Wellington, FL – February 16, 2012 – The sixth week of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) continued this week with the hunters in the International Arena. World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition is fierce as hunters try to qualify for Saturday night’s USHJA WCHR Hunter Spectacular of Palm Beach.

Week six of the FTI WEF, sponsored by Equine Couture/Tuff Rider will run February 15-19. The week is full of exciting events, including Friday night’s FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented by Fidelity Investments, Saturday night’s USHJA WCHR Hunter Spectacular of Palm Beach, and Sunday’s $50,000 G&C Farm Jumper Derby held at The Stadium. The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 1, 2012, and they will be awarding more than $6 million in prize money through the circuit.

Peter Pletcher rose to the top of the Sanctuary First Year Green Hunter division during World Champion Hunter Rider week atop his mount, Westbrooke. The pair scored two firsts and a second over fences with scores of 88, 86.5 and 88.5, and finished seventh under saddle to bring home the championship tricolor with a total of 26 points. A close reserve went to Scott Stewart and his mount, Enjoy, who scored a first and two seconds over fences and finished fourth under saddle. The pair’s high scores of 89, 85.75 and 87 facilitated a total of 24 points to bring home the reserve tricolor for the division.

Westbrooke is a ten-year-old warmblood by Andiamo. Affectionately known as Eli in the barn, the bay gelding was imported from Germany by Chris Nelson just six weeks ago and made his hunter debut in last week’s Sanctuary First Year Green Hunter division. With just one week of practice as a hunter, Westbrooke cruised victoriously around the International Arena in today’s competition.

Peter Pletcher and Westbrooke in their championship presentation

Following their win, Pletcher commented on his strategy with Westbrooke. “I knew he was going to be super because he’s done a lot of jumper stuff in Europe,” Pletcher explained. “He’s seen all of this kind of thing before doing the international shows over there. I felt really confident and he’s super brave and straightforward, so I figured if I could just keep him calm and relaxed he’d be good. It paid off.”

Describing the green hunter’s jumping style, Pletcher said, “He’s got a beautiful jump. He’s very slow off the ground and has a great arc at the top of the fence. He’s going to be a great amateur horse because he’s so smooth in the air even though he has such a powerful jump.”

Today’s division victory qualifies Westbrooke for the WCHR Hunter Spectacular this Saturday night under the lights where Pletcher has high hopes for a win. In the coming weeks, Westbrooke will continue to show in the Sanctuary First Year Green Hunter division and begin to compete as an Adult Hunter with his owner, Laurie Lewis. 

Scott Stewart had a fantastic day of showing during WCHR week. He and Fashion Farm’s Dedication earned the championship tricolor in the Sanctuary Second Year Green Working Hunter division. Dedication finished first, first, and third over fences and placed second under saddle. Stewart also earned the reserve championship aboard Becky Gochman’s Empire with first, second and third place ribbons over fences and a fourth under saddle.

In the Sanctuary Green Conformation Hunters, Stewart and Fashion Farm’s Beholden won the championship title, placing first and third over fences, third under saddle, and first in the model. Sandy Ferrell and Marigot Bay Farm’s Samba finished in reserve with two second place ribbons over fences, fourth under saddle and third in the model.

Two additional WCHR week championships went to Elizabeth Boyd of Camden, South Carolina, who emerged victorious in both the High Performance Working Hunter and the Sanctuary Regular Conformation divisions atop her mounts, Brunello and Casallo. Boyd’s victories successfully qualified both of her mounts for Saturday night’s WCHR Palm Beach Hunter Classic Spectacular.

Elizabeth Boyd and Brunello

On Brunello, Boyd scored a first and two seconds over fences to bring home the High Performance championship with a division total of 22 points. Garfield, ridden by Scott Stewart and owned by Alexandra Crown, were the reserve champions. Garfield won two over fences classes.

On Casallo, Boyd scored a first, second and sixth over fences and finished fourth under saddle, totaling 18.5 points for the Sanctuary Regular Conformation division championship win. Touchdown and Scott Stewart, who rode for Becky Gochman, was the reserve champion with first and sixth places over fences and a win in the model.

Brunello is a fourteen-year-old Hanoverian by Accord Two. Imported by Boyd’s father, Jack Towell, the chestnut gelding has had a successful show career, winning the 2010 Hunter Classic Spectacular and placing third in the class in 2007 and 2011.

Describing Brunello’s rounds in the High Performance Working Hunters this week, Boyd commented, “Yesterday he was a touch quieter than I like him to be, but he woke up in the handy and we won that.  Then, this morning I was like, ‘Hmm, how should I prepare him?’ I ended up just taking him out for grass and eating a bowl of cereal while he grazed!”

According to Boyd, competition during WCHR week at FTI WEF is intense. “It’s an exciting week,” Boyd explained. “Everyone is really competitive and pumped up. The competition is fun. You really have to be focused – there’s no ‘Oh, I’m just going to take the easy turn in the handy.’ You have to work hard and do all of the inside turns and you better be accurate – no room for error this week.”

For Boyd, competition in the days leading up to the WCHR Hunter Classic Spectacular are even more nerve-wracking than the class itself. “I was nervous yesterday,” Boyd admitted, “even more nervous than I think I’ll be on Saturday night just because you want to qualify so bad. This year there are just three jumping classes instead of four, so every jumping round counts.”

Boyd’s second mount, Casallo, is an eight-year-old Oldenburg imported by Bob Crandall.  “Bob really took his time with that horse,” Boyd said. “He’s a big horse and it took a little while to grow into himself. Bob took his time and trained him perfectly. I got him last year right before Devon and by that time, he was ready to win.” So far, Casallo’s show career has earned him championship ribbons at the Washington International Horse Show along with reserve honors at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, and the Alltech National Horse Show.

Because Casallo is a little less experienced than Brunello, Boyd’s father rode the gray gelding in the ring early this morning. “We have kind of a good cop/bad cop thing going,” Boyd joked. “My dad will train him and then I’ll get on in the ring and tell him he’s perfect.”

In preparation for Saturday night, Boyd plans to trail ride Brunello on Friday followed by a light hack on Saturday. Casallo, on the other hand, will continue showing this week in the Junior Hunters with owner, Erin McGuire, in order to secure a few miles in the International Arena before Saturday’s competition.

Elizabeth Boyd and Casallo

The CWD Performance Working Hunter 3’6″ division was the final class in the International Arena today. The CWD Performance Working Hunter 3’6″ division was split into three sections due to the large number of entries, with two championships and two reserve championships awarded to the top point earners in all three sections.

Sienna, ridden by Patricia Griffith and owned by Lexi Maounis finished as the champion of Section A. They received two first places and a second place to take top honors. The reserve champion of Section A was NLF Shakespeare’s Rhythm, ridden by Peter Pletcher for Nordic Lights Farm LLC. They were first, second, and sixth.

The Section B championship went to Gia, ridden by Peter Pletcher and owned by Laurie Lewis. They won a class, were second, and received two fourth places. Reserve champion in Section B was Castle Rock, ridden by Louise Serio for Bryan Baldwin. They placed first and second in the division.

In the Performance Working Hunter 3’3″ Section A division, Christopher Payne rode Holden, owned by Susan Moriconi to the championship. They received three first places and a second place over fences for the top tricolor. Smiles, ridden by Havens Schatt for R. Bruce Duchossois, was the reserve champion with a first over fences and third under saddle.

Payne swept the division by scoring the Section B championship on Dominus, owned by Maria Takacs. They placed first, first, and second over fences. The reserve champion was Andiamo, ridden by Hayley Barnhill for Brad Wolf. They placed first and second over fences.

Competition continues tomorrow at the FTI WEF with hunter classes for amateur-owners in the International Arena along with the $30,000 WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 at The Stadium at 2 p.m. The highlight class at 6 p.m. in the International Arena is the FTI Consulting Great Charity Challenge presented By Fidelity Investments®

For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

Photo Credit: Peter Pletcher and Westbrooke, Elizabeth Boyd with Brunello and Casallo at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. Photo © Sportfot, Official Sport Photographer of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival, www.sportfot.com. This photo may be used only in relation to this press release.