Wellington, FL – February 16, 2014 – The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) concluded its sixth week of competition, sponsored by Salamander Hotels & Resorts, with action on both sides of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on Sunday. On the beautiful grass field at The Stadium at PBIEC, 25-year-old Santiago Diaz of Colombia earned the biggest win of his career riding Tizimin LS in the $50,000 Equestrian Sotheby’s Jumper Derby. In the International Arena on the Main Grounds, Laura Lee Montross and Nairobi Nights were victorious in the $5,000 Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic.

Richard Jeffery of Bournemouth, England, set the track for Sunday’s jumper derby that featured 20 numbered obstacles, including the derby bank, table bank, open water, devil’s dyke and more. The number of challenging natural obstacles along with the length of the course tested the stamina of all of the horses and riders competing, resulting in no clear rounds. Last to go, Santiago Diaz and Tizimin LS had one rail down, combined with a fast time in the faults converted format, to finish in 143.98 seconds for the win.

Nicholas Dello Joio and Nathalie de Gunzburg’s Ganjana were faster, but incurred eight faults to bring their total time up to 144.92 seconds to finish in second. James North and Fair Play Farm’s The Man to See had four faults added to his time to place third in 146.17 seconds.

Santiago Diaz and Tizimin LS

Santiago Diaz and Tizimin LS

Diaz has owned Tizimin LS, an eight-year-old La Silla gelding, for three years. Tizimin is by the stallion Tlaloc La Silla, out of the Polydor mare Sonora La Silla, the same dam as Daniel Bluman’s Olympic mount Sancha LS. Living in Colombia, Diaz moved up the children’s and junior ranks and is now a professional rider. Diaz showed at the FTI WEF for the first time in 2013 and made his second trip worthwhile on Sunday with the biggest payday of his career.

Diaz explained that although Tizimin is young and very green, he did a derby in Colombia last year, and he felt confident aiming the horse at this class. “I brought him here for the season to have a different experience for him,” Diaz stated. “He is young for this, but I knew that he can do it well. He was really good, and I am so happy.”

Diaz noted that his horse is very fit, and the only thing he did to prepare was practice some water jumps and hills last week. “He is really brave,” the rider added. “When I walked the course, I didn’t have any worries. My horse already did those kind of jumps, and I knew that he was fit for that.”

Diaz stuck to his plan on course as the last to go, but he did have an enthusiastic Colombian cheering section and lots of encouragement as his round went on. “I heard people around the course whistling and saying go forward. In every corner there was somebody,” he laughed.

For Nick Dello Joio, the opportunity to show Ganjana was great, and the rider was happy with his round. He was showing the 12-year-old Hanoverian mare for owner Laura de Gunzburg and started riding her a few weeks ago.

“She had come from a background of doing some derbies in Germany, so Laura said it would be fun for me to ride her in this derby,” Dello Joio explained. “I don’t know her that well, but luckily today it was a friendly course. Richard did a great job, and he made it really inviting. I think I got a little bit flat at the end, but I was thrilled with her. She was great. She jumped well, and she made my job a lot easier.”

He continued, “This is a fun class. It is nice for all of these horses to come out here. You could go out and have a gallop around and have fun. I think a lot of people who watched it probably regretted not showing today, and I think next year there will be a lot more people in this class.”

James North has done this class the last three years in a row with his 14-year-old Holsteiner stallion The Man to See and noted that the course was exactly the same as last year.

“I had a little advantage with that,” he acknowledged, “and I know my horse is super brave, but he is a little cold and slow, so that has always been my issue with him is to keep him fit enough for the course. The last two years I had the last jump down, so this year I was not going to have the last jump down! I was a little careful to that one, but he is a super horse.”

“My plan was exactly the same as last year,” North said. “These courses you don’t worry too much about the rails, you just have to go fast. Mine is a little slow. He is a stallion, and he dwells up in the air, so I just know that I have to keep kicking.”

“It was a good day to go jumping around out there,” North added. “It is beautiful, the sun is shining. It was great.”

Equestrian Sotheby’s representative Tom Baldwin also had fun as a supporter of Sunday’s class and was happy with the great result.

“This is our first time sponsoring an event like this,” Baldwin stated. “We were presented with the idea and we just thought it was so different and original and out of the box. We thought it was a great opportunity to come out here and be a part of a really unique athletic event. It is truly athletes out there, horse and rider at their best on a really beautiful day, so we were really happy to be a part of it.”

In addition to Sunday’s fantastic derby, a special award was presented for week six competition. American rider Kaitlin Campbell was named the Leading Lady Grand Prix Rider of the week after top finishes with her mount Rocky W. The award is sponsored by Martha Jolicoeur of Illustrated Properties in memory of Dale Lawler.

Santiago Diaz and Tizimin LS in their winning presentation with Equestrian Sport Productions' President Michael Stone, Thomas Baldwin amd Ryan Beckett of Equestrian Sotheby's, and ringmaster Gustavo Murcia

Santiago Diaz and Tizimin LS in their winning presentation with Equestrian Sport Productions’ President Michael Stone, Thomas Baldwin and Ryan Beckett of Equestrian Sotheby’s International Realty, and ringmaster Gustavo Murcia

Final Results: $50,000 Equestrian Sotheby’s Jumper Derby

1. TIZIMIN LA SILLA: 2006 SLS gelding by Tlaloc La Silla x Polydor
SANTIAGO DIAZ (COL), Santiago Diaz: 143.98

2. GANJANA 2: 2002 Hanoverian mare by Grosso Z x Silvio I
NICHOLAS DELLO JOIO (USA), Nathalie de Gunzburg: 144.92

3. THE MAN TO SEE: 2000 Holsteiner stallion by Carthago x Calypso I
JAMES NORTH (USA), Fair Play Farm: 146.17

4. ACE HIGH MIKE: 2002 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Randi x Clover Hill
QUENTIN JUDGE (USA), Double H Farm: 148.47

5. RADIO CITY: 2001 Holsteiner mare by Liatos x Carthago
WILTON PORTER (USA), Sleepy P Ranch LLC: 150.25

6. WRIOMF: 2003 KWPN mare by Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Julius
CHRIS SORENSEN (CAN), Jolly Group: 157.26

7. WHISTLER: 2002 KWPN gelding by Pacific x Andiamo
LESLIE HOWARD (USA), Jane F. Clark: 161.39

8. EVEREST DE MUZE: 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding by For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve
MAGGIE MCALARY (USA), Alexander LLC: 163.50

9. CANTUS D: 2002 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Carbonnieux Van De Helle x Catango Z
HILLARY SIMPSON (USA), Quiet Hill Farm: 180.85

LUCKY LORD 20: 2002 Bayerischer gelding by Lux Z x Lord Z

WHISPER: 2003 KWPN gelding by Oklund

GANGSTA: 2000 Hungarian Sporthorse gelding by Koppany x Merano 1

Laura Lee Montross and Nairobi Nights Win In Classic

Sunday was the Adult Amateur Hunters’ turn to take on the International Arena at PBIEC for World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) competition. The $5,000 Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic saw the top hunter horses and riders, who qualified for the classic earlier in the week in their regular divisions.

Laura Lee Montross and her own Nairobi Nights topped the $5,000 Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic on Sunday afternoon at the FTI WEF. Montross and “Nairobi” bested a field of 77 horse-rider combinations with a total score of 172.5. The pair qualified for the second round of competition after earning a first round score of 86.5. Montross piloted Nairobi to an 86 round two to give them the lead.

Laura Lee Montross and Nairobi Nights

Laura Lee Montross and Nairobi Nights

Samantha Sommers and Graffiti were second in the class, which called back the top twelve riders to contest a second round of competition. With a first round score of 86.75, Sommers returned in round two to ride Graffiti to a score of 83, finishing second with a total score of 169.75. Wendy Gifford rounded out the top three with Weekend Affair. Gifford and Weekend Affair were the final pair to return for round two after earning a high score of 87 in round one. The duo earned a round two score of 82 to finish narrowly behind Sommers with a 169.

Montross has owned Nairobi, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, for eight years and has enjoyed experiencing their partnership develop. “He’s a nice, big horse. His trot and his canter are very comfortable. I was showing him and he was a little tough. He was very young when I got him and very green, so I turned him over to the professionals for a while,” Montross recounted.

She continued, “He’s always been great in the barn and great to flat, and now he’s just a nice adult horse. He would do anything, I think. His father’s the famous Nairobi, and I think he was difficult for a while too. Morgan [Thomas, former rider] told me they take a long time to grow up and then they’re really good.”

Montross, of Bedford, NY, admitted having a few butterflies walking into the International Arena, but quickly found her stride with Nairobi and simply had fun with their courses.

“I was a little nervous at first. But then, quite honestly, after the second jump I was just having fun. It was beautiful. It was wonderful, I like that it was wide open and I could gallop. The six to the two [stride] was a little bit snug, but he handled it and it was fun,” Montross commented. “I didn’t worry about anything. I could move up to the jumps, and he didn’t look at anything. He didn’t spook, he was just very soft.”

Montross grew up in the foxhunting tradition today’s show hunter classes are rooted in, hunting with her mother with the Golden’s Bridge Hounds in North Salem, NY. She was an avid Pony Club participant as a child before trying out the show ring. After taking some time off from riding, she got back into hunting when her mother moved to Tryon, NC, joining her on hunts with the Tryon Hounds.

The pull of the show ring was still strong, and while Montross still gets plenty of offers to come join the field after returning to the world of show hunters, she admits she may not have the most appropriate mounts.

“Nairobi’s a good trail horse. He actually probably would hunt now, he’s such a good boy,” Montross joked.

Laura Lee Montross and Nairobi Nights in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia, Carol Cone, USHJA's Marla Holt, and Tad Montross

Laura Lee Montross and Nairobi Nights in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia, Carol Cone, USHJA’s Marla Holt, and Tad Montross

Riding is now a third-generation tradition for Montross, who shares the sport with her 15-year-old daughter and husband. Montross’ daughter shares a trainer with her, contesting the jumper ring under Jimmy Torano’s watchful eye, while Montross’ husband Tad enjoys touring around the 2’6” Low Adult Hunters.

The 3’3” classics followed the $5,000 Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic, with the $5,000 WCHR Amateur-Owner 3’3” Hunter Classic being the next to hand out awards. Barbara Spizzirro and Hundred Acre topped the class with a cumulative score of 171. Spizzirro rode Hundred Acre to a first round score of 84 before following up with an 87 in the second round to clinch the first place prize.

Martel and owner-rider Olivia Easton earned top call in the $5,000 WCHR Junior 3’3” Hunter Classic with an overall score of 162. Easton rode Martel to an 80 in the first round before earning a score of 82 for round two.

Earlier in the afternoon, Mary Jane King was recognized as the Grand Adult Hunter for WCHR competition at the FTI WEF for her three over fences wins with Boss, Inc.,’s Ebony in the Camping World Adult Amateur 51+ division.

Correction: Lillie Keenan was division champion of the Large Junior Hunters 16-17 with Soulja Boy, not on Grayon as previously published. The pair won the under saddle and placed fifth, first, and fifth over fences in the division. Keenan and the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding’s over fences victory came in the handy round, which the pair won with a high score of 94. The score held up for the High Score Junior award, presented to Keenan and Soulja Boy prior to their round in the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Hunter Spectacular. Soulja Boy, owned by James Fairclough’s Stone Horse Farm, ultimately finished tenth in the Hunter Spectacular.

Lillie Keenan and Soulja Boy

Lillie Keenan and Soulja Boy

Full Results $5,000 Peggy Cone WCHR Adult Hunter Classic
Horse Rider Round 1 Round 2 Final

2 GRAFFITI SAMANTHA SOMMERS 86.75 83.00 169.75


4 QUE SERA SOPHIE COHEN 82.75 85.00 167.75

5 BLESSED GLEN SENK 86.00 80.50 166.50

6 CROSBY KATHRYN HAEFNER 85.00 80.75 165.75

7 TEMPTATION HUNTER KAY 82.00 81.00 163.00

8 SEA WALKER NICOLE OLIYNYK 82.50 80.00 162.50

9 LIMONE SAMANTHA RUTTURA 83.00 79.00 162.00

10 NEVADA CAROLINE CLARK STONEY 82.25 78.00 160.25

11 URSULA EMILY DURLACH 84.00 76.00 160.00

12 LUCCA HUNTER KAY 81.50 71.00 152.50>>>

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.