January 12, 2014–The crowds were out in full force at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) on Saturday night to watch the women’s team earn their sixth consecutive victory in the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival’s (FTI WEF) $75,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes. PBIEC also hosted a full schedule of competition during the day, with a win for Lauren Hough and B?ckmanns Lazio in the afternoon’s $25,000 Suncast? 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic.
Week one of the 2014 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival, sponsored by? The Mar-a-Lago Club, concludes on Sunday, January 12, with the $30,000 Mar-a-Lago Club Grand Prix. The FTI WEF, held at the PBIEC in Wellington, FL, features 12 weeks of world-class competition through March 30, awarding close to $8 million in prize money.
Eric Hasbrouck is the course designer in the International Arena at PBIEC for week one competition and set the tracks for Saturday’s classes. In the highlight $75,000 Nespresso Battle of the Sexes,the three-phase contest included speed rounds, match races, and a six-bar competition.
The women’s team was captained by Candice King and also included riders Pippa Allen, Nicole Bellissimo, Danielle Goldstein, Brianne Goutal, Lauren Hough, Maggie Jayne, Laura Kraut, Catherine Pasmore, and Debbie Stephens.
Charlie Jayne led the men’s team, which included riders Stefano Barcho, Mark Bluman, Lorenzo de Luca, Todd Minikus, Richie Moloney, Samuel Parot, Nick Skelton, Shane Sweetnam, and Hardin Towell.
The first round of competition was the speed round, with a 6 to 4 win for the men. The match races followed, with the men and women competing side by side over identical courses. The men and women tied in that round, each winning five races, to bring the total up to 11 points for the men and nine for the women.
The final six-bar competition was the deciding factor of the evening with the men leading by two points going in. Four men and four women returned from each team with the opportunity to earn two points per clear round. The competition started at 1.60m (5’3″) in height and moved up to 1.70m (5’7″) through two rounds.
Todd Minikus was the only man to jump a clear six-bar round and earned two points for the men, bringing their total up to 13 points, but he then had a rail down in the second round. Maggie Jayne and Catherine Pasmore each cleared round one to bring the girl’s total up to 13 as well and tie the teams. The girls moved on to round two, but Jayne had rails down in her second attempt. It was all left to Catherine Pasmore, and she and Bibi Sijgje were the only pair to clear the six-bar in round two to clinch the win for the women.
Pasmore has ridden in the Battle of the Sexes for four years and was very proud to earn the final two points that put the women on top.
“It was so exciting,” Pasmore remarked. “I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to be able to pull it off, but I am really happy that I did. It is just such a great atmosphere. Everybody comes out and cheers us on. I think it is a really great class because even if somebody comes out to watch it who doesn’t know horses, it is really easy to follow along and everybody gets really into it. It is a lot of fun.”
Pasmore has had Bibi Sijgje for one year. The mare just turned eight, and Pasmore was very proud of her performance on Saturday night.
“Normally I jump her in her age division, so I have never jumped a six-bar on her and I have definitely never jumped her that big, but she has such a huge heart and she will just try anything,” the rider acknowledged. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but I knew she would try and she just surprised me. She jumped it amazing.”
Speaking about the team camaraderie, Pasmore added, “It was amazing. She didn’t actually jump so well in the speed rounds, and I was thinking that I shouldn’t go in the six-bar. I said to Laura Kraut, ‘Do you think I should forfeit? I don’t want to scare her or do anything that I shouldn’t do. I don’t want to let the women down,’ and she said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, of course you’re going!’ I am really happy that I did, and everybody in the schooling area was helping and giving advice, so it was great.”
Candice King was very excited to captain the winning team this year. She has been on the women’s Nespresso Battle of the Sexes team every year since the class began, and loves the camaraderie between the riders as well. She also thanked Nespresso for their support of the event.
“I had a lot of pressure on me tonight because we have yet to not win, and I am just glad we pulled it off and thank God for Catherine at the end,” King stated after the competition. “It is a team effort and everybody contributes. It is just a lot of fun.”
“It is a great event and the crowd loves it,” King added. “The boys against the girls is great because we don’t usually have that. It is fun because it is an individual sport, so we don’t get to do a lot of team competition. It is fun to just get all together and support one another.”
Michelle McFaul, Vice President of Community Affairs & Special Events for Nespresso USA, Inc. was happy with another exciting Nespresso Battle of the Sexes. She praised the riders for the great effort they put into it, noting that in addition to the winners, the men’s team would receive Nespresso machines as well.