Nick Skelton and Unique Thrill the Crowd with $25,000 Puissance at WIHS

by Jennifer Wood Media Inc

Washington, D.C. - In an exciting display of horsepower, Nick Skelton (GBR) powered over the seven-foot Boeing wall to win the $25,000 Puissance on Unique, owned by Beverley Widdowson. The class was the highlight event on Friday of the 53rd Washington International Horse Show (WIHS).

The WIHS continues through Sunday, October 30. The highlight class of the week is the $100,000 President’s Cup Grand Prix presented by Events DC, CSI 3*-W on Saturday, October 29. The course designer for the jumper classes this week is Michel Vaillancourt of Aiken, SC.

Skelton was the only one to go clear in the fifth and final round when the wall was raised to seven feet tall (2.13m).

As the only clear in the final round, Skelton was also awarded a $5,000 bonus from The Boeing Company. For his win, Skelton was presented with the Congressman’s Challenge Trophy donated by the Late Honorable Rogers C.B. Morton and the Late Honorable F. Robert Watkins, of Pennsylvania as well as the Armed Forces Cup.

The other two to make it to the final round were Andrew Kocher (USA) on Elizabeth Allen’s Donnatello and Todd Minikus (USA) on Sweetheart, owned by Windsor Show Stables. They tied for second place.

Scott Brash (GBR) and Stanley Brash’s Intertoy Z knocked the blocks off the wall in the fourth round, when the wall was set at six feet, nine inches (2.05m) for fourth place, while Ljubov Kochetova (RUS) and Aslan retired after the second round with the wall at six feet (1.83m). Aaron Vale and Quito, owned by Walter Ulan, cleared the wall at five feet, six inches in the first round, but they had an unfortunate rail at the vertical in the original course for sixth place.

Skelton is a veteran rider of six Olympic Games, and doesn’t recall the number of times he has competed in a puissance class, but the important ones stood out in his memory.

“I jumped 78 in London in 1978 over poles,” he remembered. “I broke the high jump record there and I still hold that with Lastic, but I was young and brave then.” Skelton also cleared 7’5″ over a puissance wall with Apollo at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden in 1987.

Now, he is a bit more conservative in his jumping. “I don’t like the Puissance at my age,” the 54-year-old rider said with a smile. “You don’t need to fall and you can fall in those classes.”

Skelton said he chose to enter due to the small amount of entries in the class, but thought he would finish fifth or sixth. When he made it to the final round, he decided to go after the first two riders had faults. “I thought I had better go. It’s good really because with not many people in it, it is a shame for the show organizers, so I wanted to go and put a good show on. It was a good crowd; there were a lot of people here tonight,” he said.

Skelton has been competing Unique, 10-year-old KWPN gelding by Indoctro, for almost two years, taking over the ride from Laura Kraut. “Unique has never been in a puissance before. He won a class this morning, and then I jumped him again and he stopped at the wall in that class and then we won this, so it was good. He felt the best in the last round actually. I am actually surprised he took it on really. He’s testing me every day, that one,” he remarked.

He continued, “He is a bit tricky. He tests you every day. You give an inch and he’ll take a mile with you. You have to keep on top of him, but he is a good horse. He wins most classes.”

When asked about the smile on his face after he cleared the final round, he said, “I was shocked actually, I thought it was funny. Sometimes you need a bit of luck and it goes your way.”

In addition to their Puissance victory tonight, Skelton and Unique won the $10,000 International Open Jumper 1.40m Faults Converted class that was held earlier in the day. The pair jumped last in the class of thirteen and went clear in 52.470 seconds for the win. Skelton was awarded The General Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Perpetual Trophy donated by the late Arthur J. Morris.

Mark Leone and Annie 66, owned by Ri-Arm Farm, finished in 55.900 for second place. Reed Kessler and Pacha de Nantuel finished in third with a time of 56.010 seconds.

Skelton described his strategy going into the course, stating, “I was last to go, so I basically watched a few go and then I knew who was where and what I had to do. The advantage to going last is knowing exactly what you have to do during your round.”

Beginning the evening session, Reed Kessler, of Armonk, NY, rode Ligist to victory in tonight’s $31,000 International Open Jumper 1.50m class held just before the Puissance. In a faults converted format, Kessler and Ligist jumped clear and completed the course in 54.220 seconds.

Kessler beat out Nick Dello Joio and Geledimar Z, owned by Wembley Farms Inc., who finished in 55.220 seconds. Third place went to Richie Moloney and Equinimity LLC’s Alsvid with their time of 55.420 seconds.

Kessler is just seventeen years old and showed Ligist (a.k.a. Goose), an eleven-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding by Levantos II, in the junior jumpers at last year’s WIHS. The pair moved up to competing at the international level this year and showed in Europe over the summer.

“It has been a big step up,” Kessler acknowledged. “We only got Goose as a junior jumper and that is what everyone thought he could do, but I always thought there was a little bit more in him. Every time we move him up he is great, so hopefully we will keep on moving up.”

Speaking about her ride tonight, Kessler stated, “I haven’t had the best week, but my horses have jumped great and I just really wanted to go out with a bang. I knew the course had been tough and there were not a whole lot of clears, but I knew Nick was pretty quick, so I just tried to make some good turns and he jumped super.”

For full results, more information, or to watch a free live feed of the show, please visit www.wihs.org.

Final Results: $25,000 Puissance presented by The Boeing Company

1 16 UNIQUE Nick Skelton Beverley Widdowson 7 feet
2 80 DONNATELLO Andrew Kocher Elizabeth Allen 6 feet, 9 inches
2 91 SWEETHEART Todd Minikus Windsor Show Stables 6 feet, 9 inches
4 19 INTERTOY Z Scott Brash Stanley Brash 6 feet, 6 inches
5 39 ASLAN Ljubov Kochetova 6 feet
6 84 QUITO Aaron Vale Walter Ulan 5 feet, six inches

Final Results: $31,000 International Open Jumper 1.50m Faults Converted

1 58 REED KESSLER USA LIGIST: (0) 54.22
2 95 NICK DELLO JOIO USA GELEDIMAR Z: (0) 55.22
3 97 RICHIE MOLONEY IRL ALSVID: (0) 55.42
4 36 CHARLIE JAYNE USA CHILL R Z: (0) 58.06
5 48 LAURA KRAUT USA WOODSTOCK O: (0) 59.23
6 15 EMILIE MARTINSEN DEN GUCCI: (4) 59.95
7 65 SAER COULTER USA JULIA DES BRUMES: (4) 60.43
8 51 KATE LEVY USA VENT DU NORD: (4) 61.42