(Photo © Sportfot)
The 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) kicked off its first day of competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL, on Wednesday with a win for Ireland’s Kevin Babington aboard Debra Wycoff’s Super Chilled in the morning’s $8,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m speed class. The 12-week WEF circuit runs through April 2, 2017, featuring competition for hunters, jumpers, and equitation, with over $9 million in prize money up for grabs.
Week one highlights include Saturday night’s $75,000 Wellington Regional Medical Center Battle of the Sexes at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s afternoon’s $50,000 Rosenbaum Mollengarden PLLC Grand Prix starting at 2 p.m.
Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA) is setting the jumper tracks in the International Arena at PBIEC for week one competition. Jorge began Wednesday with 13 entries in the 1.45m and six clear rounds. First to go, Conor Swail (IRL) set the pace in 62.36 seconds with Quite Cassini, owned by Vanessa Mannix, and finished in second place. Babington and Super Chilled soon took over the lead with their time of 59.97 seconds. Molly Ashe (USA) took third place in the end riding Audi’s Dimple, owned by Maarten Huygens, through the timers in 64.16 seconds
Super Chilled is an Irish Sport Horse gelding (by Gelvin Clover) that is coming nine years old this season. Babington and owners Debra and Kirk Wycoff purchased the gelding from Irish Olympian Greg Broderick when the horse was six years old. Babington has taken his time producing Super Chilled over the last few years and stepped up to the grand prix level at the end of the 2016 season.
Remarking on his opening WEF victory, Babington stated, “It is a good start to the season. It feels great, especially on that horse. He did really well as a seven and eight-year-old, so I am really excited for his nine-year-old year. He is really consistent; he doesn’t knock too many rails.”
Babington plans to compete Super Chilled in some three-star classes throughout the circuit and has his ultimate goal to move the gelding up to four-star competition by the end of the winter. Describing the horse and his ride, Babington detailed, “On the ground he is a super sweet horse. He was quite head shy as a young horse. When you are on his back, he is very sensitive. You would never take your jacket off [when] on him, or if I have to adjust my spurs or anything, I have to have somebody hold him. He is very sharp. In the ring, he was always quite rideable. He was a little bit weaker on one side than the other, but now it is coming together and he is lovely to ride.”
Babington was fourth in the order of go and knew what he needed to do after watching the first few rounds before heading into the ring.
“I saw Conor go first, and he had a really smooth round, so I tried to do pretty much the same numbers,” the rider explained. “I think I did one less back on the third jump and that was the plan. For the first day, I thought it was a nice speed track because there were lots of options. There were plenty of places you could leave out a stride right off the bat. He gave you three inside turns that were all very doable for the first day in the ring, and the horse handled it really well.”
With a nice win to start off the 2017 circuit, Babington looks forward to a great winter. In all, Babington has over 30 horses in Wellington for the season, including four horses that he will show at the grand prix level and several nice young horses that he will ride himself. In addition, young professional Oliver McCarthy will be riding for Babington this winter, taking on the rides of some sale horses and helping with client mounts to give Babington more time for training his students. Babington, his wife Dianna, and trainer Sissy Wickes will all make up the team working together this winter for Kevin Babington LLC.
“I have a great group of horses for myself this year, and we have a really good group of clients and an excellent staff here, so I’m excited about the circuit. We will be busy,” Babington concluded.
Also competing in the International Arena on Wednesday, the $6,000 Illustrated Properties 1.40 speed class was held in a California Split with 112 entries. Laura Chapot (USA) and Mary Chapot’s Zealous were the winners in Section A, and Daniel Coyle (IRL) rode Ariel and Susan Grange’s Cita to top honors in Section B.
The 2017 Winter Equestrian Festival continues with its second day of competition on Thursday featuring the $25,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup in the International Arena.
Final Results: $8,000 1.45m Speed
1 4350 SUPER CHILLED KEVIN BABINGTON DEBRA WYCOFF: 0/59.970
2 300 QUITE CASSINI CONOR SWAIL VANESSA MANNIX: 0/62.363
3 3319 AUDI’S DIMPLE MOLLY ASHE MAARTEN HUYGENS: 0/64.166
4 4822 DIRKIE Z NICK NOVAK NICK NOVAK: 0/68.150
5 4767 IDA GOLD RICHARD NEAL RICHARD NEAL: 0/69.944
6 1523 QUICK PETITE FOLIE ANSGAR HOLTGERS GUT EINHAUS LLC: 0/73.227
7 3655 ZIDANE JENNA THOMPSON ATTACHE STABLES: 1/75.632
8 1172 HARRIRI EMILY MOFFITT PODEN FARMS: 4/61.486
9 2791 QUIBELLE CONOR SWAIL BLUE HILL FARM LLC: 4/65.911
10 4363 ESPRIT SLOANE COLES THE SPRINGLEDGE GROUP: 4/67.623
11 737 BEEZIE SHANE SWEETNAM THE ISB GROUP LLC: 4/68.613
12 3098 QUANTAS 15 LAUREN HOUGH PARIS SELLON: 8/61.500
Source: Lauren Fisher and Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.