Firestone takes chilly victory with Iceberg

The third week of the 32nd Winter Equestrian Festival entitled Kilkenny/ICH Internationale CSI*** was held February 11 through February 15 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida. Frank Rothenberger of Germany was the course designer in the Internationale Arena. Philip DeVita designed the courses for the Grand Hunter Field.The third week of the 32nd Winter Equestrian Festival entitled Kilkenny/ICH Internationale CSI*** was held February 11 through February 15 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida. Frank Rothenberger of Germany was the course designer in the Internationale Arena. Philip DeVita designed the courses for the Grand Hunter Field.

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The third week of the 32nd Winter Equestrian Festival entitled Kilkenny/ICH Internationale CSI*** was held February 11 through February 15 at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida. Frank Rothenberger of Germany was the course designer in the Internationale Arena. Philip DeVita designed the courses for the Grand Hunter Field.

Topping a field of 37 riders, Alison Firestone, 27, of Upperville, Virginia, aboard Iceburg for Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone, won the $50,000 Kilkenny/ICH Internationale Cup CSI*** on Sunday, February 15. In the 10-horse jump-off, five horses went clean with Firestone racing just splits in front of Anne Kursinski aboard Sun God who placed second, and Kimberly Frey riding Marlou who placed third.

Firestone described the 16-effort Round One track as ‘technical’ and that the most difficult parts of it were the lines to the combinations. "To have a triple combination that early in the course, and a big triple bar coming in, it’s always tough to get your horses going for that," explained Firestone. "The blue in-and-out (No. 12) was very tight inside, and either a very tight five to another wide oxer or a really forward four."

Going into the jump-off Eric Lamaze, 36, of Schomberg, Ontario, led off aboard Tempete V/H Lindehof for owner Stacey Krembil and set the pace with his clear trip in 41.040, which placed him fourth in the final results. Kursinski riding Sun God for owners Ron and Cheryl Krise immediately took over the lead with her clean trip in 39.23, which held up for the next five riders, including two more clear trips. Kate Levy clocked in clean at 44.13, which put her fifth, and Kim Frey riding Marlou for owner Windmill Ranch LLC tripped the timers at 39.66 for third place. But it was Alison Firestone and Iceburg who edged Kursinski into second place and took the victory with 39.17 seconds. Two more riders chased her but incurred faults in slower time.

Though she had the advantage of going last in the Jump-off, Firestone said she did not see Kursinski’s ride so did not strategize off that trip. "I took a little shot to the second jump and then I slowed down over to the outside line because in the first round my horse got very surprised at how big the triple bar was," explained Firestone. "When he got there he felt like he took a second look at it, so I wanted to give him a really good ride down to the triple bar the second time. As soon as I got through the combination, then I just let him go. He’s so careful I can take a shot at running down to the jumps a little bit."

Firestone is aiming for the Olympic Selection Trials this year, but not with the 14-year-old Iceburg. "If I make the team for the Olympics, Casanova is the horse I want to take. He’s jumped a lot of Championship courses and I think I have the best shot with him at the Olympics," she said. "Today, if I had both of them in the jump-off, Iceburg for sure would have been faster, but for a really huge, scopey track, Casanova is my horse for that."

Three-time Olympian Kursinski noted that Sun God, a nine year-old chestnut Hanoverian gelding by Drossel Klang II, will join her 1992 Barcelona Olympic mount, Eros, in her quest for a fourth Olympics. "I’m tickled that he’s as good as he was. We haven’t gone that fast together over even a lot of smaller courses so I was delighted that he went that fast and left the jumps up," she said. "He has all the ability, now we need some mileage."

Frey was also aboard a new Grand Prix mount that she is aiming for the Olympic Selection Trials in May. "This is only my third big class," she said of the 10-year-old Dutch mare by Jus de Pomme. "She’s relatively young. When I walked the course I said, well let’s see if she can jump this high. She’s got a ton of ability and I’m really thrilled with her. She really rises to the occasion all the time, so although she hasn’t done a lot of big courses I feel very confident. She’s very, very confident herself. If I put that [Olympics] in front of her I’m sure she would give it her best shot."

Starting off his day on Thursday, February 12, McLain Ward chalked up his 10th win at this year’s WEF, claiming victory over 56 horses in the $25,000 WEF Kilkenny/ICH Challenge Cup Series Round III, CSI*** riding Hurricane I for owner Sarah Willeman and Turnabout Farm. "The problem with having such a good run is that you get fearful when it’s going to end, because you know at some point it’s going to end," Ward said. "But we’ll keep riding and enjoying it while it goes on."

Fifteen horses cleared the 15-effort Round One track. The lead changed hands several times in the Jump-Off, but going ninth in the order Norman Dello Joio jumped to the lead when he laid down a trip with Quriel owned by Eleanor Belknap and Anthony Weight that would be hard to beat Ü 33.64 seconds. However, going last in the line-up aboard Hurricane I, Ward produced a clear trip in 32.71 for the win, and edged Dello Joio into second place. Seven horses put in double clear performances today. Kim Frey rode Couletto K. James for owner McLain Ward and clocked in at 35.08 for third. "That was also very exciting for me," said Ward. "He’s only eight years old and it was his first grand prix this season. It was a great day all the way around."

After two days of competition in the Regular Working Hunter division sponsored by First Savings Mortgage Company, Ken Smith riding Carmen emerged as the champion on Thursday afternoon, February 12. Millridge, LLC owns Carmen, a 10-year old, 15.3-hand Oldenburg mare. Smith has had the ride since October 2003. Louise Serio riding Gray Slipper for owner Bridget Hallman earned the Reserve. Smith, 36, of Wellington, Florida, rode Carmen in four over fences classes and took the victory in three of them. He picked up a third place ribbon in one jumping class. The division competed in one Under Saddle class, in which Smith and Carmen placed fourth.

"She was really good. Yesterday especially because she had last week off so she was fresh and jumped real, real high," said Smith. "She showed great expression over the jumps, real smooth, and she’s a beautiful mover, so between the jumps it worked out real nice."

He attributed today’s third place in the first over fences classes to an unlucky rub when she jumped lower than her norm, but then she went on to win the final class today and clinch the championship. Smith, who is over six feet tall, attributes his height to the lower score in the Under Saddle class where she was fourth.

"She was good. I’m a little tall for her for the Under Saddle. Over the jumps they’re watching the horse more, but Under Saddle I like to put a shorter rider on her." Smith noted that the most special aspect of Carmen’s personality is her attitude. "She goes in to win the classes. She has all the talent, but she really wants to win the classes and you can’t teach them how to do that. They’re born to do it or not. She’s a really consistent horse."

In the Grand Hunter Field on Friday, Rob Bielefeld, 39, of Ithaca, New York, and Wellington, Florida, riding C.C. Bloom for owner Samantha Hallman won the First Year Green Hunter Championship, Section A. The duo competed in four over fences classes held over two days and chalked up one win, two third-place ribbons, and a fourth place ribbon. They did not compete in the Under Saddle class, but still accumulated enough points to claim the Championship. Heather Caristo rode Indian Summer for Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Caristo and earned the Section A Reserve. C.C. Bloom is an eight-year-old, 16.1-hand chestnut Dutch mare by the French-bred Olympic stallion Jus de Pomme. Hallman imported her from Joey Norick two years ago. Bielefeld and C.C. Bloom are commencing their second season together.

"She’s a good jumper," stated Bielefeld. "Her consistency really paid off. She always tries hard but the first day she just gave that extra effort. She jumped so high over all the jumps and stayed in the air."

Forty-one horses competed in Section A yesterday and 42 competed today. Competition in the division was tough, Bielefeld acknowledged. "Ten years ago First Year horses used to make a few errors and be okay because they were First Year horses and green," he said. "But nowadays there’s no room for error. You have to be right on. The horse has to be right on. If you don’t get above a score of 80, you’re not getting a ribbon. It’s very, very competitive this year."

Later in the day on Friday, Ken Smith of Wellington, Florida, riding Noir for owner Mrs. Quentin Alexander won the First Year Green Hunter Championship, Section B. Thirty-nine horses competed in two over fences in this section of the division yesterday, and 42 contested the final three classes today, including an Under Saddle class and two jumping classes. Tim Goguen riding George for Janet Read was the Reserve.

Kicking off the action in the Internationale Arena on Saturday, February 14, Marley Goodman, 23, of Wellington, Florida, aboard Jumper won the $10,000 Adequan Amateur-Owner Jumper Classic High, besting a field of 56 entries. Thirteen horses went clear over the 14-effort Round One course and qualified for the Jump-off. Goodman was the second rider to go over the eight-effort course and set the pace with her clear round in 41.508 seconds. The dozen riders who chased her time could not catch her, though four more riders produced clear performances.

Cara Raether riding Zypria for Trelawny Farm Inc. placed second, tripping the timers in 41.807. Paige Johnson riding Landria W for Salamander Farm took the third place ribbon, covering the short course in 41.947. "It’s always difficult going early in a jump-off because you don’t know how fast to go," said Goodman. "I decided to use this as practice and go as fast as I could. I was lucky enough to keep the lead. You have to have luck with you as well. I don’t think there was any place where I could have been faster."

The aptly named Jumper is a 12-year-old, 16.2-hand, bay Dutch warmblood gelding with one blue eye. Goodman and her family’s Turtle Lane Farm have owned him for three years. "He’s just a fantastic horse. He always wants to win for you, every time," Goodman said.

At last year’s WEF, Jumper was the second leading money winner in the amateur division. "I know how he rises to the occasion. He’s the perfect fit for me." Today’s win marked Goodman’s first victory in this year’s WEF. "It feels very good," she said. "We were second last week in this class and it was nice to win it, very nice. It’s always good to win a class here because the competition is very difficult with many competitors with good horses and good riders."