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British Rule Continues at WEF as Nick Skelton and Russel Strike Gold in €35,000 WEF Challenge Cup

Wellington, FL – March 2, 2006 – On a gorgeous Thursday afternoon at the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida, the flag from Great Britain was once again hoisted to the top of the center ring flag pole for the victory celebration. It was the second major WEF victory in a row for the Brits. England’s Robert Smith led the round of honor following Sunday’s big win in the Masters Cup, and today it was fellow countryman Nick Skelton galloping home victorious on Russel in the €35,000 WEF Challenge Cup, Round Six.

Eighty-four competitors turned out for Round Six of the WEF Challenge Series, tying the record for the second largest starting field in WEF history. The original starting list was trimmed down from over one hundred entries. Today’s scoring was under FEI Art. 238.2.2. Time First Jump-Off. The Internationale Arena Course Designer this week is Marco Cortinovis of Italy.

Of the eighty-four, only five riders managed to negotiate the intricate and tricky fourteen effort course without penalty. Today’s course included an extremely difficult and very tight triple combination, a tough double coming home, the water, and an extremely tight time allowed. Three horse and rider combinations came home without jumping penalties, but couldn’t get under the wire in time, each collecting a single time fault. Seventeen riders accumulated four faults, another twenty-one had two rails down, while six riders lowered the height of three fences. Thirteen duos had more than twelve and a sizable eighteen competitors either withdrew or were eliminated.

Paige Johnson of the United States, who produced the first clear go of the day riding out of the twentieth spot in the order, returned first for the tiebreaker. Johnson was up on the Salamander Farm’s Kadena R. Johnson’s jump-off ride was fast and flawless until the final fence of the speed phase. That jump came down and Johnson finished with four faults in 39.47 seconds, the fastest time of the day.

The second rider back for the timed jump-off was today’s eventual winner, Nick Skelton of Great Britain. Riding Russel, owned by Lisa Hales, Skelton set the standard with a superb speed ride, clocking in at 40.45 seconds without penalty.

Laura Kraut of the United States followed Skelton with Panic, owned by the Panic Partnership. Kraut raced home clean, but just missed the mark by 3/10ths of a second, tripping the timers in 40.82 seconds.

Canada’s Eric Lamaze, a winner last Thursday with Ashland Stables’ Narcotique de Muze II, was unable to duplicate the feat today. Lamaze appeared to be on a winning pace early, but he pulled a rail halfway through the jump-off, eased up a bit, and finished with the four faults in 42.85 seconds.

The final challenger, also from Canada, was Lauri Bucci and Catesko, owned by Southshore Farm and Tjeert Rijkens. Bucci also pulled a rail and finished with the slowest of the jump-off times in 43.90 seconds.

“I didn’t think I’d win to be honest,” admitted Skelton following today’s win. “I thought Eric would catch me for sure.”

Skelton detailed his jump-off ride on Russel. “He’s not the easiest of horses to ride really. I’ve got to sort of take care of him at the fences. He’s very good at the oxers but the verticals are my difficult fences with him, and the tall brown vertical was quite a delicate fence, so I had a take a little bit of time to that one,” he said. “But I was able to let him run to the oxers. He jumped good and I was quite pleased.”

Second place finisher Kraut knew she was right on Skelton’s time. “I thought I could be very close. I did add a stride from the double to the next oxer because he’s a young horse and this was his first big class and I didn’t want to scare the life out of him,” explained Kraut. “But I thought I’d be close and I was.”

Kraut talked about her new partner, Panic. “He’s a new horse I just got from Nick actually,” she laughed. “I’m really, really happy. I’ve only had him since December and I was thrilled with the way he jumped today.”

Both riders talked about the challenging course set by Course Designer Marco Cortinovis.

“I didn’t think there would be many clear, but a few more than five maybe. The time was tight and the last line was very, very technical. The problem is when you have so many horses in the class, what do you do?” asked Skelton. “You don’t really want twenty in the jump-off so you have to something to get rid of the competitors. Unfortunately, he got rid of a few the wrong way. That triple combination was a little to short, really.”

“I agree,” said Kraut. “It was nicer than having twenty-seven in the jump-off and having to run so much. There wasn’t anything to scopey or dangerous, the horses weren’t swimming. I agree that maybe the triple was a little too short but none of the oxers were scary.”

Skelton was thrilled to see the flag from Great Britain raised again. “We’re not doing too bad at the moment,” he laughed. “They probably won’t have us back here again.”

Today’s Round Six of the €35,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series, was one of only four qualifying events remaining for the FTI Riders Challenge, a rider bonus pool of $200,000 for the riders receiving the most points in the seven Thursday and seven Sunday Grand Prix events that are part of the WEF Wellington series.

On Friday, in addition to the Acorn Hill Speed Challenge in the afternoon, the top Amateur-Owner jumper riders will compete in the Solaray A/O Gamblers Choice at 6 p.m. Following that class, the €50,000 1.50m Jump for a Just World Classic will highlight the world’s best riders. They will compete for the first time under the lights at the Internationale Arena.

On Saturday, the €25,000 1.45m Amateur Special Invitation (GCT) Show Jumping Hall of Fame event starts out the day, and the €25,000 Global Champions Tour 1.50m Classic wraps it up.

Sunday’s star studded day begins with the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Jumper Classic and the Senior Classic. On Sunday afternoon at 2p.m., the €150,000 CN Worldwide Florida Open, presented by Cosequin marks the debut of the Global Champions Tour. Sunday’s main event is also the fifth stop on the year long American Grand Prix Association (AGA) Tour.

Next week, the final week in Wellington, features the $75,000 Nations’ Cup presented by CN, CSIO 5*, a competition that pits teams of show jumpers from multiple countries against each other in two rounds of competition. The 2006 Nations’ Cup, presented by CN on Friday, March 10th, marks the fifth time that the Winter Equestrian Festival will host this prestigious international event. Making the competition especially exciting, the Nations’ Cup will once again be held at night under lights in the Internationale Arena.

The richest show jumping event of the seven weeks in Wellington will take center stage on Sunday, March 12th. The $150,000 US Open Jumper Championship, presented by CN, CSIO 5*, brings the WEF Wellington series to a close.

Results of Class 102 WEF CHALLENGE CUP, FEI ART 238.2.2 – CN Worldwide – Internationale Arena - Wellington Open CSI 3* - 3/2/06

1 3362 NICK SKELTON GBR RUSSEL 0.00 73.00 0.00 40.45

LISA HALES

2 3101 LAURA KRAUT USA PANIC 0.00 74.00 0.00 40.82

PANIC PARTNERSHIP

3 2863 PAIGE JOHNSON KADENA R 0.00 74.00 4.00 39.47

SALAMANDER FARM

4 1862 ERIC LAMAZE CAN NARCOTIQUE DE MUZE II 0.00 74.00 4.00 42.85

ASHLAND STABLES

5 1741 LAURIE BUCCI CAN CATESKO 0.00 74.00 4.00 43.90

SOUTH SHORE FARM

6 2459 LESLIE HOWARD USA YOUP 0.00 0.00 1.00 76.26

S'BLIEFT GROUP

7 2238 LAUREN HOUGH USA CASADORA 0.00 0.00 1.00 78.26

LAURA MATEO

8 3375 KATIE PRUDENT WANNAHORSE OLANTA 0.00 0.00 1.00 79.11

PLAIN BAY FARM

9 965 IAN MILLAR CAN PROMISE ME 0.00 0.00 4.00 71.18

THE BAKER'S DOZEN

10 3499 TIM GREDLEY FABRIANA 0.00 0.00 4.00 71.35

11 1795 JOE FARGIS USA EDGAR 12 0.00 0.00 4.00 73.59

MARY B. SCHWAB

12 2660 JIMMY TORANO USA MARLO 0.00 0.00 4.00 73.83

JIMMY TORANO

13 1866 ERIC LAMAZE CAN LORRAIN Z 0.00 0.00 4.00 74.06

ASHLAND STABLES

14 2809 MARGIE ENGLE USA HIDDEN CREEK'S ALIBI 0.00 0.00 4.00 74.15

HIDDEN CREEK FARM

15 41 CHRIS KAPPLER VDL ORANTA 0.00 0.00 4.00 74.25

M&K ORANTALLC

16 1236 LAURA KRAUT USA ANTHEM 0.00 0.00 4.00 74.65

SUMMIT SYNDICATE

17 1104 BEEZIE MADDEN USA JUDGEMENT 0.00 0.00 4.00 74.85

IRON SPRING FARM

18 3341 SANTIAGO LAMBRE MEX CURANT 0.00 0.00 4.00 74.86

SANTIAGO LAMBRE

19 3135 JEAN-CLAUDE VAN GEEN UKR OSTA RUGS QUINTUS 0.00 0.00 4.00 75.48

ARNOLD DE BRABANDERE

20 3353 FRANKIE CHESLER ORTI CAN PICOLIEN ZELDENRUST 0.00 0.00 5.00 76.05

SHER AL FARM

21 2578 GEORGINA BLOOMBERG USA NADIA 0.00 0.00 5.00 76.23

GOTHAM ENTERPRIZES

 

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