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The Women Continue Their Reign in $55,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes, Kessler Goes Clear for $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic Victory

RELEASE: January 29, 2012
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Equestrian Sport Productions

The winning women's team with Michelle McFaul of Nespresso and Katherine and Mark Bellissimo (Sportfot)
The winning women's team with Michelle McFaul of Nespresso and Katherine and Mark Bellissimo (Sportfot)
Wellington, FL
-  It was a packed house at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center [yesterday] evening as the women earned their fourth consecutive victory in the $55,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival. The ladies swept the three phase competition with 29 points over the men's score of 17 to win. Reed Kessler of Armonk, NY, was the only clear round to win the $25,000 Suncast® Championship Jumper Classic with Pacha de Nantuel. In the hunter ring, Heather Hooker took the championship in the Bainbridge Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunter with Castlekeep.

Week three of the FTI WEF runs Wednesday, January 25, through Sunday, January 29, and is sponsored by Horseware Ireland. The $50,000 Horseware Ireland CSI 2* Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, January 29. The 2012 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival has 12 weeks of competition that conclude on April 1, 2012, and they will be awarding more than $6 million in prize money through the circuit.

The women's team was captained by Katie Prudent, and included riders Tatiana Dzavik, Margie Engle, Brianne Goutal, Maggie Jayne, Reed Kessler, Candice King, Laura Kraut, Marilyn Little Meredith, Catherine Pasmore, and Jessica Springsteen.

Henri Prudent led the men's team, which included riders Daniel Bluman, Steven Bluman, Charlie Jayne, Ben Meredith, Todd Minikus, Richie Moloney, Michael Murphy, Andres Rodriguez, Nick Skelton, and Shane Sweetnam.

Michael Murphy and Ultrafox (Sportfot)
Michael Murphy and Ultrafox (Sportfot)
The first round of competition in [last night's] Nespresso Battle of the Sexes was the speed round, with a six to four win for the ladies. Catherine Pasmore and Pacific Beach H.C. had the fastest round for the women (59.010 seconds) and Michael Murphy and Ultrafox were the fastest of all the rounds for the men (58.424 seconds).

The match races followed, with the men and women competing side by side over identical courses. The women dominated, winning seven to three and bringing the total points to 13 over seven.

Although Catherine Pasmore did not do the six-bar tonight despite winning the round last year, she was happy to help the team with her speed rounds. "I definitely believe that my horse was the fastest out here. She is just wicked fast. She turns tighter than I want to and sometimes I have a hard time staying on!" Pasmore laughed. "I have actually never shown her in a night class before and she was amazing, so I think I might go for some bigger night classes with her now."

Tatiana Dzavik and Daniel Bluman competed against each other in the match race (Sportfot)
Tatiana Dzavik and Daniel Bluman competed against each other in the match race (Sportfot)
"I love this class," the rider added with a smile. "It is just so much fun to go against the guys. Everyone tries the little cheating maneuvers for fun. It is fun being paired up and it really gets your adrenaline going."

The six-bar competition completed the evening with four men and four women returning, each earning two points per clear round. The six-bar went just two rounds before only two men remained and the women were deemed the winners, scoring 16 points to the men's ten. The final tally for all three rounds was 29 to 17 - a clear victory for the women.

Margie Engle and Hidden Creek's Pamina L (Sportfot)
Margie Engle and Hidden Creek's Pamina L (Sportfot)
Another young rider who excelled in tonight's class was Reed Kessler, who showed her horse Flight in the speed rounds and Ligist in the six-bar. Kessler also did last year's class and admitted that it was a team effort. "It is a great experience," she said of the competition. "It is really fun to just tear around and I feel like I know everybody on my team better from doing it. It is just a blast. It is a great class and I think it is great for the crowd. I love doing it every year. I hope I get to do it again and thanks to Nespresso."

Laura Kraut was a veteran competitor on the team, having shown all four years. Kraut noted that it is great to have a team of young, talented riders to compete with. "I remember when I was the younger rider on certain teams and I think it is important to feel the support of those that are older," she said. "I enjoy it and plus we have some great young riders. Catherine Pasmore, Reed Kessler, Jessie 
Springsteen, the list goes on. You would be happy to ride with them anywhere."

Laura Kraut and Woodstock O clear the six-bar competition
Laura Kraut and Woodstock O clear the six-bar competition
Kraut has shown in the Battle of the Sexes every year and enjoys the competition. "The first couple of years it was right down to the wire. It has only been the last 
couple of years that it has been kind of a runaway, which is great," she recalled with a 
smile. "I am just super competitive at everything, so it is good. I enjoy the night. Once you get here and you get going it is really fun."

Kessler Shows How It's Done

Reed Kessler, who is just 17 years old, was the only rider to master today's Suncast 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic course. She and Pacha de Nantuel, nine-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Papillon Rouge, SF x Calypso D'Herbiers, were the sole clear round in a class of 30 entries. They posted a time of 75.609 seconds. Second place went to Yann Candele (CAN) on Ariana, owned by Susan Grange, who finished with one time fault in 78.427 seconds. Karen Cudmore (CAN) and Blair Cudmore's Shea were the fastest four faulters in 70.530 seconds for third place.

Kessler started showing "Pacha" last year in the 1.40m Jumpers, and they stepped up to the 1.50m Jumpers this past fall. This was their first win in the 1.50m classics. "I'd say this  is the biggest course he's jumped so far," Kessler pointed out. "He was great. I think it was his ideal course. He has so much natural impulsion and he adjusts so well that all of the 
Reed Kessler and Pacha de Nantuel (Sportfot)
Reed Kessler and Pacha de Nantuel (Sportfot)
short distances would work really well for him, and it did. I'm so proud of him."

Kessler said of the challenging course, "I thought that there were a lot of hard options. I thought the last line was really the trick though (with) the really airy skinny. For another of my horses, it would have worried me, but for him, he's so adjustable and has so much natural power that even when I'm crawling in the five, it's so easy for him. It really worked out for us today."

She added, "I was surprised I was the only clean. I walked it and I thought it looked difficult. Especially sitting on him, I thought it was pretty difficult for Pacha. But it was really easy for him. It should be hard though right? We're in one of the best places in the world, it should be difficult."

By being the only clear round, Kessler avoided a jump-off with many of the top riders in the world competing in the class. She laughed, "It's a relief because there are so many good riders here. You don't want to be against Nick Skelton or Cian O'Connor or Beezie in the jump-off. That's quite a run. I guess I got off a little lucky!"
 
Amateur-Owners Hunt for the Blue

Heather Hooker and Castlekeep (Sportfot)
Heather Hooker and Castlekeep (Sportfot)
Heather Hooker and her mount Castlekeep out-performed stiff competition in this week's Bainbridge Amateur-Owner Hunter 18-35 division. The pair scored two seconds and two thirds over fences and finished up first in the under saddle to bring home the championship tricolor with a total of 30 points. A close reserve championship went to Alex Paradysz and Late Entry who scored a first, second and third over fences and a third in the hack for a total of 24 points.

After two days of showing over fences, Hooker and Paradyysz were tied with 20 points each going into the under saddle. Castlekeep's blue ribbon victory in the hack was the deciding factor that carried the pair to the top.

Following her win, Hooker commented, "I was really happy with our performance yesterday. I liked that they had a two-stride out of a short turn in the handy because it reminded me of my jumper rides. You kind of had to sit down and ride up out of the turn, which was perfect because he likes a little ride forward. Today, I think our rides were even smoother and he was perfect in the hack. I love how he goes around with his nose poked out - he's got the cute factor." 

Castlekeep is a nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding who was imported from Germany by Scott Stewart and Ken Berkley. Describing the gelding's past, Hooker recalled, "He was only six years old when Scott and Ken bought him and Ken showed him for a year before I took the reins. Now that we are both Amateurs, we have finally figured each other out and it has been going great."

This season marks Hooker's first year moving up from a Junior to an Amateur. "It's a whole different kind of competition out there in the Amateurs," Hooker explained. "I do miss being at the Junior ring with all of my friends but it's kind of nice to see new faces. You know, it's such a big horse show that it's nice to be exposed to a different crowd every once in a while."

Among the new crowd remains one consistent face: Hooker's grandfather, Richard Prant. "My grandfather comes every single day to watch me ride," Hooker said with a smile. "He parks himself on the chair at the barn and just watches all day. He loves it. We love having him around, and his nickname is 'Grumpy' but we call him that out of love."

For Hooker, the rest of the 2012 show season appears promising. With two championship coolers already under her belt, she will continue to show Castlekeep in the Bainbridge Amateur-Owner Hunter division and begin competing with her mount Perle in the SSG Medium Amateur-Owner Jumper division and the Surpass High Amateur-Owner Jumper division in the coming weeks.

The 2012 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival week three will conclude with the $50,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix, CSI 2* in the International Arena at 2 p.m. The hunter highlight will be the Gotham North Small Pony Hunters. For full results please visit www.showgroundslive.com.  

Final Results: $55,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes
Winners: Women's Team: 29 points
Captain Katie Prudent
Reed Kessler
Catherine Pasmore
Jessica Springsteen
Marilyn Little-Meredith
Tatiana Dzavik
Candice King
Maggie Jayne
Margie Engle
Laura Kraut
Brianne Goutal

Second place: Men's Team: 17 points
Captain Henri Prudent
Shane Sweetnam
Richard Moloney
Daniel Bluman
Andres Rodriguez
Steven Bluman
Ben Meredith
Michael Murphy
Todd Minikus
Charlie Jayne
Nick Skelton

Final Results: $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic
1 PACHA DE NANTUEL, REED KESSLER, REED KESSLER: 0/75.609
2 ARIANA, YANN CANDELE, SUSAN GRANGE: 1/78.427
3 SHEA, KAREN CUDMORE, BLAIR CUDMORE: 4/70.530
4 ZAHARA S, SHANE SWEETNAM, SWEET OAK FARM: 4/72.496
5 EVERYTHING, CIAN O'CONNOR, ABDULLA HUMAID AL MUHAIRI: 4/72.760
6 AZZARO VAN'T HAGENHOF, LAURA KRAUT, SUSAN GRANGE: 4/74.118
7 URBAN, BLYTHE MARANO, RIVERVIEW FARM LLC: 4/74.601
8 OPAL DU GOLFE, MARIE HECART, ECURIE MICHEL HECART: 4/74.745
9 SWAGGER, DEBORAH STEPHENS, CENTENNIAL FARM: 4/75.356
10 CORONA DUDO MAINE Z, PEDRO GIL, PEDRO GIL: 4/75.765
11 UDIANA, KEVIN BABINGTON, CHLOE WORMSER: 4/76.626
12 CEONTO, KAREN CUDMORE, BLAIR CUDMRE: 7/80.227                   

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