Erynn Ballard (CAN) and Darko’s Promise topped the $134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 CSI 5* on Thursday, February 7, at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL.

WEF continues through March 31, 2019, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), offering 12 consecutive weeks of world-class competition. Week five, sponsored by Fidelity Investments®, runs through Sunday, February 10, and features the $391,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 5*, beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 9.

On her way to the win in Thursday’s Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 5, Ballard was one of seven entries from a 50-horse starting field to advance to jump-off over the Kelvin Bywater (GBR) designed short course. As the final rider to return, Ballard’s time to beat had been set at 39.40 seconds by Eduardo Menezes (BRA) and H5 Chaganus, but she and Darko’s Promise would prove to be just a touch faster, tripping the timers in a winning 39.28 seconds.

With second place going to Menezes and H5 Chaganus, owned by H5 Stables, third and fourth place were a family affair. Finishing in third with a time of 39.55 seconds was Wilton Porter (USA) aboard Caletto Cabana, owned by Sleepy P Ranch, while Porter’s brother Lucas Porter (USA), rounded out the top four in a time of 40.81 seconds riding C Hunter.

Fifth place went to Germany’s Markus Beerbaum riding Cool Hand Luke, owned by Artemis Equestrian LLC, and sixth place was presented to Molly Ashe-Cawley (USA) and Balous Day Date, owned by Louisburg Farm.

“I just won the WEF, and it’s a five-star week!” said Ballard. “I kind of have to let that all sink in.”

After finishing with only four faults in the WEF Challenge Cup and grand prix during week four, Ballard and Darko’s Promise, an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse owned by Ilan Ferder, have been knocking at the door of a win.

“I was pretty determined going into the first round because I was getting really annoyed with four faults,” said Ballard, who has seen great success in the past year aboard horses owned by Ferder. “It would be an amazing four-fault round; you don’t get a ribbon with an amazing four faults! Everybody just kept saying, ‘You’re getting close, you’re getting close.’ I have so much confidence in Ilan, and when I went in the ring today, he said, ‘This is your class to win. Go try to win it for me!’”

With that in mind, Ballard left it all on the table in the jump-off.

“When there are only seven in it, we’re getting a good result no matter what,” said Ballard. “It’s better to go fast and take a chance to win then to go slow and knock one down and be sixth, because you’re going to get a good result one way or another. So, every once in a while you have to stop trying to be perfect and try to win, and that’s what we did today!”

Ballard has been partnered with Darko’s Promise for less than 10 months, and, while it includes the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon 2018 (WEG), their list of shows together is even shorter.

“It’s a very unique partnership,” said Ballard, who first competed the gelding at the Devon Horse Show in May 2018. “Ilan kept saying, ‘We’re going to the WEG.’ I was like, ‘I’ve hardly ridden this horse!’ He said, ‘I promise you, we’re going to pick and choose the classes that we need to show in, and we’re going to go!’ It’s just unique that way.

“I still live in Canada; Ilan lives in New York,” continued Ballard. “This is like [Darko’s Promise and I’s] time together to get to know one another, but even so, we started last week in a four-star this week is a five-star. He’s just that kind of guy. He doesn’t need a lot. He’s reliable; he shows up every time, and he just got a great result!”

Ballard will next aim the gelding at Saturday night’s $391,000 Fidelity Investments® Grand Prix CSI 5*, before the pair competes for Canada at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations CupTM USA on February 14-17.

Final Results: $134,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 5 CSI 5*

1 DARKO’S PROMISE: 2008 Irish Sport Horse by unknown x Semper Odem

ERYNN BALLARD (CAN), Ilan Ferder: 0/0/39.28

2 H5 CHAGANUS: 2008 Oldenburg gelding by Chacco Blue x Carthago

EDUARDO MENEZES (BRA), H5 Stables: 0/0/39.40

3 CALETTO CABANA: 2007 Holsteiner stallion by Cassini I x Capecanaveral

WILTON PORTER (USA), Sleepy P Ranch: 0/0/39.55

4 C HUNTER: 2007 Zangersheide stallion by Cassini II x Corland

LUCAS PORTER (USA), Sleepy P Ranch: 0/0/40.81

5 COOL HAND LUKE 4: 2007 Oldenburg gelding by Contendro I x Argentinus

MARKUS BEERBAUM (GER), Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC: 0/0/42.91