The energy was high in the International Ring at Wellington International on Thursday morning as a slew of the top riders in the world suited up to contest the precursor event to Saturday evening’s CSI5* grand prix during ‘Saturday Night Lights’. A starting field of 54 combinations were set to contest Frank Rothenburger’s (GER) first phase of the CHF75,000 CSI5* Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 5, which featured an efficient time-allowed of 74 seconds. As we’ve seen him do before, Irish Olympian Bertram Allen saved the best for last and made quick work of the short course to take the lead in a blazing 38.89 seconds aboard Pacino Amiro.

The time allowed in the opening round was a heartbreaking factor for six pairs that suffered only a single time-fault. Sixteen advanced to the jump-off, and after two chose to save their horses for another day, 12 riders from eight nations went head-to-head over the short course. The lead changed hands several times, but Allen made the most of his final position and shifted Aiden McGrory’s Pacino Amiro into a new gear.

“I knew going in that I had to have a good round, but I didn’t want to overdo it today with the grand prix coming up on Saturday night,” Allen detailed. “My plan was to be quick early on because I knew if I caught the first two fences good that my horse is as quick as any other.”

The Irish Sport Horse gelding (Pacino x NC Amiro) is undoubtedly Allen’s top mount at this point in the 11-year-old horse’s storied career.

“He has really been a fantastic horse for me; he is only 11 years old, but he’s already been to the Olympics (Tokyo), the World Equestrian Games (Herning), and won a five-star grand prix here [at WEF],” he gushed.

For Allen, the win is a welcome way to start a significant week for him at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). “This venue has a lot of good things, but the main reason many of us riders come from Europe is for the five-star weeks. It’s great to start this week off on the right note.”

Allen’s fellow countryman and winner of last week’s CSI4* grand prix, Conor Swail and Count Me In earned the runner-up honors. Swail and the Mannon Farm and Sandy Lipton-owned 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) are no strangers to the victory gallop and ensured another with a tidy time of 39.29 seconds. Laura Kraut notched a podium finish for the USA with the St. Bride’s Farms’ 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Balou du Rouet x Landor S) Baloutinue. The pair just barely broke the 40 second mark but left all rails in the cups with a final time of 40.19 seconds.

Full results here.


Emilie Conter Races to Win in CSI2* Griffis Residential 1.45m

Belgium’s Emilie Conter and her quick-footed stallion, Clochard, raced against the clock on Thursday morning during WEF 5 in the international Arena to win the CSI2* CHF6,000 Griffis Residential 1.45m. An exciting speed round designed by Frank Rothenberger (GER) proved to be difficult and left only seven pairs penalty free from a field of twenty-six horses and riders.

While Jad Dana (LBN) had two horses jump clear and fast early on to set the pace, Conter could not be caught with Clochard, a 2008 SBS (Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Cascadeur) stallion owned by Stephex Stables, clocking in at 58.78 seconds. Coming in second was Victoria Heurtematte (PAN) aboard Scarlett Du Sart Z with a time of 61.50 seconds, and third went to Amy Millar (CAN) with GCS Athena finishing in a time of 62.08 seconds.

Conter was thrilled with her small stallion’s massive effort, stating, “from the beginning I tried to start with his rhythm; because he’s my speed horse he knows what to do and when to go. I just tried to keep one speed all along. In one line, I did one less stride which was not my plan, but he’s such a good boy and he tries so hard. I thought he was really good today.”

Conter’s winning round surely didn’t look like it was all luck, but rather years of dedication and a strong relationship built over a long period of time.

“I have had him for four years now, so quite a long time,” she explained. “It’s actually a funny story, I had him when he was seven and then we sent him here to be sold and Carly Anthony rode him for a long time. Then I showed him here and since then we have been a great team together. We decided he couldn’t be sold, instead he was going to be with me.”

Full results here.