Allen to purchase Abunola in September of 2015 and has been taking her time to get to know the horse over the last several months. She won her first class with the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Numero Uno x Voltaire) in November competing in a $50,000 HITS Welcome Stake in Thermal, CA. She has since had consistent results competing in Wellington throughout the winter.
"She is a lovely mare," Engle detailed. "I watched her some last year and liked her. I was then fortunate enough to have Rich DeMartini help me put a partnership together to buy her, and they have been very patient as I have been getting to know her.
"She has a lot of blood," Engle continued. "When I first went out to California she was great. I think here I maybe left her a little too fresh. Even though the heat is not great for everyone else, it is perfect for her. It just kind of settled her down, and it did not hurt her one bit. She has a lot of energy and nice blood. She is light on her feet and just lovely to ride."
Speaking of the first round course, Engle stated, "I was thrilled with the way she went. She rode beautifully the first round. I thought the course was tough enough. It was very technical, and it was a tricky track. He actually got not that many clean for how many were in it. It is a hard class to build for, and I thought he did a fantastic job without making it crazy big."
Engle also appreciated the short course, noting, "I liked the jump-off when I walked the course, which was nice. She is very easy to accelerate, so you just kind of think it, and she is ready to go. I ride her in smaller spurs than any horse I have ever ridden. She was really good in the rollbacks. Rolling back on the liverpool, I was very pleased with her there, and also the rollback on the Rolex jump, the second to last jump. I was very happy with her. She has been very consistent here; we just needed a little bit of luck to go our way.
"I was teasing Eric (Lamaze) that he was kind enough to share a class with me," Engle laughed. "He has dominated, and when I knew he was going after me, I thought I would be happy with second place because he has been kind of unstoppable in these classes."
Despite a case of mononucleosis, Engle battled through for a great win on Thursday. Always a fierce competitor, she was determined to compete and came out with a worthy result.
"This is good medicine," Engle stated. "This win was very much needed."
Engle will now prepare Abunola to jump in Saturday's $130,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3*, which has been moved to the morning instead of being held at night under the lights due to expected rainfall.
Commenting on the change, Engle stated, "I hope it will suit her. I will have to see how much I undid her by going fast today because sometimes with a horse that is a little sensitive, if you go quick with them, sometimes they get a little buzzy. Those are things I will have to figure out with her, but if she goes even close to like she did today, I will be very happy."
In addition to the winning prize money on Thursday, Engle picked up a $3,000 bonus for wearing SSG 'Digital' style riding gloves as part of the SSG Gloves 'Go Clean for the Green' promotion.
Also competing in the International Ring on Thursday, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Main Road, owned by Sweet Oak Farm and Seabrook LLC, won the $8,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m jump-off class.
Kelley Farmer and So To Speak Are High Performance Hunter Champions
In the early morning fog, Kelley Farmer and So To Speak, owned by Glefke & Kensel LLC, won the High Performance Hunter championship. They placed first, third, and third over fences, won the stake jumping class, and were second in the under saddle.
The reserve championship went to Autumn Rhythm, ridden by Sloane Coles for Nilani Trent. They won two over fences classes and placed third and fourth in the remaining two. In the under saddle, they were third.
Farmer and her veteran partner So To Speak, a past USEF Horse of the Year winner, have been consistently winning at the Winter Equestrian Festival this winter. With his experience, the eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Stakkato had no trouble with the foggy conditions.
"He's pretty consistent," Farmer said. "He's shown enough everywhere that that kind of thing doesn't bother him. He's a pretty straightforward guy. It probably made him focus more."
As one of Farmer's favorites, So To Speak can get away with being "a little bit of a brat around the barn." Farmer laughed, "He's a little bit of his own character. He's got an interesting personality, but I love that. I like my horses to have a little character. He wants to be careful and jumps in really good style. I love him. He's one of my babies."
Farmer and So To Speak will be back in action at WEF during week 12 for the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.
The tenth week of competition at the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival continues on Friday with the $35,000 Illustrated Properties 1.45m Classic featured in the International Ring in the morning.
The Ariat National Adult Medal will be the highlight class in the Rost Arena. For more information and full results, please visit www.PBIEC.com.