Courtesy of Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Wellington, FL - March 5, 2015 - Hardin Towell (USA) and Lucifer V earned victory in Thursday's $127,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 9 at the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. The highly contested, weekly competition saw a 17-horse jump-off with few clear rounds in the tiebreaker. Towell and Jennifer Gates' Lucifer V were victorious over Ramiro Quintana (ARG) and Whitney and Charlie Jayne (USA) aboard Valeska.
Douglas Elliman is the title sponsor of week nine's CSI-W 5* competition at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Week nine runs March 4-8, 2015, featuring the $372,000 FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix CSI-W 5*, presented by Douglas Elliman, on Saturday, March 7.
Ireland's Alan Wade set the course for Round 9 of the WEF Challenge Cup Series with 67 competitors on Thursday. He narrowed the field down to 19 clear rounds, but two opted out of the jump-off. Seventeen advanced, and only four were able to clear the short course without fault.
Richie Moloney (IRL) was the first rider to take his time and clear the jump-off course without fault in 43.47 seconds aboard Equinimty LLC's Slieveanorra, and his clear round eventually paid off for fourth place honors. Quintana and St. Bride's Farm's Whitney were next to go clear and finished second in their time of 38.76 seconds. Jayne and Pony Lane Farm's Valeska followed in a slower time of 40.42 seconds to place third. Towell and Lucifer V were the last pair to clear the short course, and jumped the winning time of 38.21 seconds. First to go in the jump-off, Kent Farrington (USA) finished fifth with the fastest round of the day in 38.09 seconds with one rail down on Willow.
Lucifer V is a 9-year-old Westphalian gelding (Lord Dezi x Grandeur) that Towell began riding at the end of the horse's 7-year-old year, but has taken some time to move up.
"I had him down here last year, and he was a bit of a handful," Towell detailed. "He was spooky, and he liked to buck a lot. It took awhile; not a lot of people believed in him. He does it his own way, but I always knew that he tried quite hard and he was very careful. It was kind of a learning experience with him here, and then at Spruce Meadows I just jumped 1.30m and 1.35m. After Calgary we started to step up and do some bigger classes. I did him in the 2* in L.A., and he won two classes there. I did him in his first World Cup qualifier in Las Vegas, and he had the fastest time but one down in the jump-off. He was fifth in that. Then I gave him some time off."
Lucifer has shown lightly throughout the WEF circuit and stepped up to do last week's grand prix, but it did not go quite as planned.
"It was quite big for his experience. He had 12 faults, but it was just green mistakes," Towell explained.
For his winning round on Thursday, Towell trusted his horse's speed, but was also wary of a rail coming down.
"A lot of times you get a jump-off like this and you get a lot clean and everybody thinks they have to go so fast, and before you know it, the class is halfway over and everybody has tried to go so fast they have a rail," he noted. "I think Richie set the pace by just jumping clean and then I thought, 'Ok, Richie wasn't flying.' Kent went in 38 seconds and Richie went in 43, but then I saw that Ramiro was 38 and change and I watched Kent go and he went about the same, so I knew kind of what I had to do.
"I did not see Ramiro go, but my horse is a very fast horse. My issue is that I'm always quick, but I have one down," Towell admitted. "I did eight strides from one to two. Then I really wanted to get straight for the in and out because that was a problem for a lot of people, and I actually got him straight, but I was pretty deep and he gave me a great jump there. Then I know he is good at long gallops. I galloped him to the vertical and the oxer and then the last line he was just great. It makes it a lot of easier with a horse that quick."
Lucifer V will now have a couple weeks off and show in some smaller classes at the end of the WEF circuit as Towell gears him toward the first leg of the FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas in April.
Towell thanked his staff and barn manager Chris Howard as well as his father Jack Towell and owner Jennifer Gates.
"Chris is one of my best friends and I couldn't do it without him, and thanks to Jennifer for all the support," Towell stated. "It has been fun for her with Lucifer because he has had his ups and downs, and she has really been behind me when I believed in him so much. Last year there were some questionable moments, so it is nice to have someone with so much patience, and it is nice to have such a great team behind you."
Jack was thrilled with Hardin's winning performance and credited him for his patience as a trainer and rider.
"Hardin picked that horse out by himself two years ago," said Jack. " He had a bit of a rough start. He was a young and playful horse, and being green he jumped a lot of jumps in different ways. But Hardin kept believing in him and brought him along slowly."
The confidence Lucifer exhibited in the WEF Challenge class was a tribute to Hardin's careful planning and not over facing the horse as he rose up the levels.
"The week before he won this class he'd done a big class with a double combination of vertical-vertical, three strides after a big oxer," said Jack. "There were just three black rails stuck up on each of the two verticals, and that horse didn’t know how to jump it. He hit it hard and carried the rail in. Hardin debated what to do next to restore his confidence. So he did him in a 1.40m class on Wednesday, and he loped right around comfortable and quiet, so he knew the horse wasn’t going to be afraid."
Hardin took that lesson into the $127,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 9, where he spent extra time in the jump-off lining up Lucifer in preparation for the double combination. Their clear round and winning time was a great reward, as was the horse's increased confidence level.
"Hardin’s a smart jump-off rider, and I was really glad to see the horse responded so well," said Jack. "I'm proud of Hardin for sticking with that horse and making him up."
"If all goes well, Hardin will use Lucifer in the speed round (first round) of the World Cup Finals," said Jack. "It's all about getting experience. This is Hardin's first trip to the World Cup Finals, too, and it will be a great opportunity to get in there and experience it all."