Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 7, 2019 – The premiere CSI5* week of the twelve-week long Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) drew internationally-renowned athletes to contend for the winning title in the $134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup V CSI5* on Thursday morning. The crowd watched Erynn Ballard (CAN) execute the best double-clear performance to clinch top honors with her 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) partner, Darko’s Promise, owned by Ilan Ferder. This victory not only earned Ballard bragging rights and the greatest share of the prize money, but more importantly it solidified her spot in the highly-anticipated $391,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*, set to take place under the lights on Saturday evening.
Fifty-one horse and rider combinations tackled the course designed by Kelvin Bywater (GBR) in the International Arena during the first phase of riding. Bywater challenged riders with a technical, equitation-type 13-fence track standing at 1.55m in height that consisted of a triple combination (oxer-vertical-oxer) as well as a tricky double combination (vertical-oxer) that was part of the last line of the course headed away from the in-gate. The time-allowed was tight and caught a number of riders who struggled to complete the course in the permitted 80 seconds.
Seven pairs returned to the ring for the jump-off, which featured seven obstacles including the double combination. Currently ranked third in the world on the Longines FEI Show Jumping list, Harrie Smolders (NED) put forth the initial clear round as the sixth entrant in the class and was the first to try his hand over the short course, piloting Evergate Stables’ Une De L’Othain through the timers in 41.04 seconds. Next up was Lucas Porter (USA) aboard Sleepy P Ranch LLC’s C Hunter. The 22-year-old rising talent stopped the clock in 40.81 seconds to sneak in front of Smolders in the standings.
Representing the USA, Molly Ashe-Cawley had the ride on Balou’s Day Date, owned by Louisburg Farm. While Cawley completed her second trip in 39.309 seconds, she had an unfortunate rail down to position herself behind Porter. Next to go, Eduardo Menezes (BRA) and H5 Stables’ H5 Chaganus tackled the course efficiently in an impressive 39.40 seconds to overtake the new leading spot. Menezes was then followed by Markus Beerbaum (GER) in the irons aboard Cool Hand Luke 4, owned by Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC, who completed the course in 42.919 seconds to put himself in the third position.
The eldest of the Porter brothers in the jump-off, Wilton Porter (USA) tried his efforts over the short course next riding Sleepy P Ranch LLC’s Caletto Cabana, and the pair stopped the clock in 39.55 seconds to emerge second in the rankings. As the final entrant in the ring, Ballard took Darko’s Promise over the seven-obstacle course in just 39.285 seconds to steal the winning spot from Menezes, bumping him to second place and leaving Wilton Porter to settle for the third place ribbon. Ultimately, just 12/100ths of a second separated Ballard from the pack to capture the title ahead of Menezes.
Some recent career highlights the 39-year-old Ontario native has attached to her name include winning the Longines Speed Challenge and taking third place in the $382,800 Longines Grand Prix of New York at the inaugural Longines Masters of New York in April 2018 aboard Fantast, also owned by Ferder. Ballard represented her home nation of Canada at the WEG in Tryon, North Carolina in September 2018 with Darko’s Promise where she helped her team finish within the top ten.
Ballard rides and trains out of her family-owned operation, Looking Back Farm, and shares her passion for horses with her mother Sandi, who also trains, and her father, Dave, who is a well-known course designer. She began her partnership with the 11-year-old Irish gelding in 2018, and their ability to bring out each other’s best was immediately evident. In their 2019 WEF debut during the fourth week, the pair had just a single rail down in Thursday’s $72,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup IV CSI4*, which qualified them for Saturday night’s $209,000 Marshall & Sterling Grand Prix CSI4*.
This Saturday night will welcome back Ballard and other acclaimed show jumping athletes in the International Arena for the $391,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* as they vie for a spot in the winner’s circle and a portion of the large purse. Competition will begin at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center starting at 7 p.m.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Erynn Ballard – $134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup V CSI5* winner
On her win:
“I just won the WEF [Challenge] and it’s a CSI5* week – I kind of have to let that all sink in. I’ve hardly shown him since WEG. Last week was our first week really back showing and we started big with the CSI4*. I had one [rail] down in the WEF [Challenge], qualified for the grand prix and was a little unlucky with one [rail] down in the grand prix. I was mad all day and everybody just kept saying ‘You’re getting close.’ It was actually quite a good jump-off for me because it was more about going fast in straight lines, and I’m a little bit better about that. I was a little slow on the rollback, but I have so much confidence in Ilan [Ferder] and when I went in the ring he said, ‘This is your class to win. Go try to win it for me.’ ”
On her partnership with Darko’s Promise:
“It’s a very unique partnership. I haven’t done that much. I started with him in Devon last year. I think I did Devon, Upperville, Spruce Meadows, [GLEF] and the WEG. I got a little bit sick at the Royal [Horse Show]. I was supposed to show him and it didn’t go our way so in our entire career, I think this is our tenth horse show together. When we started at Devon, he was so spectacular there and Ilan kept saying ‘We’re going to the WEG,’ and I thought I’ve hardly ridden this horse, but he said ‘I promise you we’re going to pick and choose the classes that we need to show in and we’re going to go.’ It’s just unique that way. I still live in Canada and Ilan lives in New York so this is our time together to get to know one another. Even still, we started last week in the CSI4* and this week is a CSI5*, so we’re going to use him just in the Nations Cup next week and then he gets a break. He’s just that kind of guy – he doesn’t need a lot. He’s reliable and he shows up every time.”
On the first round:
“I thought that the first round he was spectacular. I guess now I’ve seen more big courses in the past year than I have in my life so I walked and I thought, ‘That’s big, but it’s not that bad.’ It was very technical today. I thought the WEF [Challenge] last week on the grass was huge. I thought with this being a CSI5* week, it’s very fair. Obviously a challenge – there were seven clear and three with time faults. I think that’s right where you want to be on a CSI5* week and we’ll get ready for Saturday night.”
On her previous mounts:
“I’ve had amazing horses in my career sporadically. I had Robin [Van Roosendael] in the early 2000s, and then I had Appy Cara. This last year with Ilan, I’ve had good horses every single time I go in the ring and you need more than one. You can become a little bit famous on one, but you can’t be good enough. You need to have the string and the support behind you. We’re on a roll. We plan to do this forever, so hopefully forever lasts for a long time.”
On her plan:
“I was pretty determined going into the first round because I was getting really annoyed about [having] four faults. If it’s an amazing four-fault round, you still don’t get a ribbon, so I thought that last week on the grass was a nice setup for both of our confidence levels. He was in a good place. The course was technical which was kind of like equitation. I like the strides and I have a good understanding of that. I thought that the last line was probably the hardest in the class. Rails rode everywhere, but the last line is what caught up to people mostly. I had a pretty smart plan in my head of how I wanted to do that and obviously, it worked out well. In the jump-off, I just didn’t want to be too slow. When there are only seven in it, we’re getting a good result no matter what. I’m not the fastest at this level, so it’s one of those things where it’s better to go fast and take a chance to win than to go slow and knock one down and be sixth. You’re going to get a good result one way or another, so every once in a while you have to stop trying to be perfect and try to win, and that’s what we did today.”
$134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup V CSI5*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Darko’s Promise / Erynn Ballard / CAN / 0 | 78.21 / 0 | 39.285
2. H5 Chaganus / Eduardo Menezes / BRA / 0 | 78.77 / 0 | 39.408
3. Caletto Cabana / Wilton Porter / USA / 0 | 78.18 / 0 | 39.558
4. C Hunter / Lucas Porter / USA / 0 | 78.61 / 0 | 40.816
5. Cool Hand Luke 4 / Markus Beerbaum / GER / 0 | 78.94 / 0 | 42.919
6. Balous Day Date / Molly Ashe Cawley / USA / 0 | 74.46 / 4 | 39.309
7. Une De L’othain / Harrie Smolders / NED / 0 | 78.35 / 8 | 41.048
8. Theoddore Manciais / Spencer Smith / USA / 1 | 80.78
9. Quintin / Daniel Coyle / IRL / 1 | 80.98
10. Figor / Tiffany Foster / CAN / 1 | 81.71
11. Skyhorse / Lillie Keenan / USA / 2 | 84.6
12. Ibabco / Santiago Lambre / MEX / 4 | 75.73