Twelve weeks of 1.50m competition came to a peak on Saturday evening in the $146,000 CaptiveOne Advisors CSI4* 1.50m Series Final during the penultimate week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at Wellington International. From a field bursting with talent and international accolades, U.S. Olympic team gold medalist Mclain Ward sealed the deal with Quimi del Maset from a 12-horse jump-off with only a second to spare.
Fifty-eight qualified entries moved forward to the final during the Bainbridge Companies sponsored WEF 11 over courses designed by Olaf Petersen Jr. (GER). Ward piloted a brand new mount to his string, but there was no misunderstanding between the two when it came to the need for foot speed in the jump-off.
Coming off a Rolex Grand Slam win at the Dutch Masters just a couple weeks ago, Ward has carried the momentum back to WEF. Ultimately, Quimi del Maset, the nine-year-old Spanish-bred sporthorse (Quasimodo Z x Increta del Maset) owned by The Kasper Group, broke the timers near the middle of the short course group but held on for the win over runner-up Charlotte Jacobs (USA) riding Rincoola Milsean, owned by North Star. Ward stopped the clock at 44.34 seconds, while Jacobs crossed the timers at 45.40 seconds.
Brazilian Olympic Champion Rodrigo Pessoa and Artemis Equestrian Farm’s Major Tom rounded out the podium in 46.49 seconds.
“I did a jump-off two weeks ago with him and he’s actually quite a quick horse because he’s predictable. He’s got a big stride and you can really take a risk because his brain is incredible,” said Ward. “I was going to ride my round, but I thought for sure maybe some of the more experienced horses could nip us. We were lucky; this was his start under the lights and we are thrilled with how he performed.
“The horse had been on my radar last year, but the previous owners weren’t 100% sure they wanted to sell, but they were generous in thinking about the potential for the horse maybe going to the Olympics for the U.S. and worked with my group to get him here. I’m very grateful,” said Ward of the horse previously produced by Bolivian rider Daniel Bedoya, who jumped the then eight-year-old in the Central American Games in 2022 and earned an individual silver medal in the Bolivarian Games the same year.
While Ward stole victory during ‘Saturday Night Lights’, Darragh Kenny’s consistency throughout the season earned the Irish rider the 2023 CaptiveOne Advisors 1.50m Series overall title. With three recent top-five placings on three different horses, Kenny sealed the deal.
“I’ve been coming here for twelve years, and this is probably the best season I’ve ever had,” said the Irish Olympian. “I have some great horses at the moment, they all performed excellent during the season and I’m happy they had that much success.
“I had a couple of good and experienced horses between Vancouver Dreams and Chic Chic who were amazing all winter,” continued Kenny. “I’m very lucky I have a couple of really good owners right now and some nice horses, so it’s been a top season for me. WEF is a great place where you can build up horses and your older horses don’t have to do so much, but there’s good prize money when you do jump them.”
Earlier in the evening, several special awards were presented as the 2023 WEF season nears its end. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Karen Golding and accepted on her behalf by her colleagues in the FEI Stewards department.
The David E. Burton Jr. Perpetual Trophy for Extraordinary Service was presented to dedicated Wellington International employees Selvyn Cormack “Blacka” and Evaristo Silva “Tito”. “Blacka” manages the Grounds Maintenance team and “Tito” manages the Facility Maintenance Department.
The Carly Anthony Showjumping Junior Sportsmanship Award, given in memory of Candida C. Forstmann, was presented by Carly Anthony to 17-year-old Carlee McCutcheon.
Ritter Reigns in $50,000 BrainJuice CSI2* Grand Prix
Daytime competition on Saturday wrapped up with a successful day for Nikko Ritter (USA) in the $50,000 BrainJuice CSI2* Grand Prix.
A field of forty-five horse and rider combinations contested Petersen Jr.’s original track. As the class came to a close, 11 pairs from six different nations earned jump-off positions with the last to qualify being Sam Walker of Canada. Laying down a faultless and fast finish, Ritter rose to the top of the leaderboard as he produced the fastest time of the five double-clear entries on Aquiles Del Caribe Z.
“Recently there’s just been such an upward trajectory with this horse; I honestly believe she’s the best horse I’ve ever had,” he explained in reference to his nine-year-old Zangersheide mare (Action-Breaker x Gerlinus). “We were second in a three-star in Ocala recently, but this is our first real win. We originally found her while on a trip to Europe. I was there for 13 days and had all but accepted the idea that I wasn’t coming home with a horse and then we found her. I immediately liked her scope and the feeling she gave after the fences.”
Ritter travels the country with his boutique training and sales business but calls Wellington home. While his entire team has had a stellar season, he felt the win was in perfect time as he and his mount have been knocking on the door at WEF throughout the season.
“Anytime we’ve been able to get into a two-star here we’ve had really good results,” he added, explaining that the entry waitlist at this level of competition is steep. “She won her first national grand prix in the fall and did well in a national grand prix here under the lights this season. She’s just been building and looking forward to bigger and better things.”
Young up-and-coming rider Zayna Rizvi produced another top finish for the USA as she piloted Exquise Du Pachis to second-place honors. The rising star gave clear jumping efforts across both phases on the Optimus Agro nv’s 13-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Vagabond De La Pomme x Ogano Sitte) and finished just a second slower than Ritter with a time of 36.54 seconds for the placing. France’s Marie Hecart and S.a.r.I Socrates the 10-year-old Zangersheide mare Cartouche VD Cumel Z (Contadoro van de helle x Orloso vd Cumel).
Colvin and El Primero Strike Again in $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Bainbridge Companies
Victoria Colvin and El Primero were back on top to close out Week 11 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and bringing home top call in the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, presented by Bainbridge Companies on Saturday.
Twenty-nine of the country’s top hunter riders took to the grass derby field at Equestrian Village over courses designed by Ken Krome. Colvin was the one to beat, however, winning on El Primero, a 2009 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Numero Uno owned by Meralex Farm Inc., and placing third on Cadouch Z, a 2009 Zangersheide stallion by Calvaro Z and owned by Amy Hassinger.
Colvin combined scores of 185 in the first round and 192 from the second round where the top 12 returned. There total of 377 from two judges panels secured the victory.
Colvin was beaming after having two horses finish in the top three, saying, “My little bay stallion, Cadouch went great today, and then I went on El Primero who I thought shined in the handy round. His first round was great, but I thought he jumped incredible in the handy and he turns well, so I had a tight turn back to the trot jump and I think that’s where he excelled a little bit.
“He loves the derby field, and we had a blast,” continued Colvin on the refreshing change of venue for the derbies during WEF 11. The win marks their second derby win in three weeks. “He was super a couple weeks ago, but I think he shined even brighter today. He will get a much deserved break now.”
Colvin credits her never-ending success in the hunter ring to confidence. talented rider stands out and continues to shine, “I don’t get nervous at all,” she said with a smile. “But how the horses go is just how it is and if something bad happens then I just roll with the punches and move on. I think because I don’t get nervous my horses are all very confident too.”