Marcelo Ciavaglia’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) debut got off to a strong start on Thursday, January 9, as the Brazilian rider earned a victory in the $35,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 1 at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, FL.

WEF continues through March 29, 2020, with 12 consecutive weeks of world-class competition and $13 million dollars on offer. The first week of competition at WEF is sponsored by Wellington Regional Medical Center and features the crowd favorite $75,000 Battle of the Sexes, presented by Wellington Regional Medical Center, during “Saturday Night Lights” on January 11 at 7 p.m. in the International Arena.

Ciavaglia and his longtime mount, Conto, were the very first of 44 entries to contest Thursday’s featured class. As the first of nine entries to qualify and return for the Eric Hasbrouck-designed short course, the pair would prove uncatchable. They posted a double-clear time of 35.069 seconds to secure them the win, while second place with a time of 35.838 seconds went to the USA’s Kristen Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Almighty, owned by Bull Run Jumpers Six LLC. Rounding out the top three was Canada’s Jonathon Millar who rode Valinski S, owned by Wyndmont, to a clear time of 36.006 seconds.

Ciavaglia is no newcomer to success with Conto; he’s been riding the 14-year-old Holsteiner stallion (Canto x C-Ingmar) since Conto was four. Ciavaglia is however a newcomer to not only WEF, but to the United States, as this year marks his very first visit.

“The ground is super, super good, and the course rode very well; I like it. It’s so modern,” said Ciavaglia of Thursday’s track. “I like everything – the horses, the people. Here, everybody is so nice with smiles always. I love it.”

Ciavaglia made the trip to Wellington, FL, at the recommendation of Brazilian show jumping Chef d’Équipe Philippe Guerdat, with his sights set on making the Brazilian team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Philippe Guerdat asked me to come to Wellington for the Nations Cup in February,” said Ciavaglia. “I have one month and a half to put Conto in order for the Nations Cup. I think he’s fine!”

Also winning in the International Arena at WEF on Thursday were Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Bente P in the $6,000 Bainbridge 1.40m, and Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) riding Cadans Z in the $8,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m.

Final Results: $35,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 1

1 CONTO: 2006 Holsteiner stallion by Canto x C-Ingmar

MARCELO CIAVAGLIA (BRA), Marcelo Ciavaglia: 0/0/35.069

2 BULL RUN’S ALMIGHTY: 2008 Hanoverian gelding by Caspar x Quidam de Revel

KRISTEN VANDERVEEN (USA), Bull Run Jumpers Six LLC: 0/0/35.838

3 VALINSKI S: 2002 KWPN gelding by Nijinski x Julius

JONATHON MILLAR (CAN), Wyndmont: 0/0/36.006

4 THE DIAMANT ROSE Z: 2011 Zangersheide mare by Toulon x Jaunty Daredevil

ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 0/0/39.111

5 BACARA D’ARCHONFOSSE: 2007 Belgian Warmblood mare by Asca Z x Kannan

CASSIO RIVETTI (BRA), Sloan Lindeman-Barnett: 0/4/34.905