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Marilyn Little-Meredith & Comtesse du Lys Win WEF Challenge XI

WELLINGTON, Fla., Mar. 19--Marilyn Little-Meredith captured her first ever Grand Prix at a Winter Equestrian Festival Thursday, aboard Comtesse Du Lys in the finale round of the $30,000 Braman Motor Cars WEF Challenge Cup Series.

Little-Meredith of Frederick, Md. and the mare Comtesse Du Lys, owned by Raylyn Farms Inc. & Beverly Sheehy, were just nine points short of dislodging Great Britain's Peter Charles and Murka's Pall Mall from the top of the WEF Challenge standings.

Charles' finish in 17th place Thursday was enough to hold on to his lead and win a two-year lease on a Braman Motorcars BMW 323i convertible based on points won in 11 weeks of the WEF Challenge Cup at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.

Ten combinations from 35 starters in the WEF class at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center went clear to make it to the jumpoff on the course designed by Guilherme Jorge of Brazil.

Little-Meredith and Comtesse du Lys posted a time of 40.15 secs., 2/10 of a second faster than second place finisher McClain Ward of Brewster, N.Y. and Rothchild. Ward and Rothchild, owned by Ward, passed the timers in 40.35 secs. Lauren Hough of Wellington, Fla. and Quick Study, owned by Laura Mateo, were third with a time of 41.04 secs.

Marilyn and the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare, the only horse she has to ride, have been "kept out of the first and second spots all circuit, knocking on the door, but today finally burst through it," Little-Meredith said.

Their consistency has kept them high in the rankings.

"OK, Tesse. Let 'er rip," she told her mare at the start of the jumpoff.

Her plan was to be "conservative and careful for the first three jumps, and then after that cut her loose."

"On the way to the last fence I was just thinking, 'bring it home clean,' " she said, and that's what happened.

The pair has been together just three months. She plans to show again Saturday night in the $400,000 FTI Finale Grand Prix. And Little-Meredith is in sixth place in the FTI Rider Challenge standings in which the top four riders after Saturday night's Grand Prix will get a slice of the $200,000 bonus.

McClain was happy with Rothchild's performance.

"He's a young horse, eight years old, and has only had one fence down all circuit 1.50 and over," Ward said.

"I wanted to win it, I wanted to put the pressure on. The more I ran him the higher he jumped.

"I lost time at the CN vertical. He jumped high and a little to the right."

Ward said he plans to compete his double Olympic gold medal mount Sapphire in the Saturday finale.

"It's been a good season," he said. "I'm lucky to have a lot of good horses and continue on to the World Cup."

Photo: Marilyn Little-Meredith winning her first ever Grand Prix at a Winter Equestrian Festival when she rode Comtesse du Lys to victory in the finale of the WEF Challenge Cup at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Thursday. 2009 Ken Braddick


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