Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 31, 2019 – The fourth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) saw the $72,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup IV get underway Thursday morning, and for the first time this season the popular weekly class occurred at the sprawling Stadium Derby Field. The crowd watched Kevin Babington (IRL) and his own longtime partner Mark Q surpass a starting list of 63 combinations to take home the lion’s share of the prize money and carve themselves a spot in Saturday’s highlight event: the $209,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI4* Grand Prix.
Anderson Lima (BRA) and Nick Granat (USA) co-designed the track, which consisted of 13 fences set at 1.55m in height and a time-allowed of 83 seconds. Notably some of the most challenging components of the course were fences 4ab, an oxer-vertical in-and-out, fences 9abc, a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination and the final fence, a square oxer coming home. The time-allowed was not much of a factor and only prevented one clear pair from advancing to the jump-off.
Margie Engle (USA) and Gladewinds Partners LLC’s Royce were the 16th pair in the ring and the first combination to go clear in the class, followed four trips later by Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) who executed a fault-free round aboard Dacantos Group’s Hunters Conlypso II. Despite being at the end of the order-of-go, Babington and Mark Q tackled the first round successfully to emerge as the fifth rider out of a total of six to leave all the jumps intact. Other than Engle, Gallagher and Babington, Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Carly Anthony (USA) also qualified for the jump-off, while Rowan Willis (AUS) opted to forego the short course.
Typically taking place in the International Arena, the location of the $72,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup IV on the grass and the change of scenery presented riders with some difficulties, but the venue played to Babington’s advantage as his mount performs particularly well on the grass.
Coming back for the final test, the jump-off featured eight obstacles and limited the time-allowed to just 52 seconds. Babington was the second-to-last competitor to try his hand at the short course, which he completed in 40.034 seconds following speedy rounds by Engle, Gallagher and Anthony. With fellow Irishman Kenny and Veronica Tracy’s Chinook II hot on his heels as the final entrants in the ring, Babington was unsure if his time was enough to keep him at the top of the leaderboards, but Kenny ultimately tripped the timers in 40.848 seconds to settle for second place honors. The third place ribbon was earned by Anthony aboard Neil Jones Equestrian Inc.’s Chochard.
Saturday’s $209,000 Marshall & Sterling CSI4* Grand Prix promises to attract many more top riders as FEI competition continues during the fourth week of WEF. The highly-anticipated class will begin at 11 a.m. on the Stadium Derby Field, as the tenth annual Great Charity Challenge will take center stage Saturday night under the lights in the International Arena starting at 6:30 p.m.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Kevin Babington – $72,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup IV Winner
On Mark Q:
“The first time I ever rode Mark Q was here in Wellington ten years ago, so he was seven coming eight at the time. I actually had sat on him in Ireland, but then I brought him over here. He has just been a great partner. He’s good on the grass; he’s good indoors; he’s good on the sand, but he just loves the grass. I think with the older horses it’s a little easier on them. He is 17 years old now, but he doesn’t feel it. He’s probably one of the soundest horses I have in the barn.”
On his routine with Mark Q:
“I mind him a little bit. I pick venues that he likes, and he didn’t like it under the lights at WEF for the longest time, so he always would have a light winter, but he’s gotten a lot better. He jumped great the other night with just one [rail] down, actually. My plan was to do another horse today and then I was thinking, ‘You know what, he loves the grass.’ He did the first week, then he had the second week off and he did last week and this week. I thought it was too much but he will get a good break after this. Maybe I will wait for [a class on] the grass again here.”
On the course:
“When I walked [the course] I thought it walked quite difficult, [but] there was nothing tricky about the course. I thought the course was fair, but it was scopey. Even when I walked up to the first jump, I thought ‘Wow, if this is the softest jump on the course then this is going to be a long way around,’ but I thought the distances were all nice. Even though there were only six that jumped clear, there were a lot of horses who had four faults and I thought it jumped well. The ground feels amazing. It’s a credit to them. We used small studs and it was really, really good. It held up.”
On the jump-off:
“I had planned to do seven [strides] from fences one to two, and then I saw Margie [Engle] doing eight [strides]. I saw Lorcan [Gallagher] go, and he did seven [strides] but his horse has such a humongous stride and he had to get up there a little bit in the seven, so I opted to do eight on my horse. The eight [strides] were very slow so I thought, ‘Oh, I’ve just lost the class here by taking so much time,’ and then he landed disunited so I had not the prettiest jump at number three but he jumped it well. I just didn’t get the rhythm I wanted there and he was great across the ring. He’s a lot of Thoroughbred, so he galloped like a racehorse across to the vertical and he jumped that really well. Then, I wanted to slow down for the double and I wasn’t sure if I had slowed down too much. In the last line I had planned the nine [strides] and he got there early. Other than the first line, it came to plan. I was fourth in the jump-off, and with Darragh Kenny following me, it was a lucky day for me.”
$72,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round IV:
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1. Mark Q / Kevin Babington / IRL / Kevin Babington / 0 | 81 / 0 | 40.034
2. Chinook II / Darragh Kenny / IRL / Veronica Tracy / 0 | 78.56 / 0 | 40.848
3. Clochard / Carly Anthony / USA / Neil Jones Equestrian Inc. / 0 | 80.52 / 0 | 44.136
4. Hunters Conlypso II / Lorcan Gallagher / IRL / Dacantos Group / 0 | 78.85 / 4 | 40.277
5. Royce / Margie Engle / USA / Gladewinds Partners LLC. / 0 | 77.86 / 4 | 42.697
6. Blue Movie / Rowan Willis / AUS / Rowan Willis / 0 | 76.63 / Wd
7. Lincourt Gino / Alejandro Karolyi / VEN / Monica Carrera / 1 | 83.13
8. Penelope Cruz / Capt. Brian Cournane / IRL / Mr. & Mrs. Robert Stiller / 4 | 75.29
9. Clearwater / Marilyn Little / USA / Karen O’Connor / 4 | 75.46
10. Waterford / Lauren Hough / USA / Lauren Hough / 4 | 76.64
11. Bokai / Catherine Tyree / USA / Mary and Joe Tyree / 4 | 79
12. MTM Vivre Le Reve / Brian Moggre / USA / Major Wager LLC / 4 | 79.02