Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 17, 2019 – Boasting over 100 entries featuring top names in the sport, the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup II saw some of show jumping’s best athletes go head-to-head over a technical track to earn a spot in the winner’s circle on Thursday afternoon at the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Ultimately, it was former partners Lauren Hough (USA) and Wyndmont Farm’s Valinski S who secured the win and walked away with a generous portion of the prize money.
The first round consisted of 13 fences set at 1.45m in height and originally featured a time-allowed of 76 seconds, but was quickly adjusted to 74 seconds. Built by course designer Oscar Soberon of Dallas, Texas, the track tested riders and saw rails come down in various places on course, particularly in the triple combination parallel to the International Club as well as at fence nine, a solid white wall. Perhaps even more challenging was the tight time-allowed, which proved difficult for some and prevented a total of eight clear riders from qualifying for the jump-off.
Hough previously had the ride on the 2002 Dutch Warmblood gelding years ago for her longtime friends and Wyndmont Farm trainers Ronnie Beard and Michael Dorman. Todd Minikus then took over the reins on Valinski S when Hough had too many of her own horses to show. The pair was reunited during the first week of this year’s WEF, where Hough and Valinski S jumped two classes and re-familiarized themselves with each other.
After the second drag break of the first round, only nine riders had demonstrated clear rounds to qualify themselves for the jump-off, with Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) leading the pack aboard a fairly new mount, Just A Gamble. Following the conclusion of the first round, five more pairs added their names to the jump-off to join Sternlicht and bring the total number of riders in the jump-off to 14.
In addition to Sternlicht, McLain Ward (USA), Mario Deslauriers (CAN), Susan Horn (CAN), Charlie Jayne (USA), Lauren Hough (USA), Abigail McArdle (USA), Kevin Babington (IRL), Tiffany Foster (CAN), Maggie McAlary (USA), Amanda Derbyshire (GBR), Alex Granato (USA), Ibrahim Barzi (JOR) and Michael Morrissey (USA) returned to the International Arena to contend for the title.
Heading into the jump-off, Hough planned to ride a careful round while using Valinski’s natural speed to her advantage, which she was able to do to take the lead from Ward after stopping the timers in a mere 38.812 seconds. This left Ward to settle for second place honors in 39.449 seconds aboard Walstib Stables LLC’s Queen Jane. Granato finished in third place behind Hough and Ward after tripping the timers in 39.55 seconds riding Charlchen W, owned by Page Tredennick.
Thursday afternoon’s victory guarantees Hough and Valinski S a place in Saturday night’s highlight event under the lights, the $72,000 WEF 2 Grand Prix CSI2*. This feature class will take place starting at 7 p.m. at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center and will showcase more renowned names in the sport as they come together in hopes of adding another win to their list of accolades.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Lauren Hough – $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup II winner
On Valinski S:
“I rode him many years ago for a couple of months but this was just my second week showing him. Ronnie Beard and Michael Dorman, the owners, are good friends of mine and they asked me in the fall if I had time to ride some horses for them. I knew Valinski and had always loved him. He’s a veteran and he knows his job so I was thrilled to have the ride.”
On their partnership:
“He definitely knows his job and he loves to go fast. I had never really done a jump-off with him but I thought I should take a chance today and he was with me the whole way. He’s a small horse but I like small horses. He just knows his job — he’s very careful, very fast and makes my job quite easy. He’s naturally a very quick horse.”
On the course:
“For the course designer, I think he did an unbelievable job. This is one of the most difficult weeks in my opinion because it’s only a maximum height but very, very good riders. There were 100 or so riders and to end up with 15 clear is pretty much a perfect course. There were really no disasters anywhere — you had some 4-faults and the time was a bit of a factor. For our first FEI week, it was a nice welcome for the young horses, the old horses and the new riders. I think he did a really fantastic job.”
On her plan for the rest of the season:
“He is 17 now so I’ll do what’s best for him. I’ll jump him Saturday night and we’ll plan from there.”
$36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup II
Place / Horse / Rider / R1 Faults / Time / R2 Faults / Time
1. Valinski S / Lauren Hough / 0 | 73.01 / 0 | 38.812
2. Queen Jane / McLain Ward / 0 | 72.23 / 0 |39.449
3. Carlchen W / Alex Granato / 0 | 72 / 0 | 39.55
4. Super Chilled / Kevin Babington / 0 | 73.17 / 0 | 39.926
5. Just A Gamble / Adrienne Sternlicht / 0 | 71.69 / 0 | 40.34
6. Brighton / Tiffany Foster / 0 | 70.2 / 0 | 40.734
7. Amice Z / Charlie Jayne / 0 | 71.85 / 0 | 41.036
8. Amsterdam 27 / Mario Deslauriers / 0 | 73.2 / 0 | 41.476
9. Diablo VII / Maggie Mcalary / 0 | 71.35 / 0 | 42.583
10. Oasis Spirit / Amanda Derbyshire / 0 | 71.13 / 0 | 48.184
11. Victorio 5 / Abigail Mcardle / 0 | 73.89 / 4 | 42.144
12. Chance Ste Hermelle / Michael Morrissey / 0 | 71.92 / 8 | 51.415
13. Omnia Incipit / Ibrahim Barazi / 0 | 72.61 / 8 | 53.882
14. Egano Van Het Slogenhof / Susan Horn / 0 | 72.13 / EL
15. Victer Finn Dh Z / Eugenio Garza Perez / 0 | 73.22 / WD