Articles: Press Release
Winter Equestrian Festival Week 9 Wrap-up from Tampa, March 29- April 2,
Tournament of Champions
Mason Phelps, Jr. of Phelps Media Group, Inc. at (561)
753-3389 or at email@example.com
Jumper Highlights- Tuesday through Friday
The early morning feature on Tuesday was the 1.45m Jumpers with
twenty-one starters. Grand Prix star McLain Ward's brightest and best
this season has been his speed horse Galant. The duo proved how dominant
they can be on Tuesday, producing a jump-off clear and an amazingly fast
time of 31.142 seconds. Ward's time was 5.4 seconds faster that second
place finisher, Kate Levy and 15.2 seconds faster than Alison Firestone
Finally, a win!" said Ward following his 1.45m win. "Actually, Galant
has been great this circuit, I'm the one hurting for victories. Galant
has won five or six on the tour, so he's been fantastic," laughed Ward.
"The key today was to be double clean. There were only three clear, and
I know with Galant, if I leave the jumps up, he's going to be among the
A total of 40 starters went to the post for the 1.40m Jumpers, the
second feature of the Tuesday schedule. Joyous and Laura Kraut, riding
for the Summit Partners, came home with the victory. Kraut cruised
across the finish line clear and tripped the timers in 31.456 seconds.
While Ward totally dominated the 1.45m jumpers earlier, Kraut was just
fractions faster than second place finisher, Ramiro Quintana.
The old saying goes "timing is everything." On Wednesday, Alison
Firestone made good on the old saying with a debut win with her new
mare, Intrepide Du Valon, in the $30,000 Ariat WEF Challenge Cup Series
Final at the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Bob Thomas Equestrian
Center in Tampa, Florida.
With four of the eight available spots for the Budweiser World Cup in
Las Vegas still at stake going into today's event, the pressure was on
throughout the class and the tension could be felt in every corner and
all across the arena.
Alison Firestone and Intrepide du Valon entered the ring as the last duo
to go and with the class on the line. Intrepide Du Valon, owned by Mr.
and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, was making her grand prix level debut.
You would never have known this was their first big class. Firestone was
amazing. Firestone's pace was torrid. She was over a second ahead of
Sheila Burke and Caya when she duplicated the inside cut that Burke had
Intrepide Du Valon was literally two feet over the standards on the
final fence and Firestone lit up the scoreboard with a finish time of
34.60, exactly two seconds faster than Caya and Burke.
"I don't know how high she was over that last jump," Firestone said
following the class, "but it was just the most incredible feeling in the
On the final week of the nine week long Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF)
tour and in the last class of the Acorn Hill Farm Speed Challenge
series, Ellen Whitaker and AK Kanselier finally got past Laura Chapot
and Sprite for the victory. The $5,000 Acorn Hill Speed Challenge was
the featured event on Thursday at the Tournament of Champions at the Bob
Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida.
Great Britain's Ellen Whitaker, riding the Amaro/Whitaker Sporthorse's
AK Kanselier, was two horses after Laura Kraut, who posted the fastest
time thus far. Whitaker laid down a fast and furious trip, clearing the
course with no knockdowns and knocking a whopping 3.04 seconds off of
Kraut's previous top time. Whitaker posted the new time to beat at
Sprite and Laura Chapot would be the next challengers to Whitaker, eight
horses later. Sprite and Chapot, the winningest 1.40m speed horse/rider
combination in recent WEF history, were going after win number
thirty-three on Thursday. Chapot, in her usual no holds barred fashion,
let out all the stops. When she tripped the timers, it was apparent that
Thursday's win would go to Whitaker. Chapot came up 0.47 seconds short
of Whitaker's time, crossing the finish line in 65.470 seconds.
"Whew!" exclaimed Whitaker after watching Chapot's round. "She had me
riveted to the chair. She's super fast, but finally today I got the edge
For the second day in a row, Ellen Whitaker on her extraordinary speed
horse, A.K. Kanselier, laid down the gauntlet and then held off all
challengers in Friday's main event, the $20,000 1.50m Classic, at the
2005 Winter Equestrian Festival at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in
Ellen Whitaker and Thursday's Acorn Hill Speed Challenge winner, AK
Kanselier, entered the ring as the first of five remaining in the
jump-off. Making an inside cut that no one else in the fifteen horse
field attempted, Whitaker flew around the course and across the finish
in a breathtaking time of 30.966 seconds. She had topped Callan Solem's
previous top time by an incredible 4.12 seconds.
Hunter Highlights- Wednesday through Saturday
Although Scott Hofstetter is not in the running for a circuit
championship, he and Alena had no problem competing against horses that
showed all winter in Palm Beach. Hofstetter, who spends the winter at
the Ocala Winter Circuit, came away easily with the Second Year Green
Working Hunter championship on Wednesday in Tampa.
Hofstetter enjoys coming to Tampa and competing against new faces. He
clarified, "I did Ocala with Alena, so it was nice to come against the
competition from Palm Beach. They all come together and there are a lot
of the good ones, actually. Even though it's the end of the circuit, the
good ones are here because they're chasing for that circuit award. So it
was nice to see her come up and be competitive in that group."
Alena won the under saddle class on Tuesday and was fifth and third over
fences. On Wednesday, Anne Koch's big chestnut mare won both over fences
classes for the championship over High Cotton and Ken Smith, who rode
for Christy Russo.
Another Scott won the Green Conformation Hunter division on Wednesday,
but this time it was Scott Stewart. Stewart swept the division on
Granted and handily won the circuit championship. Granted received the
tricolor over Nancy Breedlove's Game Plan and Penny Lombardo.
Granted won all six classes in the division, and his success was special
for Stewart, who has owned the beautiful bay gelding since he was two
years old. However, Stewart revealed, "He's actually the greenest horse
I have. He only showed three times last year."
In the Regular Conformation Hunters on Thursday, Nairobi and Morgan
Thomas came away with the win over The Kamine Family's Superman and Nona
Garson. Thomas rides Nairobi for KW Unlimited.
Nairobi's owner plans to retire him at the end of the year and focus on
breeding. Although Thomas will miss competing with Nairobi, he feels
that Nairobi's breeding is a good career choice. "I just think that,
with the right mares, he could potentially throw some great babies," he
said. "He's been very good in the ring and he's won at quite a few good
places, but I think his biggest legacy could be to contribute a lot of
young horses over the years that hopefully will end up being special
While Thomas and Nairobi are winding down their time together, Havens
Schatt and Take Away are just getting started. Schatt picked up the ride
for owner Cortie Wetherill at the beginning of WEF and has already won
Take Away won both over fences classes on Wednesday in the Regular
Working Hunters, and then won the under saddle class and was first and
fourth in the remaining over fences classes. Reserve champion in the
division was Fashion Farm's Coast to Coast and Amanda Lyerly.
Take Away was originally a jumper in Europe, but has easily made the
transition to a hunter. Schatt tried him in Europe, but did not know
that they would be together a few months later. "When we were in Indoors
last year, Jeff Wirthman (Take Away's trainer) approached me about
riding his horses during circuit. When I got to circuit, I started
riding this horse for him and I had no idea it was the same horse that I
had ridden in Europe," she explained.
Schatt also mentioned that Take Away is comfortable now in his new role
as a hunter. "I liked him from the minute I started riding him. He's
straightforward and jumps easy and is scopey. He's consistent all the
time and is a very good guy," Schatt said.
Another division was wrapped up on Friday, as Attache and Ellen Toon
came away with the tricolor in the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunters over
Just Looking and Louise Otten.
This week in Tampa, Attache won the under saddle class and three over
fences classes. Their partnership has grown the more they show and it
pays off with every blue ribbon they collect. "I think we probably both
got better. He's been very consistent and I've probably gotten better on
him," Toon clarified.
Toon is known for riding one of the best hunters of all time, In
Disguise, and the new relationship with Attache is shaping up to be just
as special. She revealed, "I feel like I've bonded my relationship with
him and it'll be great to begin the next season with him and go for it
again. To have a horse that's this scopey and with this much talent,
just to be able to get on and do it is great. I can't say enough about
Lauren Hogan came from the Ocala Winter Circuit, where she was the
Medium Pony circuit champion on Heart's Desire, to go against new faces
and stiff competition at WEF.
Hogan and her old partner were third in the under saddle and received
first and fourth place ribbons over fences. In their remaining over
fences classes, they were first and second, which gave them enough
points for the Medium Pony Hunter championship on Saturday. Reserve
champion went to WEF circuit champions Tuscany and Jennifer Waxman.
The ponies showed in the Charlie Lykes Arena, which was a switch from
the outdoor rings of Wellington and Ocala. It had no effect on Heart's
Desire, as Hogan explained, "She goes the same indoor and out- perfect!"
An old partnership was renewed this weekend when Megan Massaro piloted
Elite Hint of Blue to the Large Pony Hunter Championship. Massaro
originally rode the adorable grey pony two years ago at Pony Finals,
where they were reserve champions in the Large Green Ponies. Since
then, owner Jessie Matakis has had success with him.
Elite Hint of Blue was third in the under saddle class on Friday and
placed first and fifth over fences. On Saturday, Massaro piloted him to
two second place finishes in the remaining over fences classes. Reserve
champion in the division went to After the Laughter and Alexandra Arute,
who rode for Scott Stewart.
Massaro was very pleased to be able to ride the pony again and be
champion in tough competition. Elite Hint of Blue has matured since
their original union. "He grew up a lot. He's much easier to ride and
his lead changes are much better," she said with a smile.
Avery Dimmig and Due North made the most of their Florida winter
circuit. They were champions in the last week of WEF and it vaulted
them ahead of the competition in the tight race for circuit champion in
the Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunters. Dimmig revealed, "It's a relief to win
this week. It was nice to end on a good note."
Due North was amazingly consistent and had a tough battle this week with
Orange County and Charlie Jayne, who were reserve champions. Due North
won the under saddle class and was first and second over fences on
Friday. They then finished up with three second place finishes in the
remaining over fences classes.
Due North has become somewhat accustomed to having the tricolor flapping
on his bridle and posing for pictures. Dimmig divulged, "His
personality is so much fun. He knows when he's good. It makes it that
much more fun when they really enjoy doing their job and doing it well."