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Kevin Babington And Carling King Win $100,000 Cosequin US Open Jumper Championship At Winter Equestrian Festival

WELLINGTON, FL - March 14, 2004 – Kevin Babington, 35, of Tipperary, Ireland, rode Carling King owned by Kindle Hill Farm to victory in the $100,000 Cosequin US Open Jumper Championship today at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, FL. The duo bested an international field of 31 riders over a course designed by Jose Gamarra of Ellenton, FL. Babington was the faster of two clear rounds in a three-horse jump-off. Currently a resident of Gwynedd Valley, PA, Babington earned $30,000 for today’s victory. In second place, Ian Millar, 57, of Perth, Ontario, riding Promise Me for The Baker’s Dozen pocketed $22,000. Finishing third, McLain Ward, 28, of Brewster, NY, riding Sapphire, a mare he owns in partnership with Double H Farm and Missy Clark, earned $13,000.

Babington pumped his fist, galloping in the victory lap. “It’s the second grand prix here that the horse jumped brilliant in. I just feel like he’s trying his heart out. It’s more for the horse than anything. He loves it down here.” Babington is the only rider to win two Grand Prix classes during the seven-week Wellington WEF. He and Carling King won the $75,000 PDP Capital Masters Cup, CSI*** two weeks ago. Babington also noted that he felt he owed it to the fans, clients, and customers that were in the stands today. “It’s the last grand prix of the circuit, there’s a huge Irish crowd here. We try to stick together. They’re so supportive. They were excited to come and watch the class and I was happy for them.”

The 13-jump Round One course took its toll with a tight Time Allowed of 83 seconds for riders to jump a double at Fence No. 4, a triple at No. 9, and water at No. 10. Sixteen riders incurred time faults, including three riders who jumped clean but were over the time limit – Eric Hasbrouck on Sitah, Argentina’s Federico Szytyrle aboard Who Knows Lily, and Canada’s Harold Chopping riding Kathleen. The rails fell at nearly every fence, but the two bogey jumps were the triple and the water, which each penalized nine riders. It was not until the 24th rider on course, Millar on Promise Me that a clear trip was posted. Five rides later, the crowd was assured of a jump-off when Babington and Carling King went clean. The last rider on course, Ward with Sapphire, made it a three-way tie for the jump-off.

“I guessed the time allowed would probably be tight because there was a little bit of a test everywhere but it didn’t appear to be the backbreaker,” explained seven-time Olympian Millar. He pointed out that the course contained three 180-degree turn-backs, which was the key factor against the clock. “It’s about a second per stride, so every time you take one more stride, that’s two seconds – and that’s expensive, that’s where course designers will dog you all day long, which is exactly what he did.” Millar pointed out that the water caught many riders simply because the horses had seen it many times at this point in the circuit and did not take it seriously enough, and that the triple took its toll because it was tricky. “It was a funny visual, it was off the ingate, it was up the grade of the ring, it was a long turn back and we were working on the clock – five reasons for it to be difficult. And six, it was big enough!”

Going first on the short course, Millar set the pace with a clear round in 47.62 seconds over the seven-effort track with Time Allowed set at 50 seconds. “I had to jump it clean. Any time with a situation like this with just three cleans, if you fault you just gave them an absolute present,” explained Millar, who has had the ride on Promise Me for two years and is in his second season of Grand Prix competition. “You’ve got to jump it clean to keep some semblance of pressure on them. It actually worked out. When I finished I thought I would be very fortunate to win, I’ll be a little unlucky to be third. So I ended up exactly where I should. One of them was going to jump it, and one of them was going to fault. So it played out pretty much as I expected it would.”

The one who jumped it was next to go – Babington, who has been partnered with the 13-year-old chestnut gelding for five years and has been on the Irish team with him for four years. They are currently in place to represent Ireland at the Athens Olympics. He snatched the lead with his clear trip in a blazing 42.70. “I saw Ian’s round and I thought if I gave it a shot I could beat him. McLain was coming behind me so I knew if I went for a slow clear, I was definitely going to end up third, so I might as well give it a shot and it paid off. That’s the fastest I’ve ever gone on him,” said Babington. He explained where he shaved time off Millar’s pace, “I knew I could roll on down to the vertical and the oxer a little faster – he’s quite scopey. I thought I could take a little chance back on the double, but I went so quick to the oxer that I was quite wide back to the double, so I took a risky shot across to the Kilkenny jump.”

Ward had a rail at the fourth fence and clocked in at 44.19 for third. He admitted that he made a mistake at the oxer. “I got there a little bit quicker than I thought I was going to. She put in a good effort – it’s a big jump. My horse was a little out of breath when she cantered into the ring for the jump-off. I don’t think she had gotten her breath back (from Round One). She’s a young mare – she’s only nine years old, so to jump around a course like that with her experience it takes a lot out of her mentally. She probably could have benefited from a moment, but she was in good company. I was thrilled with the result.”

Ward has had Sapphire for just over a year and started her in the Grand Prix late last summer. He is aiming her for the Olympics. “She’s a little inexperienced but she’s done well. She was second, third, and fifth in her three major starts, so I’m thrilled with her. With a little bit of luck we might have won but that will come soon enough.” Three-time AGA Rider of the Year, Ward won 13 classes in the Internationale Arena at the 2004 WEF in Wellington including four of the seven Thursday $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Grand Prix. He now tops the list of money-earners headed for the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational that will be held in Tampa on April 3.

Gene Mische, president and founder of Stadium Jumping, Inc., the producer of the Winter Equestrian Festival, said the Wellington circuit went very well. “We saw an increase in horses, we saw an increase in foreign participation, which was very delightful, we had 33 foreign countries represented here, and we saw an increase in the teams for the Nations’ Cup, which we were very happy with. In a way I was happy for Canada to win. It encourages more teams to come back when they do have a chance,” said Mische. “I was pleased with the spectator participation – not only with the fact that they’re here but the fact that they participated.”

Mische also pointed out that Stadium Jumping sets the stage for competitions but the success of the event is really the horse and the rider. “It’s their talent that really makes the show,” said Mische. “We do the production, but they do the competing and when you have good competitors you have a good show – and they are great.”

This wraps up the show jumping action in Wellington for the 2004 Winter Equestrian Festival. The WEF competition continues in Wellington March 18 – 21 with the Zada Enterprises WEF Dressage Classic CDI***/Y, a qualifying competition for the Dressage Olympic Selection Trials. Show jumping moves to Tampa for two weeks at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center kicking off with the Tampa Bay Classic CSI-W, March 24 – 28 and wrapping up with the Tournament of Champions CSI-W, March 30 - April 3. Capping off with the 2004 Winter Equestrian Festival is the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational on April 3 at the Raymond James Stadium.

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Show days for the 2004 Winter Equestrian Festival are Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 8:00 am. Ticket Prices: Wednesdays are free to everyone; Children 12 and under are admitted free every day; Young Adults 13 to 18 and Seniors are $5 on Thursday through Sunday; Adults are $5 on Thursday and Friday, $10 on Saturday, and $15 on Sunday. The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club is located on Pierson Road off South Shore Boulevard. For additional information, visit or call 561-793-5867.


March 18 - 21 Zada Enterprises WEF Dressage Classic CDI***/Y

(Qualifier for Olympic SelectionTrials)

March 24 - 28 Tampa Bay Classic CSI-W (Bob Thomas Equestrian Center)

March 30 - April 3 Tournament of Champions CSI-W (Bob Thomas Equestrian Center)

April 3 Budweiser American Invitational (Raymond James Stadium)


March 28 $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, presented by Kilkenny/ICH, CSI-W

April 3 $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational,

Presented by Publix and The Tampa Tribune


Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC

April 9 -11 Charlotte Jumper Classic CSI****

April 11 $150,000 Grand Prix of Charlotte For the Charlotte Bobcat Cup



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