Wellington, Fla. – March 11, 2021 – The 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival reintroduced CSI5* competition during Week 9, welcoming 54 show jumping athletes to the International Arena Thursday afternoon for the $73,000 Adequan WEF Challenge Cup Round IX CSI5*. A field of decorated international competitors fought for their shot at top honors as well as a coveted spot in Saturday evening’s highly anticipated $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*. In the end, the luck of the Irish rendered all top five spots to Irish athletes, but it was the final jump-off round from Ireland’s Darragh Kenny riding Michael Kearins’ Sligo Balou Boy that would take the lion’s share of the prize money.
Ireland’s Alan Wade set forth a 13-effort track for the first round of competition, allotting a tight 74 seconds for athletes to attempt a clear round on course. Representing 14 different nations, an impressive field of contenders tackled the challenging combinations and rolling turns throughout Wade’s course, with rails falling in multiple places and many accruing time faults. A total of 14 athletes managed a clear effort to advance on to the jump-off, with only nine horse-and-rider pairs electing to return for the jump-off phase of competition. Five athletes decided to save their mounts for Saturday evening’s illustrious grand prix.
As the pathfinder for the 7-obstacle shortened track, Ireland’s Cian O’Connor piloted Kilkenny to a clean and clear effort, stopping the clocks in 36.24 seconds to set the pace for those to follow. Fellow Irishman Shane Sweetnam immediately slid into the top spot aboard Alejandro, finishing in 35.87 seconds. However, the lead would change hands yet again to another Irish athlete, as Michael Duffy and HMF Equestrian’s Jeff Ten Halven shaved nearly one second off of Sweetnam’s time to cross the timers in 34.90 seconds.
While athletes that followed would attempt to unseat Duffy’s impressive finish, none could match his quick pace while leaving the rails in-tact. The final competitor to enter the arena was yet another Irishman, Kenny, who attempted to give his fellow countryman a run for his money. He emerged victorious as he put down a textbook ride aboard the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Sligo Balou Boy. The pair navigated the course with ease to shave over one second off of Duffy’s lead, finishing in 33.75 seconds. Kenny and Sligo Balou Boy only forged their partnership two weeks ago, and after competing in two 1.40m classes during Week Seven of WEF, Kenny did not plan to compete with the gelding in Thursday’s competition. Though Sligo Balou Boy is still green to the international stage of show jumping, having only started jumping at 7 years old, Kenny looks forward to the future with his new talented mount.
Irish competitors had a strong afternoon at WEF, as the top five spots were reserved for Irishman. Duffy ultimately claimed second place with Jeff Ten Halven, while Paul O’Shea and Skara Glen’s Chancelloress rounded out the top three. Fourth place was awarded to Sweetnam and Alejandro, and the afternoon’s fifth place finishers were the jump-off pathfinders O’Connor and Kilkenny.
Competition at the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival will culminate in the $401,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5*, set to take place Saturday, March 13, at 7pm.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Darragh Kenny – $73,000 Adequan WEF Challenge Cup Round IX CSI5* winner
On his win:
“I was obviously last to go, and I just knew that I had to go fast and try to leave the jumps up! I think the ‘nothing to lose part’ is that you just go in there and say, ‘Ok if I want to try and win I just have to leave it all out there and if it comes off, it comes off, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
On Sligo Balou Boy:
“I don’t really know the horse that well. I only started riding him two weeks ago. I rode him during Week Seven and competed in two 1.40m classes, and then this week I jumped the ranking class yesterday and it actually wasn’t even the plan to jump him today. Then the plan changed a little bit, so I jumped him today and I didn’t really know what he was going to do but he is an incredible horse, really careful and really scopey. Over the last two weeks I played around with bridles and stuff like that just for me to find the way I like to ride. Every day he has gotten better, more comfortable and more confident and I really like the horse.”
On if Sligo Balou Boy will compete in Saturday’s grand prix:
“I’m not sure, I’m undecided right now. He is still green even though he is 12 years old; he didn’t start jumping until he was 7 years old so he is still very green. I don’t know if I’m going to jump him Saturday night or not. I will probably talk to Alan Wade, the course designer, and see what it is going to be like and then decide.”
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / R1 Time | R1 Faults / R2 Time | R2 Faults
1. Sligo Balou Boy / Darragh Kenny / Michael Kearins / IRL / 70.38 | 0 / 33.75 | 0
2. Jeff Ten Halven / Michael Duffy / HMF Equestrian / IRL / 72.51 | 0 / 34.90 / 0
3. Skara Glen’s Chancelloress / Paul O’Shea / Skara Glen Stables / IRL / 70.91 | 0 / 35.40 | 0
4. Alejandro / Shane Sweetnam / Sweet Oak Farm, Spy Coast Farm & Sseeabrook LLC / IRL / 71.45 | 0 / 35.87 | 0
5. Kilkenny / Cian O’Connor / Ronnoco Jump LTD / IRL / 73.79 | 0 / 36.24 | 0
6. Balou Du Reventon / Brian Moggre / Ann C. Thompson / USA / 72.43 | 0 / 37.05 | 0
7. Ibelle Ask / Yuri Mansur / Stutteri Ask A/S / BRA / 73.58 | 0 / 35.98 | 4
8. Blueberry / Nicholas Dello Joio / The Blueberry Group / USA / 73.96 | 0 / 39.42 | 4
9. Bull Run’s Prince of Peace / Kristen Vanderveen / Bull Run Jumpers Six LLC / USA / 71.60 | 0 / 68.46 | 28
10. Chacna / Enrique Gonzalez / Alice Lawaetz & Enrique Gonzalez / MEX / 70.79 | 0 / WD
11. Antidote De Mars / Bliss Heers / Bridgeside Farms LLC / USA / 71.61 | 0 / WD
12. Chakaria / Andre Thieme/ Pferdemanagement & Marketing GMBH / GER / 72.58 | 0 / WD