Wellington, FL – February 14, 2014 – A special $84,000 Salamander Hotels & Resorts Valentine’s Grand Prix CSI 3* was held on Friday night at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) with another exciting win for Kent Farrington (USA) and his speedy mount, Blue Angel. The pair has been on fire this season and topped the class almost three seconds faster than second place finishers Cian O’Connor (IRL) and Carlous Z. Australia’s Benjamin Meredith and Bernadien van Westuur finished third.

Watch an interview with Kent Farrington!

FTI WEF week six, sponsored by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, runs February 12-16, 2014. The week features the coveted World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition, with hunters taking to the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) for their daily classes, weekly championships, and a chance to compete in Saturday night’s $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular.

The $100,000 USHJA/WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular will be livestreamed on Chronicle TV at the following link on Saturday, February 15, at 7 pm here: http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/2014-wchr-hunter-spectacular-live.

As the hunters are featured on the main showgrounds at PBIEC, the highlight jumper competition will be held on the adjacent showgrounds at The Stadium at PBIEC. Exciting jumper classes will be held on the beautiful grass derby field at The Stadium, including the $34,000 Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, and the $50,000 Equestrian Sotheby’s Jumper Derby at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.

On Friday night, Great Britain’s Richard Jeffery set the course for 42 starters in the grand prix, held in the International Ring at The Stadium at PBIEC, with eight clear rounds to jump-off. Third to go in the order, Kent Farrington and Robin Parsky’s Blue Angel slammed the door on the other competitors, not leaving little room for improvement on their blazing fast time of 36.58 seconds for the win.

Kent Farrington and Blue Angel

Kent Farrington and Blue Angel

Cian O’Connor and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.’s Carolus Z tried their best and finished second in 39.28 seconds. Benjamin Meredith and River Farm Sporthorses’ Bernadien van Westuur finished third in 41.56 seconds. The only other pair to clear the short course without fault, Thomas Dresler (DEN) and Never Say Never, placed fourth in 42.52 seconds. Emanuel Andrade (VEN) and Hollow Creek Farm’s ZZ Top VH Schaarbroek Z had the fastest four-fault round in 37.89 seconds.

Kent Farrington and Blue Angel kicked off the winter with a great win in the $125,000 Trump Invitational Grand Prix CSI 2*, presented by Rolex, in January and also had a great start to this week with a win in Thursday’s $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 6. The momentum of that win just one day prior definitely helped keep the pair on their toes for Friday night’s class.

“Blue Angel is a very consistent horse. She has been a real winner for me over the last year, and I think she is just starting to hit her stride for this season,” Farrington stated after his win. “Yesterday was a great warm up. A ‘Table A’ class like that really suits the horse in this venue, and I thought it was the same tonight. It really suited the horse’s strengths, and in the jump-off, I really just let her do her thing.”

Kent Farrington and Blue Angel in their winning presentation with Equestrian Sport Productions' CEO Mark Bellissimo, Blue Angel's owner Robin Parsky, Salamander Hotels & Resorts Founder and CEO Sheila E. Johnson, Katherine Bellissimo, and ringmaster Gustavo Murcia

Kent Farrington and Blue Angel in their winning presentation with Equestrian Sport Productions’ CEO Mark Bellissimo, Blue Angel’s owner Robin Parsky, Salamander Hotels & Resorts Founder and CEO Sheila E. Johnson, Katherine Bellissimo, and ringmaster Gustavo Murcia

“I thought I got a couple lucky rubs actually in the first round, and she came out for the jump-off and really upped her game and jumped much better,” Farrington noted. “She was back on form and felt more like herself in the jump-off.”

Talking about his super fast pace through the short course, Farrington detailed, “It’s a very competitive horse. She has had a lot of experience and we have gotten to know each other really well, so she’s looking for the fences now off the corner. More and more, the more I ride her, the more she knows me. We know each other’s moves, and she knows what to expect.”

Farrington also acknowledged the great venue at The Stadium at PBIEC for Friday’s class, which was a nice change for both horses and riders as well as a more intimate setting with the fantastic Friday night crowd.

“I think this is a great change of pace from the other venue,” Farrington stated. “It’s great for the horses not to feel like they are showing in the same ring over and over again. This has an indoor feel to it in terms of dimensions with a close audience to the arena, and I think they could really use this ring for World Cup qualifiers. I think it would really help prepare our horses for World Cup Finals much better than the bigger arena over there (on the Main Grounds). It’s always sort of a shock to our horses to go from a huge gallop outside to a tiny indoor ring, so that could be really beneficial to us in the future.”

Blue Angel has won classes in many different venues and proved that she likes the ring at The Stadium with back to back wins this week. “She’s pretty versatile like that, but I think as rideable as she is, she can really excel in an arena like this,” Farrington said.

Kent Farrington and Blue Angel

Kent Farrington and Blue Angel

For Cian O’Connor, the second place finish was great with Carolus Z, who he explained is a fairly new mount.

“It’s the first grand prix placing with him, so I’m pretty happy,” O’Connor stated. “I knew it was going to be mission impossible to beat Kent, so I just tried to jump a clear round and hopefully hold on for second place. It was great prize money tonight, so thanks very much to the sponsor. It is fantastic to come to a different venue, but also to jump for this kind of money is fantastic. Some people are jumping younger horses or new horses, and it’s great, it’s worthwhile.”

“I just got him in the winter, so I did a few indoors with him,” O’Connor said of Carolus Z. “He is a big horse to keep together and I’m just getting the hang of him, so hopefully good things to come.”

Cian O'Connor and Carolus Z

Cian O’Connor and Carolus Z

Benjamin Meredith was quite pleased to get a top finish with his mount, Bernadien van Westuur, and explained that this was his first time showing in a big grand prix at the FTI WEF.

“I’m stoked to be here with these guys; this is very exciting for me,” Meredith said. “Thank you very much to Sheila Johnson for sponsoring the class. My partnership with this horse is relatively new, and I’m actually not the rider of this horse. My client, Haley Schaufeld, who normally rides it, is up north at a funeral and Fred Schaufeld is part owner of a couple of things with Salamander, so it is really exciting that this could work out.”

“This is actually my first big grand prix in Wellington, so it’s pretty exciting really, and it’s really cool to ride here,” Meredith acknowledged. “The horse was really great tonight. She has not jumped this big in a while, so halfway through the first round she was jumping a little too high, and then she went ‘Oh right, I remember,’ and then it was fine.”

“She has to keep going, and I just thought, ‘Why not?’” Meredith said of the decision to jump in the night class. “I did the ‘WEF’ (Challenge Cup) and she was really fun, so I thought I would give it a go and it worked out!”

Benjamin Meredith and Bernadien van Westuur

Benjamin Meredith and Bernadien van Westuur

Sheila C. Johnson, founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, was thrilled with the fantastic class and praised the riders on a job well done.

“First of all, I would like to thank the Bellissimos,” Johnson stated. “This is incredible. I think all evening, I have been hearing how much the spectators love this venue and I think the riders like it, it’s much more intimate. We love the other ring also, but this is much more of a European-type ring. I just have to say that as the sponsor, I live my life believing in the double bottom line. The sport has been so terrific for my family and my daughter. Kent is my daughter’s trainer, which I am thrilled about. This is my way to be able to give back to the sport and I think that’s very important. I hope that there are many other families that want to give back to the sport as well.”

“It has been terrific for my children to grow up in this environment, and to be able to really see them strive for the passion that they have and for the love of the sport,” Johnson continued. “It is really just an honor to be able to be a sponsor tonight. It is also a way of showcasing the third act of my life- this is my third company, so it just really fits into this venue with the equestrian feel. The resort in Middleburg is an equestrian resort of the highest caliber, so we are just very excited for its future and invite anyone to come see it, especially the riders!”

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

Final Results: $84,000 Salamander Hotels & Resorts Valentine’s Grand Prix CSI 3*

1. BLUE ANGEL: 2002 AES mare by Luidam x Ascendant
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Robin Parsky: 0/0/36.58

2. CAROLUS Z: 2003 Zangersheide gelding by Canabis Z x Toulon
CIAN O’CONNOR (IRL), Ronnoco Jump Ltd: 0/0/39.28

3. BERNADIEN VAN WESTUUR: 2001 BWP mare by Toulon x Wibramino
BENJAMIN MEREDITH (AUS), River Farm Sporthorses: 0/0/41.56

4. NEVER SAY NEVER: 2001 KWPN gelding by Heartbreaker x Jus de Pomme
THOMAS DRESLER (DEN), Thomas Dresler: 0/0/42.52

5. ZZ TOP VH SCHAARBROEK Z: 2001 Zangersheide gelding by Zandor Z x Latus I
EMANUEL ANDRADE (VEN), Hollow Creek Farm: 0/4/37.89

6. CORAL REEF VIA VOLO: 1998 BWP mare by Clinton x Heartbreaker
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA), Coral Reef Ranch: 0/4/38.50

7. OHLALA: 2003 Swedish Warmblood mare by Orlando x Cardento
LAUREN HOUGH (USA), The Ohlala Group: 0/4/40.23

8. WIRMA: 2003 KWPN mare by Hors La Loi III x Lux
BRIANNE GOUTAL (USA), Remarkable Farms LP: 0/4/40.45

9. ARISTO Z: 2004 Zangersheide gelding by Andiamo Z x Flamenco Desemilly
BEN MAHER (GBR), Jane Clark: 4/66.75

10. SOLERINA: 1999 Irish Sport Horse mare by Cruising x Diamond Lad
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak & Spy Coast Farms: 4/66.83

11. ROCKY W: 1998 KWPN gelding by Libero H x Corofino
KAITLIN CAMPBELL (USA), Kaitlin Campbell: 4/67.54

12. ACORTE: 2003 Hanoverian mare by Acorado x Stakkato
AUDREY COULTER (USA), Copernicus Stables LLC: 4/68.62

Amateur-Owner and Junior 3’3” Hunters Crown Champions of WCHR Competition

As World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition continues at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF), Amateur-Owner and Junior Hunter divisions set at the 3’3” height awarded top honors on Friday afternoon. For the victories, Friday’s champions will earn spots in the $5,000 WCHR Amateur-Owner Junior Hunter 3’3” Classic on Sunday morning.

The FarmVet Amateur-Owner 18-35 3’3” Hunter division was the first to announce division championship recipients, with Stephanie Danhakl taking champion with Enough Said as well as reserve champion with Quest.

Winning presentation with Quest, groom Juan Bernardo, ringmaster Gustavo Murcia, USHJA's Marla Holt, Enough Said, and rider Stephanie Danhakl

Winning presentation with Quest, groom Juan Bernardo, ringmaster Gustavo Murcia, USHJA’s Marla Holt, Enough Said, and rider Stephanie Danhakl

Danhakl was thrilled with her one-two finish with her two new mounts. Enough Said, an eight-year-old Warmblood gelding, won the under saddle class and finished first in the final over fences round for the division in the International Arena. Quest, a seven-year-old Warmblood gelding, was second to Enough Said in the under saddle before earning first and sixth place ribbons over fences.

“I am so happy with them. They were both so amazing!” Danhakl beamed. “Enough Said was a little spooky yesterday, but ended up winning the hack. I came in here today thinking there was no way [Enough Said wouldn’t be spooky again]! He’s really green, and he’s only been to a few shows. But he was just perfect.”

Both horses are relatively new to Danhakl, who just acquired them at the end of last year. Enough Said and Quest are both still green, evidenced by Enough Said’s extra spirit during the jog for the class in the International Arena. Danhakl admitted she’s enjoying still getting to know them, and both horses’ talent is undeniable. In addition to Friday’s results, trainer Scott Stewart rode Quest to the Equine Tack & Nutritionals First Year Green Working Hunter championship on Thursday morning.

Enough Said and Stephanie Danhakl

Enough Said and Stephanie Danhakl

Despite being mounted on green horses, Danhakl was excited to take on the sprawling International Arena, explaining that it suited Enough Said quite well. “Enough Said has a huge stride, so I’m constantly thinking about steadying and collecting everywhere in the ring, so it was nice today to just be able to go on his natural stride and go with a little more pace. It was definitely fun for me to ride him in here and it was lucky that we didn’t get going too fast!” she said with a smile. “It’s nice to have the space to just get out and gallop and have fun.”

Seasoned partners Daryl Portela and Winner, an eleven-year-old Warmblood gelding, were next to pick up top honors. Portela and Winner were second under saddle before finishing second and first over fences. Reserve champion for the division was Positano, owned and ridden by Missy Luczak-Smith. Positano and Luczak-Smith won the under saddle class and placed third and second over fences.

Winner has continued to live up to his name, picking up countless division championships with Portela in the irons over the last several years, but his worth goes far behind his raw talent. “I’m really competitive, so it’s nice that I can always count on him and trust him. It’s different going into that big [International Arena], but I can trust him and know he’s not going to do anything stupid,” Portela expressed.

Winner and Daryl Portela

Winner and Daryl Portela

As with many top horses, Portela and trainer Jimmy Torano carefully pick which shows Winner goes to in order to keep him in top form without over-showing. Winner is always aimed at WCHR week at the FTI WEF, and Portela believes he can sense when an important class is at stake.

“We pick and choose our shows, but I think he knows. He knows the prestige and he rises to the occasion for sure. We’re both really competitive and aim for the same thing, and the results have been good!” Portela smiled.

One of the highlights of the week for Portela was her top score in the handy round for the division. Winner has always done well in those classes, but Portela was particularly excited to win the class with a 90.

“It’s nice when you get 90s thrown at you. You see 90s in the professionals and the top juniors, but [not as often] in the amateurs. You’ll get the 86s and 88s, maybe an 89. So it’s nice,” Portela acknowledged.

Winner and Daryl Portela in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia and USHJA's Marla Holt

Winner and Daryl Portela in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia and USHJA’s Marla Holt

Thirteen-year-old Daisy Farish picked up the final division championship of the day with Larkspur in the Junior 3’3” Hunter division. Larkspur, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Dr. Betsee Parker, and Farish won two over fences classes and placed second in another to clinch the championship title. The reserve champion for the division was Bombay, ridden by Samantha Cohen and owned by Lyn Pedersen. Bombay and Cohen were first in the under saddle and first and second over fences.

Farish has earned plenty of championship prizes in the pony divisions, and as she continues to transition up into horses, she’s maintained her edge. Her first time riding Larkspur was only a few days ago, but the pair kept their cool in the International Arena for the final class of the division. The Jumbotron, towering palm trees, and spread out course tripped up quite a few riders and horses, but Farish laid down a consistent round with “Larry” to win the class.

“Larry is such a great horse. He doesn’t spook at anything. He was more confident than I was about the course!” Farish laughed. “He makes me feel like I don’t have to worry about him doing anything bad or being fresh.”

She continued, “He’s really fun. He’s got a really great rhythm and the jumps come right up. He was really easy to get to know. He’s very sweet and consistent. He made it easy.”

Daisy Farish and Larkspur

Daisy Farish and Larkspur

Farish has enjoyed learning the ropes of the horse divisions, which she admitted were an entirely different world from ponies. “I like it. Horses are so different from ponies because the competition is harder. There’s people that have been doing it longer and I’m smaller [than most other riders in the division], but it’s definitely fun!”

Farish’s win wrapped up WCHR competition on Friday. The 3’6” junior and amateur-owner divisions will kick off the final round of championships on Saturday before the feature event that evening, the WCHR $100,000 Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular.

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