Wellington, FL – January 29, 2012 – Eighteen-year-old Katie Dinan (USA) and Grant Road Partner’s Nougat Du Vallet led the victory gallop in the $50,000 Horseware Ireland CSI 2* Grand Prix this afternoon at the 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF). Running through April 1, 2012, the FTI WEF will award more than $6 million in prize money throughout its 12-week circuit. Today’s class concluded the third week of competition, sponsored by Horseware Ireland.

Thirty-seven entries showed in this afternoon’s grand prix over a course set by Olaf Petersen, Sr. of Germany. Fifteen were able to clear the first round course to advance to the jump-off, and seven finished the class double clear. The lead changed hands several times throughout the jump-off as riders chased the clock, but it was Katie Dinan and Nougat Du Vallet, second to last in the order, who captured the win. The pair blazed through the course in 37.36 seconds for their first major grand prix victory.

“It was just exciting for me to be in the jump-off,” Dinan beamed after her win. “This is the first grand prix that I have done with Nougat. He has been fantastic the last two weeks of WEF, so we all decided that it would be a great week to move up with the grand prix on Sunday afternoon. I was thrilled with how he went in the first round. In the jump-off we decided it was a great place to try to go fast and see what happened and it could not have gone better. He helped me out a lot.”

Katie Dinan and Nougat du Vallet

It was a great day for the American women as they took the top three places in the class. The second place round belonged to Christine McCrea (USA) and Candy Tribble’s Avenir, who completed the track in 37.54 seconds. Lauren Hough (USA) and Robin Parsky’s Blue Angel followed with their time of 38.12 seconds. In addition to her third place prize, Hough was also named the Leading Lady Jumper Rider for the third week of competition, an award sponsored by Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler.

Sponsor Horseware Ireland was thrilled with the class today and representative Lorraine MacGuinness praised the riders on a great class. “It’s our first year sponsoring a big class here and we were absolutely delighted,” MacGuinness stated. “We think the course today was brilliant, as were the riders. It was a great competition out there. Obviously we were kind of hoping for an Irish victory, but these Americans proved too tough for us today! We’re more than happy to be beat. They put on a great show here, and we are delighted to be sponsors. We hope to come back next year and do the same. This is heaven for horse lovers.”

Following the U.S. ladies, Irish rider Cian O’Connor and Blue Lloyd 12, owned by O’Connor and Ashkirk Ltd., earned the fourth award with their time of 38.61 seconds. French rider Marie Hecart and Myself De Breve, owned by Haras De La Rogue, finished fifth in 38.81 seconds. Sixth place was awarded to USA’s Catherine Pasmore and Pasmore Stables’ Vandavid in 39.99 seconds, and the final clear round in the seventh position belonged to Dominican rider Hector Florentino and Ultimo, owned by Stransky’s Mission Farm, in 40.19 seconds. Nick Skelton and Beverly Widdowson’s Carlo 273 had the fastest four-fault round in the jump-off in 37.60 seconds to finish eighth.

Dinan was up against some tough competition in the class, but as one of the last to go in the jump-off, she knew she had to go for it, and her speed paid off.

“(My trainer) McLain (Ward) said that we might as well try to go fast because we have to learn how to go fast eventually,” Dinan smiled. “He said I could really make up a lot of time from fence one to two, so he told me to just canter as fast as possible and I somehow pulled it off. It could have gone either way, but Nougat was fantastic. It could not have gone any better.”

Nougat Du Vallet is an eleven-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Scherif D’elle that Dinan purchased last June. “We thought he would be great for me because he is a little on the small side and I am a little on the small side, so we are a good match and he is really game and ready to go,” she described.

Commenting on her transition into a winning grand prix rider, Dinan stated, “My horses are all going really well and I think I have worked really hard in the last year trying to make the step up from being a junior jumper rider to being competitive in the bigger classes. I took a lot of lessons with McLain and McLain’s dad, who I can’t thank enough. They have both taught me so much. It has been more than I could ever hope for. This is really my dream to be competitive in the big classes here. I am riding against people that I still look up to and it is just humbling to be in the jump-off with them and to really be able to be a competitor is great.”

With her trainer McLain Ward sidelined with an injury, Dinan is stepping up to the plate.  “McLain has been at the horse show all week and he has been watching everything. It is nice because with him unable to compete, the fact that I have been able to bring home some grand prix ribbons is really exciting for all of us,” Dinan said. “I can’t thank my team at our farm Staysail, my parents, and everyone at McLain’s barn Castle Hill enough because they have all been behind me and they all come and watch. It is nice to have such a large group of people supporting you.”

Dinan graduated high school last year and will attend Harvard University as a freshman in August. Until then, she is focused on her riding. “This is really my year to ride as much as I want and I want to be able to make the most of it,” she acknowledged. “If all goes as planned hopefully I will do one or two horses in the Olympic Trials to have the experience of jumping a championship format that big. I am hoping for a positive experience.”

Katie Dinan and Nougat du Vallet with ringmaster Cliff Haines, Michael Stone of ESP, and Lorraine MacGuinness and Aimee McClenahan of Horseware Ireland

Riders Christine McCrea and Lauren Hough also had a great day in the competition and enjoyed the class. McCrea commented on the added pressure of doing well since her double gold medal win at this year’s Pan American Games, but she was on a different horse today and just wanted to have a good experience.

“I just came out today and this was my first grand prix of the season. I really just wanted a good start and now I feel a lot better,” she said. “I was a little worried. I just wanted to get back in the ring, but I was quite happy with how it went today.”

McCrea has had Avenir for over a year now and was pleased with her ride. She commented on the course, stating, “There were a lot of clears, but it was a two star, so it could only be 1.45m. I thought it was a great course. The triple was good – it was nice and inviting, and the last line was tricky with the double of oxers with five strides. That got a lot of people. The verticals were big. For me, I know my horse so well that it was just a nice welcome back into the ring.”

Third place finisher Lauren Hough was also making a return to the ring after an injury last year and was happy with her rounds. “I competed on Thursday in the WEF and this was my first Sunday start,” Hough said. “It was good. It helps to have a really super, top horse. My horse jumped fantastic today and I’m happy with my result. I’ve got a plan laid out. Quick Study will start next week. I have two really good horses. As you know, we go day by day in this business. I’m happy so far with day one.”

Ponies Get Down to Business

Lili Hymowitz of New York, NY, concluded her third week of showing at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival with a clean sweep of the Gotham Small Pony Hunter division atop her mounts Bit of Love and Love Me Tender. Hymowitz and Bit of Love brought home the championship tricolor with a first over fences and a second in the under saddle for a total of 16 points. Her second mount, Love Me Tender, was close behind, scoring 13 total points and finishing fourth and fifth over fences after winning the under saddle. Today’s division victories were made even sweeter by falling on Hymowitz’s thirteenth birthday.

The victorious small pony, Bit of Love, is a six-year-old Welsh Pony Cross owned by Scott Stewart. Affectionately known as Chester in the barn, he just recently began competing in the Gotham Small Pony Hunter division. Describing Chester’s experience as a young pony, Hymowitz commented, “For a green pony he’s not even that green. He’s really fun to ride and you can tell that he wants to win just as badly as you do. If anything, he’s a little wiggly and his changes can be difficult, but he’s not spooky at all. We’ve already started doing him in the smalls because he’s ready – I’m really happy with how it’s going.”

Describing her performance in the show ring, Hymowitz commented, “I think my trips yesterday were a little better. Today, he decided to act a little green and this is only my third time showing him. He’s such a good boy though, I still thought he went cute.”

Lili Hymowitz and Bit of Love

For Hymowitz, riding is a mixture of work and pleasure. In addition to riding and showing two medium ponies, two large ponies, two small green ponies, one large green pony and a children’s hunter horse, Hymowitz also finds time to juggle schoolwork. “My school in New York makes it really easy for me to be home-schooled down here,” Hymowitz said. “They are very supportive. I usually spend about four hours a day doing schoolwork and that’s enough to get all of my classes done. It’s pretty easy actually.”

In the coming weeks, Hymowitz plans to continue showing in the pony divisions and hopes to enter the Junior Hunter ring in the near future atop her mount Chellestino. As for tonight, Hymowitz is excited to celebrate both her thirteenth birthday and her sweeping victory in the pony ring.

The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival will continue with its fourth week of competition on February 1-5 featuring the $80,000 Adequan Grand Prix, CSI 2* on Saturday, February 4th and the $25,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic on Sunday, February 5th. For full results please visit www.showgroundslive.com.

Final Results: $50,000 Horseware Ireland CSI2* Grand Prix

1. NOUGAT DU VALLET: 2001 Selle Francais gelding by Scherif D’elle
KATHERINE DINAN (USA), Grant Road Partners: 0/0/37.36

2. AVENIR: 2000 BWP gelding by Phin Phin x Flamingo
CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/0/37.54

3. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
LAUREN HOUGH (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/0/38.12

4. BLUE LOYD 12: 2000 Oldenburg gelding by Landor S x Hadj Ax
CIAN O’CONNOR (IRL), Ashkirk Ltd. & Cian O’Connor: 0/0/38.61

5. MYSELF DE BREVE: 2000 SFA mare by Quidam de Revel x Grand Veneur
MARIE HECART (FRA), Haras De La Rogue: 0/0/38.81

6. VANDAVID: 2002 KWPN stallion by Madison x Voltaire
CATHERINE PASMORE (USA), Pasmore Stables: 0/0/39.99

7. ULTIMO:  2001 KWPN gelding by Marlon x Laroche
HECTOR FLORENTINO (Dominican Republic), Stransky’s Mission Farm: 0/0/40.19

8. CARLO 273: 2001 Holsteiner gelding by Contender x Cascavelle
NICK SKELTON (GBR), Beverly Widdowson: 0/4/37.60

9. ALSVID: 2001 Hanoverian gelding by Escudo I x Azur
RICHARD MOLONEY (IRL), Equinimity, LLC: 0/4/38.67

10. ADAMO VAN’T STEENPUTJE: 2000 BWP gelding by Darco x Feinschnitt VD Richter
DANIELLE GOLDSTEIN (ISR), Starwyn Farms: 0/8/38.29

11. CORAL REEF VIA VOLO:  1998 BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 0/8/39.15

12. UCEKO: 2001 KWPN gelding by Celano x Koriander
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), RCG Farm: 0/8/39.26

12. LENNOX LEWIS 2: 1999 Oldenburg gelding by Laureatus x Weizenkorn
LESLIE HOWARD (USA), Peter and Leslie Howard: 0/8/39.26

Photo Credit: Katie Dinan and Nougat du Vallet, Lili Hymowitz and Bit of Love won 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.