Wellington, FL – March 16, 2013 -Japan’s Eiken Sato and Espyrante jumped to victory in the $82,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3* on Saturday night during another exciting evening of international competition for week ten at the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF). In a jump-off of seven nations, Sato beat out riders from Great Britain, Ireland, Venezuela, Germany, Greece and the United States for his first big win at the Pam Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany set the course for Saturday night’s Grand Prix with 40 entries competing at night under the lights. Ten riders representing seven different countries qualified for the jump-off and four went double clear over the short course.

Watch an interview with Eiken Sato!

Seventh to go, Venezuela’s Pablo Barrios and Zara Leandra, owned by the ZL Group Inc., were the first pair to jump the short course without fault and finished fourth with their time of 48.27 seconds. Up next, Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Jane Clark’s Urico cleared the course in 44.27 seconds to briefly take the lead. They were pushed into second by Japan’s Eiken Sato and Stephex Stables’ Espyrante, who stopped the clock in 42.79 seconds for the win. Last to go, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and Eregast Van’t Kiezelhof, owned by Spy Coast Farm LLC, finished clear in 47.61 seconds to take the third place prize.

Eiken Sato and Espyrante
Eiken Sato and Espyrante. Photo © Sportfot.

Sato, 27, has lived in Belgium for nine years and began riding for Stephex Stables two years ago. His mount, Espyrante, is a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Obourg x Pauillac De Meia Lua that they got last year.

“My horse always jumps well,” Sato praised after his win. “Tonight she was amazing and I’m really happy. Last week Daniel Deusser won the Grand Prix, and this week I won one. We won for our stable two weeks in a row and this is my first Grand Prix that I have won in Palm Beach, so I am really happy.”

Describing Espyrante, Sato detailed, “She’s a really strong mare and actually nobody liked her at first. I tried working with her and she won the Grand Prix, so you never know. Only the horse can know.”

Sato went after a very fast round from Ben Maher and Urico and explained that he did watch them go, but trusted his horse’s ability to be faster.

“To be honest, I saw, but I tried not to see because he is such a fast rider,” Sato laughed. “The end I saw. My horse is naturally really fast, so I knew I needed to take risks, but I trust my horse and she did a fantastic job.”

Maher commented on his round with Urico, noting, “I was very happy. He felt back to himself tonight. He felt confident. The jump-off was one of those jump-offs again with a lot of riders knocking fences down, so I tried to beat the ones in front of me tonight, not the ones that were after me. I took a risk and it did not pay off tonight, but I could not be happier. He was fantastic and I would never complain about being second in a Grand Prix, especially to a great rider.”

Shane Sweetnam was showing his mount Eregast in the horse’s first Grand Prix as well as his first night class. Although the horse was a little green in the ring, Sweetnam was very happy with his performance.

“It’s his first Grand Prix of any sort. It’s his first Grand Prix here and WEF was his first 1.45m and last week was his first 1.50m,” Sweetnam emphasized. “Honestly, he wasn’t meant to be rushed as quickly, but with Siri getting injured, he had to step up and he has done a great job.”

“He is a very talented horse,” Sweetnam said. “He was very green in the jump-off. I wish I could have gone quicker because he can be a very fast horse, but the music and the crowd and everything was making him fairly high-strung. I was very, very happy with him. For the experience he has, he did unbelievable. I have very high hopes for him.”

Sweetnam commented on the course, stating, “I thought Olaf has always done a great job. As far as a going number of ten tonight in the jump-off, it made a very interesting jump-off with not so many clears. I think the second round the horses were a little tired, but I think he did a great job.”

Sato added, “I did the course walk for the first round and I thought there would be ten or twelve clear. In the jump-off there weren’t too many clear, but it was a fantastic course for the jump-off and it was really fun.”

Maher shared his opinion as well, noting, “It was a very different course. It was a lot more twisty and turny tonight. Not typically a course for here, but it was nice and different for the horses. It was good to see not big jumps, but a big course, take its toll with faults all over the place, which is a sign of a good Grand Prix.”

Eiken Sato and Espyrante
Eiken Sato and Espyrante in their winning presentation with Tom MacGuinness, Lorraine MacGuinness, Ciaran Herr, Emma Ferguson, and Kelly Nicolls for Horseware Ireland and ringmaster Cliff Haines. Photo © Sportfot.

Final Results: $82,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3*

1. ESPYRANTE: 2004 Belgian Warmblood mare by Obourg x Pauillac De Meia Lua
EIKEN SATO (JPN), Stephex Stables: 0/0/42.79

2. URICO:  2001 KWPN gelding by Zandor Z x Fedor
Ben Maher (GBR), Jane F. Clark: 0/0/44.27

3. EREGAST VAN’T KIEZELHOF: 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Latano
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Spy Coast Farm, LLC: 0/0/47.61

4. ZARA LEANDRA: 2004 KWPN mare by Metropole x Ahorn
PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), ZL Group, Inc: 0/0/48.27

5. TUXEDO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Gentleman x Hamilcar
TODD MINIKUS (USA), Legacy Stables, LLC: 0/4/46.81

6. KING KOLIBRI: 2002 Hanoverian stallion by Kolibri x Achill-Libero H
LAUREN TISBO (USA), Tequestrian Farms LLC: 0/4/48.10

7. AD BABOUCHE: 2000 gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Aldato
ATHINA ONASSIS DE MIRANDA (GRE), Athina Onassis de Miranda & Victory Equestrian: 0/4/54.02

8. QUINTANA ROO 2: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Quintero x Cardino
JOHANNES EHNING (GER), Nybor Pferde GmbH & Co. KG: 0/4/54.64

9. TEIRRA: 2000 KWPN mare by Tolano Van Het Riethof x Aldatus
ALISE OKEN (USA), Hi Hopes Farm, LLC: 0/8/46.03

10. USER ID: 2001 KWPN gelding by Namelus R x Goodwill
Darragh Kenny (IRL), OnlyJumpers.com: 0/12/48.12

11. WHISPER HE: 2003 KWPN gelding by Unknown
SAMUEL PAROT (CHI), Samuel Parot: 4/70.41

12. OLYMPIC DE CHAMANT: 2002 Selle Francais gelding by Gentleman IV SF x Apache D’adriers
JOHNATHON CORRIGAN (IRL), Sagamore Farms: 4/73.04

Walk the Line and Lillie Keenan Victorious in Antarés Large Junior 16-17 Hunters

Walk the Line and Lillie Keenan clinched the championship title in the Antarés Large Junior Hunter 16-17 division during week 10 of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF). Keenan and Walk the Line were a force to be reckoned with over fences, winning three of four over fences rounds. Keenan and Don Stewart’s fourteen-year-old gelding were also fourth over fences during day one of competition for the division.

Reserve champion honors went to Norgan, Inc.’s Capstone, ridden by Sydney Shulman. Shulman and Capstone were third and first over fences day one and placed third day two in all three classes, including an under saddle and two over fences rounds.

The owner-rider champion was Perfectionist and Cloe Hymowitz. Hymowitz also picked up reserve owner-rider honors with Garfield, co-owned by Alexandra Crown. 

Keenan is currently at the top of the circuit championship standings with her other Large Junior mount, Madison, but considers Walk the Line to be equally as talented. “Madison tends to win the hacks, but Walk the Line has a very striking jump. When he goes over the fence, it almost makes you open your eyes a little more. There’s a ‘wow’ factor to how he goes over each fence,” Keenan described.

“I’m very lucky because both of my Large Juniors are very fancy,” Keenan continued. “Both of them are a lot of fun to ride. They have a lot of similarities, but are still quite different. Walk the Line is a little quirky, but I like that about him. I think we match really well.”

While Keenan dominates junior divisions in hunters, jumpers, and equitation classes on a number of competitive mounts, she especially appreciates Walk the Line’s desire to be the best. “I know that every time he goes in the ring he wants to win. All of my horses are like that but it is especially true for him. It’s nice to know that every time you go in the ring, he wants to do well,” Keenan commented.

Keenan is quick to credit the gelding’s success to the exceptional support she receives from owner Don Stewart’s daughter, Erin. “Don is in Ocala right now and I go back to school every week. Erin does a wonderful job with him during the week. She comes to the ring and helps me with him, along with everyone at Heritage [Farm],” Keenan remarked.

Keenan juggles her time between attending the Spence School in her native New York City and competing at the FTI WEF every weekend in Wellington, a feat that she realizes would not be possible without the incredible support system she is surrounded by.

“I care a lot about my schoolwork and my grades. I’m expected to do really well by my family and I expect it of myself.” the fifteen-year-old explained.

“It’s definitely difficult but I’m very lucky. My family makes sure that I have all the opportunity to come [to Florida] every week and my school is wonderful about letting me miss Fridays. Heritage is amazing at making sure when I come back from school the horses are ready. Without everyone’s help—and it’s a lot of help—this would not be possible,” Keenan acknowledged.

Hunter competition for week ten of the FTI WEF, sponsored by Horseware Ireland, concludes Sunday with the Autism Speaks Children’s Large Pony Hunter, hosted in Ring 12 of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. The $33,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic will complete the week in the International Arena. For full results, please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

Photo Credit: Photos © Sportfot, An Official Photographer of the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, us.sportfot.com. These photos may be used only in relation to this press release and must include photo credit.