Wellington, Florida, USA – December 07, 2020 – In the first week of the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), competition continued on Thursday, January 7, 2021, with the $35,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premiere Round at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), and Erynn Ballard (CAN) riding Ilan Ferder’s Walter White sped to victory.
Thirty-seven entries went to the post in the $35,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Premiere Round over a course designed by Eric Hasbrouck (USA). There were 14 clear rounds to advance to the jump-off.
Riding out of the third spot in the jump-off, Ballard was chasing fast times set by the first two in the ring. U.S. Olympic team gold medalist McLain Ward (USA) and Poden Farms’ Kasper van het Hellehof were clear in 37.062 seconds, which would hold up for third place. Just tipping Ward was Shane Sweetnam (IRL) riding Ideal, owned by Sweet Oak Farm & Seabrook. They posted a time of 36.901 seconds, which would hold up for second place.
Ballard and Walter White, a 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding (Baloubet du Rouet x Bon Ami), picked the pace up yet again and crossed the timers clear in 36.706 seconds, which would stay the leading time through another 11 entries over the shortened course.
This was only the second time ever that Ballard has ridden Walter White, but despite a new partnership, she felt extremely comfortable going for speed.
“Sometimes it’s better not to know them because then you’ve got nothing to compare it to,” admitted Ballard, who is originally from Tottenham, Ontario. “I asked everything I wanted of him. [In the first round], he gave me good air at the first jump, and he made me feel that he was ready to do his job so then all I had to do was mine. He’s really nice to place in front of the jumps, and you know he wants to do it. He wants to jump clear and go fast.
“He’s my kind of horse,” she added. “I can keep a feel, and his legs move fast. He’s not afraid to run, so even though I’ve never ridden him, I feel really comfortable on him.”
Walter White came to Ferder’s barn in December after a solid career jumping in Europe with riders such as Paris Sellon (USA), Matias Alvaro (ITA), and Guillaume Foutrier (FRA). Joining Ballard’s impressive string of international rides, Walter White is a sale horse. Ballard was excited to win her first WEF Challenge Cup since 2018, when she entered the winner’s circle with Darko’s Promise.
“To start off the series like this is really fun,” said Ballard. “I’m on a roll right now, and I hope it doesn’t stop.”
This is Ballard’s fourth winter riding for Ferder, and they have a very successful business partnership with “big goals to be on championship teams,” said Ballard. “Along the way we sell the horses, and we keep the business going.”
Ballard was excited to be back competing at the Winter Equestrian Festival, even though she has been competing regularly in the pre-WEF circuits at PBIEC. “I’ve said before that this is my favorite place to be,” she said. “I think that [show manager] David [Burton] and his team do a better job than anybody. They’ve been very good at managing social distancing and keeping everybody with a mask on. Their ultimate goal is to keep the show running for us, so I think everybody needs to be respectful of the rules, and we should enjoy a really fun 12 more weeks.”
Starting out the morning with a win in the International Arena was Shane Sweetnam (IRL) riding Casago II, owned by Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm LLC, in the $6,000 Bainbridge 1.40m Jumpers. Closing out the day with a one-two finish in the $8,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m Jumpers was Molly Ashe Cawley (USA), who rode Louisburg Farm’s Berdien to the win and Harvester, owned by Ilan Ferder, to second place.
The WEF Premiere week continues through Sunday, January 10, and is sponsored by The Bainbridge Companies. It features national-level competition for hunters, jumpers, and equitation. International jumper classes will begin at WEF 1 on January 13-17 with a CSI3*. The live stream schedule for the WEF Premiere week includes both rounds of Friday’s $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, the $25,000 CaptiveOne Advisors Classic on Saturday, and Sunday’s $75,000 Bainbridge Companies Grand Prix at 2 p.m. EST.
Source: Press release from ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Sportfot