Wellington, FL - February 28, 2014 - Jeffery Welles proved untouchable today at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Speed was the name of the game as Welles topped the Wellington Turf Tour 1.40 Grand Prix leader board with a double clear round in 35.891 seconds aboard Bilion. Sweden's Daniel Zetterman claimed the second place falling only 4/10ths off Welles' pace. David Blake took the third place finish in a speedy 36.700 seconds with Aischa.
Eric Hasbrouck designed Week VII's course, utilizing a liverpool, technical lines, unrelated distances, a triple combination and a double combination. Fourteen riders found their way through the first course without fault, but only nine were able to ride to a double clear effort.
Reed Kessler and Cylana were the first to navigate the track and continue into the jump off. They had a heart breaking rail at the final fence for four faults, but Ali Wolff and Caya were right on their trail. The pair was the first to ride to a clear jump off setting the pace with their time of 36.983 seconds.
Debbie Stephens and Dryden also put in a double clear round, however their time of 37.130 seconds would only prove good enough for the sixth place. Joe Fargis guided Lariat to the fifth place with his clean time of 37.099 seconds. It seemed as though Wolff would take the win, until the Wellington Turf Tour Series Leading Rider, Jeffery Welles entered the ring aboard Bilion.
From the first oxer to the final vertical, Welles kept an astonishing pace. Bilion turned easily from the second fence to the third of the jump off, and continued their brilliance with a slice from the skinny to the newly introduced oxer. It was their forward pace to the final obstacle that was the key, finishing in a time of 35.891 seconds.
"He turns better to the left than the right, so he was quite good back to the third fence in the jump off," Welles said. "After the skinny vertical he really cut to the left and it caught me off guard. He was wanting to turn quickly, so it was both a good and bad thing because I had to stuck out a little bit to get his eye on the fence. We had a nice gallop to the last jump, and it was nice that the forward distance came up so easily."
Welles continued, "It was a nice course, I thought it was a little bit bigger than what we had been jumping, which was good. They used more of the field, it was very spread out, and I thought it was a nice track. I think these shows have definitely helped my horses. It is nice to get into a bigger field and jump with a careful horse like that. He is a little bit of an extra careful horse, so it is nice to be able to open him up and go forward. It has really helped him to level out. This has been really good to help him get to the next level."
With 20 horses remaining, many riders still had their hopes set on surpassing Welles' blazing effort-Daniel Zetterman (SWE) was one of them. Jolly Joker with Zetterman in the irons finessed the first round with ease, and continued into the jump off. Following a similar path to Welles, Zetterman was able to leave all of the fences intact, but 4/10ths of a second would cost him the first place finish.
"I was reunited with Jolly Joker in January, and we have been having so much fun," Zetterman described. "He has gone clear and super fast in all of the classes, but he is a very funny horse to ride. All I have to do is show him the fences. He just does everything. He doesn't have a very classical style, but he finds a way to go clear."
Zetterman continued, "Today was a lot longer than what I am used to doing. There were a lot of larger square oxers, and I liked the jump off course. It had a good rhythm to it, and there weren't any crazy inside turns, so it was all about using the field. I tried my best, but I guess in one of the turns I came too far out, otherwise I would have been up there."
Ireland's David Blake also tried to catch Welles' speed aboard Aischa. The 9-year-old mare has proven herself time and time again during the winter circuit, and Blake utilizes the Wellington Turf Tour to help her continue learning on the open grass field. Although they flew through the turns and rode to a clear effort, their time of 36.700 seconds would stand for third today.
Week VIIII of The Ridge at Wellington Turf Tour will be held at the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Get your entries in now for the 1.30m-1.35m Jumper classes, Young Jumper Championship (YJC) Qualifier Classes, and the $15,000 Ridge at Wellington Grand Prix. With Welles taking over the leading rider position, the competition is getting fierce as only three weeks remain to claim the one-year membership to the International Polo Club Palm Beach!