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2,000 Attend First Annual WEF Welcome Party for PBIEC

WELLINGTON, Fla., Jan. 25--An estimated 2,000 cheering partygoers turned out Friday night for the first annual CN Winter Equestrian Festival Welcome Party presented by Zimmerman Advertising with Olympic champion Rodrigo Pessoa taking the match race title.

Exhibitors, their families and grooms of all of the WEF disciplines--dressage, hunters, jumpers and equitation, professionals and amateurs--that compete at the 12-week WEF that offers record prize money of $5 million turned out for the first event under lights in the completely renovated International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The party was sponsored by Zimmerman Advertising.

Exhibitors started streaming into the show grounds an hour before the start of the match race for the barbecue style dinner catered by the Equestrian Club Tavern on the Green and free drinks.

Grand Prix jumper rider Mark Leone was the commentator for the much anticipated demonstration match race of 15 top Grand Prix riders--Olympians and relative newcomers but all in the top league--and their mounts over mirrored courses of six jumps of 1.30 meters designed by Richard Jeffery.

In the first round, eight-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar was drawn against Nilforushan, Eliza Shuford against Todd Minikus, Kent Farrington against Norman Dello Joio, Lauren Hough against Georgina Bloomberg, Brianne Goutal against Jimmy Torano, Rodrigo Pessoa against Candice King, Shane Sweetnam against Henrik Gundersen and McLain Ward alone because of a late scratch.

In the fourth round it was Ali Nilforushan and Rodrigo Pessoa with the crowd packed into the International Club and the bridge overlooking the arena cheering on their favorites. The Olympic champion collected $7,500 for his win, while the Californian received a check for $3,750. All the other competitors received a $500 performance fee.

Children had their faces painted while a six-piece band entertained the crowd.

The ballyhooed dunking of gossip columnist Hildegarde Frostbite took a back seat to the crowd celebrating the complete makeover of the show grounds that riders of all disciplines and levels are lauding as the premier U.S. showcase of jumping, hunters and dressage. The five competitions from which the U.S. team for the 2008 Olympics will be selected will be held at PBIEC.


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