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Ireland's Shane Sweetnam Wins WEF Opening Day

WELLINGTON, Fla., Jan. 16-The 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival officially opened Wednesday, kicking off 12 weeks of international equestrian competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

Ireland's Shane Sweetnam emerged the winner of the $6,000 1.40-meter competition, beating out 54 other entries. Riding Sienna, Sweetnam negotiated the course, designed by Anthony D'Ambrosio, in a time of 56.73 seconds to claim victory on the opening day of the CSI2* Suncast Opener, week one of the CN Winter Equestrian Festival.

"She is a good mare, very fast, and always wants to try to win,&#xu201D; noted Sweetnam of the nine-year-old black horse owned by Spy Coast Farm.

Of the refurbished PBIEC and the major construction and improvements undertaken by new management Equestrian Sport Productions, LLC (ESP), Sweetnam noted, "I think it looks great; it is running in the right direction. The surface is very good, and it looks like a top, top, top, top-class facility.&#xu201D;

Until Sweetnam's performance in the final quarter of the competition, Pablo Barrios held the lead. Despite being only the second rider into the International Arena, Barrios of Venezuela made easy work of the 10 obstacles to stop the clock in 58.52 seconds riding Tibor. When the competition was over, the pair found themselves in second place.

Marilyn Little took third position with Unika while Laura Bowery of Bridgehampton, N.Y., finished fourth riding Indy Star II and fifth with Campeon 007. Earlier in the day, Bowery and Palona won the $8,000 1.45-meter competition over Robert Kraut, who was the only other rider to produce a clear round with Platinum Performance For Life.

Competition in the CSI2* Suncast Opener runs daily through Sunday. Thursday's featured event is the $10,000 Wellington Golf Cars Welcome Stake while a $25,000 Six- Bar competition and a $25,000 Speed Derby will be held on Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.

$6,000 1.40m competition - Wednesday, January 16, 2008

1. Shane Sweetnam/Sienna/0/56.73

2. Pablo Barrios/Tibor/0/58.52

3. Marilyn Little/Unika/0/63.95

4. Laura Bowery/Indy Star II/0/

5. Laura Bowery/Campeon 007/0/66.21

6. Joe Fargis/Madison/0/66.55

7. Darragh Kerins/Orlando/0/66.94

8. Joe Fargis/Tarco/0/66.96

9. Yann Candele/Pitareusa/0/67.03

10. Darragh Kerins/Toscane R/0/68.33

The 2008 CN Winter Equestrian Festival attracts the best horses and riders from around the world to Wellington and offers more than $5 million in prize money. For more information, visit http://www.equestriansport.com.

Photo: Shane Sweetnam and Sienna won the $6,000 1.40-meter competition on Wednesday at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.

Photo Credit: Randi Muster.


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