Michel Vaillancourt (CAN) set the course for 83 starters in Thursday’s WEF Challenge Cup, with 14 entries going clear to advance to the jump-off. Vaillancourt’s tiebreaking short course then yielded six double clear rounds. Engle and Abunola clocked the winning time of 41.68 seconds, sixth to go in the jump-off order.
Eric Lamaze with Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable’s Houston immediately followed in the second place time of 41.87 seconds. Lorcan Gallagher and Spy Coast Farm LLC’s Venturo 9 completed their round in 43.78 seconds to finish third. Danielle Torano (USA) and Callas III earned fourth place honors in a time of 43.94. Ilan Bluman (COL) and Blue Star Investments’ Ladriano Z placed fifth in 43.98 seconds, and Chris Surbey (CAN) and Linda Southern Heathcott’s Doremi finished sixth in a time of 50.97.
Engle put together a partnership with Rich DeMartini and Lea Allen to purchase Abunola in September of 2015 and has been taking her time to get to know the horse over the last several months. She won her first class with the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Numero Uno x Voltaire) in November competing in a $50,000 HITS Welcome Stake in Thermal, CA. She has since had consistent results competing in Wellington throughout the winter.
“She is a lovely mare,” Engle detailed. “I watched her some last year and liked her. I was then fortunate enough to have Rich DeMartini help me put a partnership together to buy her, and they have been very patient as I have been getting to know her.
“She has a lot of blood,” Engle continued. “When I first went out to California she was great. I think here I maybe left her a little too fresh. Even though the heat is not great for everyone else, it is perfect for her. It just kind of settled her down, and it did not hurt her one bit. She has a lot of energy and nice blood. She is light on her feet and just lovely to ride.”
Speaking of the first round course, Engle stated, “I was thrilled with the way she went. She rode beautifully the first round. I thought the course was tough enough. It was very technical, and it was a tricky track. He actually got not that many clean for how many were in it. It is a hard class to build for, and I thought he did a fantastic job without making it crazy big.”
Engle also appreciated the short course, noting, “I liked the jump-off when I walked the course, which was nice. She is very easy to accelerate, so you just kind of think it, and she is ready to go. I ride her in smaller spurs than any horse I have ever ridden. She was really good in the rollbacks. Rolling back on the liverpool, I was very pleased with her there, and also the rollback on the Rolex jump, the second to last jump. I was very happy with her. She has been very consistent here; we just needed a little bit of luck to go our way.
“I was teasing Eric (Lamaze) that he was kind enough to share a class with me,” Engle laughed. “He has dominated, and when I knew he was going after me, I thought I would be happy with second place because he has been kind of unstoppable in these classes.”
Despite a case of mononucleosis, Engle battled through for a great win on Thursday. Always a fierce competitor, she was determined to compete and came out with a worthy result. “This is good medicine,” Engle stated. “This win was very much needed.”
Engle will now prepare Abunola to jump in Saturday’s $130,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3*, which has been moved to the morning instead of being held at night under the lights due to expected rainfall.
Commenting on the change, Engle stated, “I hope it will suit her. I will have to see how much I undid her by going fast today because sometimes with a horse that is a little sensitive, if you go quick with them, sometimes they get a little buzzy. Those are things I will have to figure out with her, but if she goes even close to like she did today, I will be very happy.”
In addition to the winning prize money on Thursday, Engle picked up a $3,000 bonus for wearing SSG ‘Digital’ style riding gloves as part of the SSG Gloves ‘Go Clean for the Green’ promotion.
Also competing in the International Ring on Thursday, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Main Road, owned by Sweet Oak Farm and Seabrook LLC, won the $8,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m jump-off class.
Final Results: $35,000 Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 10
1. ABUNOLA: 2005 KWPN mare by Numero Uno x Voltaire MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Elm Rock Partners LLC: 0/0/41.68
2. HOUSTON: 2007 Belgian Warmblood stallion by Heartbreaker x Corofino ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable: 0/0/41.87
3. VENTURO 9: 2005 Belgian Sport Horse stallion by Canturo x Nabab de Reve LORCAN GALLAGHER (IRL), Spy Coast Farm LLC: 0/0/43.78
4. CALLAS III: 2007 Oldenburg mare by Albatros x Quattro B DANIELLE TORANO (USA), Danielle Torano: 0/0/43.94
5. LADRIANO Z: 2008 Zangersheide gelding by Lawito x Baloubet du Rouet ILAN BLUMAN (COL), Blue Star Investments: 0/0/43.98
6. DOREMI: 2003 Belgian Warmblood stallion by Quidam de Revel x Cento CHRIS SURBEY (CAN), Linda Southern Heathcott: 0/0/50.97
7. HH CISKE VAN OVERIS: 2002 Belgian Warmblood mare by Celano x Darco MAGGIE MCALARY (USA), Double H Farm: 0/4/42.33
8. BALOUS DAY DATE: 2005 Oldenburg mare by Balou du Rouet x Domino MOLLY ASHE-CAWLEY (USA), Louisburg Farm: 0/4/43.41
9. CASSIDY 35: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Cassini I x Briscar BRIAN WALKER (CAN), Gut Einhaus LLC: 0/4/44.39
10. COCO II: 2005 AES gelding by La Poco x Calato EMILY SHORT (USA), Emily Short: 0/4/45.13
11. BRILLIANT DU ROUET: 2005 Oldenburg gelding by Balou du Rouet x Caretani Z ROBERTO TERAN JR. (COL), ARK Partners LLC: 0/8/43.27
12. LYONELL: 2001 Sachsen-Anhaltiner gelding by Levisto x Kolibri CARA RAETHER CAREY (USA), Trelawny Farm LLC: 0/8/46.18