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Palm Beach Steeplechase Spectators, Jockeys, Owners Declare Huge Success

WELLINGTON, Fla., Nov. 29--The Palm Beach Steeplechase was declared a huge success by spectators, owners, jockeys and officials in its inaugural running at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Saturday.

In almost perfect South Florida weather of clear blue skies and temperatures of almost 80 degrees, a crowd estimated at close to 4,000 celebrated the beginning of the winter equestrian circuit.

In addition to five races with total prize money of $180,000 and sanctioned by the National Steeplechase Association, the event featured sky divers landing in the infield with a 1,000-square-foot American flag, terrier races, a children's fair, the release of three dozen doves, gourmet food by Equestrian Club by Tavern on the Green, a wine festival and beer tent.

Padge Whelan, the 30-year-old English jockey who rode Guelph to win the feature race, the $75,000 Palm Beach Hurdle Stakes, said the event was a tremendous finale to the steeplechase circuit.

Trainer Thomas Voss, who fell one victory short of becoming the NSA trainer of the year, said he was "amazed by the fanastic job to prepare for this day."

The event was staged by Equestrian Sport Productions that manages operations at PBIEC, including top jumper, hunter and dressage shows.

The course that had been created at The Stadium was the same facility where Prince Charles played polo watched by his wife, Princess Diana, two decades ago.

The Palm Beach crowd that watched that game flocked to the steeplechase along with thousands of spectators who packed the infield to party from tailgates as well as pack the Terraces, the Turf Club and The Players Club overlooking the finish line. The 2 1/4/-mile races were close to three circles of the course, jumping a total of 11 hurdles.

In addition to drawing many spectators who said they had never before watched an equestrian event, U.S. equestrian team jumper riders Lauren Hough, Kent Farrington and Charlie Jayne watched the races. So, too, did several U.S. dressage riders including Danish Olympian Lars Petersen and visiting Danish Olympic bronze medal team coach Rudolf Zeilinger.

Photo: Padge Whelan riding Guelph to victory in the $75,000 Palm Beach Hurdle Stakes at the Palm Beach Steeplechase in Wellington Saturday.

Photo Credit: Ken Braddick-HorseSport USA

 

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