Shane Sweetnam and Samuel Parot Top $5,000 CSIO Welcome Stake Classes at FTI WEF

RELEASE: February 27, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Shane Sweetnam and Solerina (Sportfot)
Shane Sweetnam and Solerina (Sportfot)
Wellington, Fla.
- - The 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) kicked off its week of CSIO competition on Wednesday with a $5,000 Welcome Stake, held as two classes, with afternoon and evening sessions. The day session saw a win for Ireland's Shane Sweetnam aboard Solerina. The night session was won by Chile's Samuel Parot and Al Calypso.

FTI WEF week eight, sponsored by G&C Farm, runs February 26-March 2, 2014, featuring CSIO 4* show jumping and a full schedule of 'AA' hunter and equitation events. The week will highlight the $75,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™, presented by G&C Farm, on Friday, February 28. There are Hollow Creek Farm classes for Children's, Juniors and Young Riders throughout the week as well as three separate FEI Nations' Cup team events on Saturday, March 1. Many other exciting jumper classes will be featured throughout the week. 

Thursday hosts the $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 8, and Friday will feature a $10,000 G&C Farm Speed Stake. The $34,000 G&C Farm 1.45m and $25,000 Nutrena Jumper Classic will be held on Saturday. The week will conclude on Sunday with a $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic as well as the $150,000 CSIO 4* Grand Prix, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty.

Steve Stephens (USA) is the course designer in the International Arena for week eight competition. In the $5,000 Welcome Stake day session, Stephens saw 51 entries over his speed track with 11 clear rounds. Shane Sweetnam and his speedy mount Solerina, owned by Sweet Oak and Spy Coast Farms, completed the fastest time of the class in 63.54 seconds for the win.

Mexico's Eugenio Garza finished second with El Milagro's Providence 3 in 65.88 seconds. Ireland's Kevin Babington and Shorapur placed third in 70.13 seconds, and USA's Christine McCrea and Candy Tribble's Romantovich Take One finished fourth in 70.92 seconds.

"She jumped good," Sweetnam said of his winning round. "She is naturally quick. I didn't really go full speed with her, I just did all of the turns. She is good at turns, and I think that was the difference."

"A lot of people are just schooling for the week," Sweetnam noted. "It's not a big money class, but it's still the opening class of CSIO week, so I knew if I could do my turns then I would be up there. That is what I planned to do, and that is what I did."

Solerina, a 15-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare by Cruising x Diamond Lad, is a fiery little chestnut, but Sweetnam explained that he has figured out how to work with her personality.

"She is still high maintenance, but I have gotten to know her and she has gotten to know me and I know her quirks now," he detailed. "She is very funny about the (jumbotron) TV screen, that is her big thing. She has matured about it, but she is still kind of nervous about it. Today in the practice ring she was nervous; you could tell that she was nervous. She's a much better horse when there is no TV."

To help with Solerina's nerves about the jumbotron, the mare has a TV screen that she watches in her stall at horse shows.

"It helps a little, but I'm not sure how much," Sweetnam admitted. "She's not as dramatic about it as she was before, but as soon as she sees a big TV it is still a factor. At shows she always has a TV in her stall. Spruce Meadows is what she's watching at the moment. It used to be some cowboy guy before. I better get the WEF video, maybe that will work better."

Solerina will show in tomorrow's $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup class and again on Saturday. Sweetnam's mount Eregast van't Kiezelhof will step up to do the bigger classes this week. 
Continuing the day, forty-four entries showed in the night session of Wednesday's $5,000 Welcome Stake. The class saw just three clear rounds around the course with the fastest time of 65.75 seconds for Chile's Samuel Parot and Al Calypso.

Germany's David Will finished second aboard Sevil Sabanci's Con Chilli in 70.02 seconds. Also from Chile, Carlos Milthaler and Santana Stables LLC's Player de Brocelia finished third in 70.17 seconds.

Samuel Parot and Al Calypso in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia (Sportfot)
Samuel Parot and Al Calypso in their winning presentation with ringmaster Gustavo Murcia (Sportfot)
Samuel Parot has had a great partnership with Al Calypso, his 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Askari x Calypso II. The pair has traveled the world together, competing on the Chilean teams at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Parot briefly sold the horse to teammate Jorge Matte, but got him back two weeks ago and now plans to keep him. After his win, Parot spoke about the horse and his style and personality.

"He likes you to ride very soft and comfortable," Parot noted. "If you make too much pressure, he gets very strong and he is not happy. If you ride soft, he is happy. He is very sensitive."

"He is very expressive," the rider added. "It is unbelievable. He knows you. He is very smart, and we know each other well. You go to the barn and walk down the middle and he will come to you. He is a top horse."

Parot got to see Carlos Milthaler set the pace with the first clear round of the night and knew where he could be faster.

"I saw my partner from Chile go, and he went very fast. I made one turn that he did not make before the water, and I think that is where I made the time better," Parot explained, adding that he had the advantage of a very seasoned horse. "He has no problem under the lights. He was perfect; he has the experience."

Al Calypso will show again in tomorrow's $34,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 8 and will then compete in Sunday's $150,000 CSI 4* Grand Prix, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty.

Parot, who has been competing in Wellington for 14 years and has been at the FTI WEF every year since 2008, is excited to be a part of Chile's team for Friday night's $75,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™, presented by G&C Farm. This is the first time that the country has had a team for this class in Wellington. Parot will ride alongside teammates Carlos Milthaler and Jorge Matte showing his horse William Wallace.

"This is the first time (and) we will have only three riders, but it is a nice experience here," Parot stated. "It is very difficult competition. The competition at this show is one of the most important in the world, and it is good for Chile to come here. Chile is very far south, and it is not easy to come here with the horses."