Nick Skelton and Heracross Triumph in the speed class

The fourth week of competition at the 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival (FTI WEF) began on Wednesday, January 30, with a win for Olympic gold medalist Nick Skelton (GBR) and his mount Heracross in the $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m speed class. Week four, sponsored by Fidelity Investments®, will run January 30-February 3. The week will feature the $33,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 4 on Thursday afternoon, the $100,000 Fidelity Investments® CSI 2* Grand Prix on Saturday evening, and the $25,000 Suncast® 1.50m Championship Jumper Classic on Sunday afternoon. The 2013 FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival features 12 weeks of competition running from January 9-March 31, 2013, and will be awarding almost $7 million in prize money throughout the circuit. Nick Skelton earned his first victory of the 2013 winter circuit in Wednesday's $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m class jumping a speed track set by Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios (VEN). Twenty-four entries started the class and 15 completed the course without fault. The fastest time of 58.655 seconds laid down by Skelton and Heracross earned top honors. Darragh Kenny (IRL) finished second aboard Cavallo Farms' Twister with a time of 59.219 seconds. Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) and HH Palouchin, owned by Double H Farm, placed third in 59.528 seconds. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) rode Sweet Oak Farm's Solerina to fourth place honors in 60.049 seconds. Class winner, Heracross, is a thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Ramiro B x Clover Hill. Heracross was previously ridden by Irish show jumper Francis Connors as well as Swedish rider Stephanie Finetto. Skelton purchased the gelding at the end of the year, just before Christmas, and showed him at the London International Horse Show at Olympia in December before traveling to Wellington. Skelton dominated last year's FTI WEF circuit with his many top horses, but has had a lower profile so far this winter. His Olympic mount, Big Star, will come out for the bigger classes towards the end of the circuit. For these first few weeks, Skelton has been showing several new and younger horses. He was pleased to get a nice win on Heracross in Wednesday's class and looks forward to moving him up throughout the circuit. “He is really a nice, easy horse,” Skelton stated after the class. “He turns really well. There were a lot of turns in that course, so I didn't have to gallop too fast because he is such a quick turner. It was a nice class; it is good to win.” Skelton spoke about Heracross and his traits, noting, “He is an Irish horse and one thing with the Irish horses is that they go on for a long time. He is quite a cobby horse, but he is very agile. He has a lot of blood, really, for a big horse and he is easy to ride, so I really like him.” Heracross will now have a short break while Skelton goes home to England for a few days. He will then come back to show during week five and start jumping in some of the grand prix classes. Big Star is currently in quarantine after arriving in the U.S. and will share the grand prix duties with Heracross as he gets into the rotation. Final Results: $8,000 G&C Farm 1.45m Speed 1. HERACROSS / NICK SKELTON / NICK SKELTON: 0/58.655 2. TWISTER / DARRAGH KENNY / CAVALLO FARMS: 0/59.219 3. HH PALOUCHIN / RODRIGO PESSOA / DOUBLE H FARM: 0/59.528 4. SOLERINA / SHANE SWEETNAM / SWEET OAK FARM: 0/60.049 5. AVENIR / CHRISTINE MCCREA / CANDY TRIBBLE: 0/60.307 6. AMADORA / BEEZIE MADDEN / ABIGAIL WEXNER: 0/60.928 7. UNEX BILLY ON SHOW / TIM GREDLEYUNEX COMPETITION YARD: 0/62.457 8. UNICO / MARIO GAMBOA / STRANSKY'S MISSION FARMS: 0/66.699 9. MARANON LS / LAURA KRAUT / EQUINVEST: 0/66.966 10. CHANTILLY / SLOANE COLES / SLOANE COLES: 0/67.431 11. ZABEL D / LAUREN HOUGH / BELLE GREY FARM: 0/68.002 12. AK'S CLOWNEY / PETER WYLDE / SOCIETE CIVILE DE L'ECURIE MEUTRY: 0/68.662

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