The Canadian national anthem rang out for the second time in as many days in the International Arena at Wellington International during Week 3 of competition at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). A 2016 Olympian for Canada, Amy Millar rode Christiano to the top of the leaderboard in the $62,500 Hermès CSI4* 1.50 Classic
Fellow Canadian Peter Grant set the track and welcomed a field of 55 and a sizeable jump-off of 16. Millar put the seasoned Christiano, a 12-year-old Brandenburg gelding (Canoso x Compliment) owned by Future Adventures, to work over the tie-breaking course.
“It was a long way between the first two jumps and I went early,” said Millar, 46. “I was going to do nine which was going to be leaving out two strides from normal. I took off like that was the plan but it was not there. I did a really fast ten and I think if I had had time to watch a whole bunch of other people I probably just would have planned ten and that would have been way slower, but I was off. Same in the last line; it was either seven or eight but I was so short to the vertical that I was wide to the left and I ended up in the eight but it was still fast enough to get it done.”
Millar set the time to chase at 39.36 seconds. Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes and his own 12-year-old Selle Français gelding Calypso des Matis (Padock du Plessis*HN) came close in 36.69 seconds, but settled for second. After a bucket-list victory during ‘Saturday Night Lights’, Tiffany Foster jumped onto the podium once again, this time with 10-year-old Oldenburg mare Com Es Ta (Comme Il Faut S x Caretino 2). They were third in 41.57 seconds for co-owners 5 Roosters.
Of Christiano’s career with Millar, she noted, “He tries so hard and it's been so fun. I use him in Major League [Show Jumping] events all the time and that's where he learned to run like this. Now when I light him up like that, he's a real pro at it and I know it's the move so it's really fun.”
Millar will now focus Christiano on WEF 5’s five-star l.50m. “At the end of the season we'll try to get after some of that big money,” she concluded.
The 2024 Hermès 1.50m Championship Jumper Series will take place weekly throughout WEF, culminating during Week 11’s Saturday Night Lights with $150,000 in prize money. Riders who consistently compete in the series will accumulate points towards the series’ title, a $10,000 Hermès store credit and a bespoke Hermès horse rug.
A Day of Firsts for Cathleen Driscoll and Flotylla in CSI2* Florida Coast Equipment Grand Prix
WEF 3 came to a close on Sunday with the $62,500 CSI2* Florida Coast Equipment Grand Prix. Forty-four riders took to the Jasen Shelley (USA) designed course, with eleven returning for the short course.
Of the returning riders, it was USA’s Cathleen Driscoll and Donald Stewart’s Flotylla (Alvaro 121 x Bajou Du Rouet) that took the top prize. The pair sped to the top of the leaderboard with a clear 37.75 seconds, after the runner-ups, Karime Perez Nunez (MEX) and her own Felicie De Coquerie (Malito De Reve x Quiniou), set the pace at a competitive 38.04 seconds.
This was Driscoll’s first grand prix win in Wellington, as well as the 13-year-old mare’s first FEI grand prix win. “I've been partnered with Flotylla for a couple years now. She's owned by Don Stewart and is an absolutely incredible horse. She's taken me to a lot of places and through lots of different classes,” said Driscoll.
This was quite the way for the pair to kick off their season, but Driscoll has her eye on bigger classes for the mare. “She’s had a bit of a break since her last competition at the end of the year, so this is her first show back,” said Driscoll. “We used this two-star to give her a leg-up for the four and five stars coming up later in the season.”
The Shelley designed jump-off allowed riders to play to their horses’ strengths, and for Driscoll that strength was Flotylla’s ability to turn. “I walked the nine from two to fifteen and then the ten coming home. That's what I saw early on and I stuck with it,” said Driscoll. “I didn't get to see Karime go, I heard she was very fast, so I stuck with those numbers but tried to find the right spots off the turns and be very neat. Flotylla is a fantastic turner so I knew I could call on her there.”
The 2* podium was closed out by USA’s Alex Matz and Cashew CR (Cassini II x Quinar Z), owned by Dorothy Matz. The pair jumped double-clear with a jump-off time of 39.84 seconds.
Driscoll has frequented winner’s circles over the past year and only hopes to grow over this next season. “Last year, I would say was a bit of a breakout year for me,” said Driscoll. “I started winning in some classes and finding some consistency in three and four star grand prixs. I have a nice string of horses coming into WEF and these shows you know are very competitive here, the classes are big but I'm really looking to build on that consistency in the bigger grand prixs and maybe some team classes come the summer.”
It’s All Gucci for Samantha Roper in Ringside MDs Adult Amatuer Hunters 36-49
WEF 3 Hunter competition rounded out on Sunday with the Ringside MDs 36-49 Adult Amateur Hunters. The middle age group of Amatuer Hunters competed over the weekend, jumping four over-fences classes and one under saddle.
The top tricolor of the division went to Samantha Roper, of Hobart, IN, and her own Gucci. Roper and the thirteen-year-old gelding topped their division after placing top three in two of the four over-fences, with their highest score at an 81.
“Gucci is very special,” said Roper, “I got him last March as my birthday present.”
This is the pair’s first season at WEF and Roper plans on making the most of it. “My goal is to move up into the 3’3” Amateur Owners and then just continue to have fun,” said Roper. “So far my first time here has been really special. Coming here has been a goal for us and my family and I have made this our sort of vacation for the year.
“Gucci has given me the mental strength to be successful,” explained Roper. “There’s nothing he won’t jump and really gives me confidence. It’s Gucci’s world and we’re all living in it.”
Reserve Champion went to Meg Giannetti, of Houston, TX, and Goodnight Moon, owned by Fayetteville Farms LLC. The pair held a high score of an 84, taking the win in one of the over-fences. The duo also took fifth in the under saddle.
Show jumping and hunter competition will return on Wednesday for Week 4 of WEF, with the Mars Equestrian CSI4*/2* week. For the full WEF 4 schedule, click HERE.