Wellington, FL – April 9, 2007 – The 2007 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) ended on Saturday, April 9, with an amazing finish at the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational. Before that, however, horses and riders competed for ten weeks for the honor of being named “Circuit Champion.” The circuit champions were recognized at the Parade of Champions before the Invitational at the Raymond James Stadium in downtown, Tampa, FL. The 2007 WEF started on January 24 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, FL, where eight weeks of hunter and jumper competition took place. On March 28, WEF moved to the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, FL, for another two weeks of showing.
In addition to the 28 hunter and 20 jumper divisions from last year, WEF circuit championships also went to seven new divisions. In every hunter division on the WEF show schedule, horses who accumulated the most points from their best eight out of ten shows as of April 7 won a circuit championship. The jumper champions were decided by the amount of prize money won throughout the ten weeks.
The circuit champion of the Thoroughbred Hunters was Silver Lining, ridden by Penny Lombardo for Missy Yoder of Palm Beach Gardens, FL. This division was new to WEF this year, and it increased showing opportunities for competitors. Silver Lining is a six-year-old Thoroughbred that Yoder got straight from the racetrack. “This is his first real year of showing,” she confirmed. “I’ve owned him since he was three. I keep him at home and take care of him myself. Some days, he’s your typical thoroughbred, and other days he goes around quiet! He’s just a happy guy. We wanted him to get experience with Penny riding him, getting him ready for me to do the Adult Hunters. Then he started doing well, so we thought we would go for it.”
Lombardo explained that Silver Lining did not compete during the first three weeks of WEF, but he still won four championships and 14 blue ribbons over fences. “He’s easy, has a nice mouth and is brave and straightforward to the jumps. He’s good for his age. It was nice to go right to the ring with him,” Lombardo added. “Now that WEF is over, Missy will work on qualifying for the Ariat Adult Medal this year and show in the Adults.”
For the second year in a row, Jennifer Waxman of Chagrin Falls, OH, piloted Saloon, owned by Whitney Roper, to the Large Junior 15 & Under Hunter circuit championship.
“He ended on a really good note,” Waxman said. “We were circuit champion last year, so it was nice to keep that going. He was just so awesome, and he still feels really good. I’m just so happy. And, I want to say thank you to Mrs. Roper, Whitney Roper, Susie Humes and Ken and Emily Smith for getting the opportunity to ride this awesome horse.”
Another repeat circuit champion was Attaché, who won again in the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunters with owner/rider Ellen Toon of South Salem, NY. The championship was a Kilkenny Insurance Agency Amateur-Owner Hunter Series Award. “I wasn’t really thinking about circuit champion all circuit, but then as it nears and you’re up there, I wanted to win it!” she said with a laugh. “I think it went great. I was circuit champion on one horse, and my husband, Jimmy, was circuit champion on two horses, and all of the horses in our barn went great. We were together as a family, which was the best. Our son was here and my husband was here, which was fabulous. It was definitely my favorite year in Florida so far.” Toon was the reserve circuit champion on her new horse Invincible, and this was Toon’s fourth circuit championship in a row, on her third horse.
One of the best hunter riders in the nation is Scott Stewart of Flemington, NJ. This year, Stewart won two circuit championships. Ovation, owned by Molly Ohrstrom, came out on top in the First Year Green Hunters, while West Point, who is now owned by Krista Weisman, won the Equestrian Properties Green Conformation Hunter Series Award.
“It’s great being circuit champion with Ovation. I got him last fall, so his first show was Palm Beach, and I did Pre-Green with him because I thought he was just going to be a pre-green horse. The next week he did the First Years and was champion, so he did way better than I thought he would right off the bat. He’s still so green – he’s done amazingly well,” Stewart related. “I’ve had West Point since he was two-years-old, and he’s seven now. He was circuit champion last year in the Pre-Greens, so it’s great to continue to win. He’s come along so nicely. He’s such a careful, wonderful jumper. I’ve had him a long time, so it meant a lot.”
Boston resident Carol Cone made her trip down to WEF memorable once again after she and Harmony Bay captured the circuit championship in the Adult Hunter 51 & Over division for the second year in a row. She was able to take part in the Parade of Champions with her striking bay stallion. Cone was also the Co-Grand Adult Hunter Champion, tied with Sloan Brown and Stella Blue, who won in the Adult Hunter 18-35 Hunters.
“I always say parading is second best only to my wedding day. This year, I had a different team: Creedy Fiore of Fairmount Farm was the primary trainer and caregiver, with Sandy Ferrell also taking us to the ring. I had two incredibly talented women who provided the best care and training that I ever could have,” she remarked. “Harmony Bay is 15 going on 16, so the preparation and the care is really important for him to be at his very best. Under their care, he kept his performance at the highest level throughout the circuit. He was as good and as sharp as he was at the first show and the last show.”
In the jumper divisions, the one name repeated over and over again for circuit championships was Laura Chapot. The professional rider from Neshanic Station, NJ, upped her circuit championships from two last year to three this year. Her top performer once again was Sprite, who won the 1.40m Jumper division for the fourth year in a row, and she rode Cilthe Z, owned by Mary Chapot and Harold Vogel, to the reserve champion spot. Chapot was the circuit champion in the 1.35m Jumper division on Noteworthy, owned by Mary Chapot.
Chapot took four of the top five spots in the 7&8 Year Old Young Jumper division. She and Chili Pepper, an eight-year-old Holsteiner gelding that she has owned for a year and a half, were the circuit champions. “Chili Pepper is really, really fast and has a huge stride. He covers the ground faster than a lot of horses without even trying. He loves to turn and go fast – almost too much. Sometimes in the first round I have to hold him back a little bit,” she said with a smile. Having four competitive horses in the division is fun for Chapot. “You have to go in and try with each one of them the same. They all have a good shot of winning. I think they’re all great horses, and hopefully they have a bright future.”
The circuit champion and winner of the King-Kaplan Family Low Junior Jumper Series Award was Nigel S, ridden by Kimberly McCormack of Clermont, NJ, for her trainers John Brennan and Missy Clark of North Run. The 11-year-old Warmblood gelding is “the first real jumper that I’ve had,” McCormack mentioned. “I’m leasing him for the year. He’s John’s horse, and he is a good jumper to learn on. It’s nice to know that I have this horse to do the whole time. This is so easy for him. He’s helped me learn how to win and know how to go fast without worrying about my horse.”
McCormack believes that Nigel’s consistency helped her win the final title. “He won the last classic in Palm Beach, which gave us an advantage going into Tampa,” she said. “He’s got a huge stride. He’ll do five less strides in a jump-off. He turns really well. He’s not the fastest horse, but he’ll land and do an inside turn that most people can’t do.”
Carolyn Kelly of New York City made the most of her time when competing in Wellington this winter. The freshman at Princeton University commuted to Florida to show Rulanda, who was circuit champion in the 1.45m Jumpers, and Omona AW, who won the circuit championship in the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers.
“When I have a lot going on with traveling and riding, it seems to help me stay more organized,” Kelly said with a smile. “I kept my schoolwork up, got good grades and I did well at WEF.”
Her win with Rulanda was “unexpected,” since it was Kelly’s first year showing in the Open Jumper division. “There wasn’t as much pressure because I didn’t expect to do well,” Kelly acknowledged. “She is such a fantastic horse. WEF is bigger and more competitive than most places, so to do well there is a confidence builder.”
Kelly and Omona AW have had their fair share of success, including last year’s circuit championship in the High Junior Jumpers. “Since Omona was so consistent last year, it was a subconscious goal of mine to go for another circuit championship. I hoped that if it went well, she would win. We gave her two weeks off in Wellington, and I didn’t show in Tampa, so I wasn’t actually going for the championship, but it was certainly quite exciting to win.”
Another great year at the Winter Equestrian Festival has come to a close, and the champions at the world’s longest-running equestrian event have been crowned. As the show season moves on, the winners will have their tricolor memories and the honor of being a WEF circuit champion.
For a full list of Winter Equestrian Festival circuit champions, please visit http://www.stadiumjumping.com
Photo Credit: The trophy table at the Parade of Champions. Photo © 2007 PhelpsSports.com.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/winter-equestrian-festival-winners-end-4-07.html">2007 Winter Equestrian Festival Comes to a Close and Honors Circuit Champions</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com