Marie Hecart takes the honour in the first 5* competiton during Rolex week 4 of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival

1 February-The competition throughout Rolex Week 4 of the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival has been intense, but as the sun set and the floodlights came on for the first 5* Grand Prix of the circuit, it was France’s Marie Hecart, riding her mare Myself de Breve, who enjoyed the biggest win of her career to take first place ahead of her well established rivals Eric Lamaze and Ben Maher.

Equestrian sport is at the heart and soul of the community in Wellington and it was standing room only for the 4,500 strong crowd who came out on the mild January evening to support the 45 strong international field who started the competition.

And on a course which designer Guilherme Jorge described as long and technical, it initially appeared that the riders had quickly mastered the 14 fences when there were four clear rounds in the first half of the field. But once all the riders had completed their first round, only ten had made it through into the jump-off.

Sixth to go into the ring, Hecart held her nerve up against some of the biggest names in the sport including Rolex Testimonees Eric Lamaze and Kent Farrington; both who have enjoyed multiple success at the Winter Equestrian Festival over the years. But she was richly deserving of the win – her second clear round of the evening, in a time of 79.32, was over a second and a half faster than second placed Ben Maher who was riding Diva II.

Speaking after her win, Marie Hecart said, “It’s always really nice here on Saturday with a great atmosphere, a good crowd and it’s always really exciting to ride here. My horse loves it. She likes the noise and the crowd, and she even jumps better at night. This is the biggest win of my career and it’s been a lot of work with my team, grooms and all the people around me.”

Wellington is a unique environment and there are very few places in the world where the focus of the entire community is on equestrian sport. Whilst Show Jumping in Europe moves indoors for the first quarter of the year, over 7,000 horses from around the world come to the Sunshine State to compete in top level competition, which in 2015 includes four 5* Grand Prix.

This is the second year of a long-term partnership between WEF and Rolex which saw the leading Swiss watch brand became the “Official Timepiece” of both the Palm Beach International Equestrian Centre and the WEF. In 2015 Weeks 4, 7, 9 and 12 have been designated as ‘Rolex Weeks’ and the Festival will culminate with the Rolex Grand Prix, the highlight of 12 weeks of competition.

Rolex Testimonee Eric Lamaze, a long-time visitor to Wellington believes that the WEF has really benefited from the increased profile which new partnerships bring.

“We used to talk about how we were in Florida to prepare our horses to go compete in Europe or somewhere else in the US, but the Winter Equestrian Festival now has four 5*s and with the increase in prize money it has become a serious competition. It’s a serious circuit. I think a lot of riders are preparing their horses to be here and not train them but really compete. That’s the difference. Florida used to be a training circuit for the rest of the year but now it’s a really competition, real show with real riders and great horses.”

As well as Eric Lamaze and Kent Farrington, Rolex Testimonees Rodrigo Pessoa and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum were also competing in the Week 4 Grand Prix on Status and Fibonacci 17 respectively, with both accumulating four faults each. All four of the Testimonees will be competing throughout the remaining eight weeks of the WEF.

Press release : Revolution Sports + Entertainment.

Final Results: $372,000 FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix CSI-W 5

1. MYSELF DE BREVE: 2000 Selle Francais mare by Quidam de Revel x Grand Veneur MARIE HECART (FRA), Marie Hecart: 0/0/38.61

2. DIVA II: 2005 AES mare by Kannan x Berlioz BEN MAHER (GBR), Tatiana Korsakova: 0/0/40.55

3. FINE LADY 5: 2003 Hanoverian mare by Forsyth x Drosselklang II ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms LLC: 0/4/36.54

4. WILLOW: 2003 KWPN gelding by Guidam x Little Rock KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/4/36.79

5. CASALL: 2005 Holsteiner gelding by Casall x Capitol I ALI WOLFF (USA), Blacklick Bend Farm: 0/4/38.79

6. ANTARES: 2005 KWPN gelding by Manhattan x Cavalier PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), Pablo Barrios: 0/4/40.33

7. VERSUS: 2005 Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Moujik de Sohan x Jasper RAMIRO QUINTANA (ARG), Michael Smith: 0/4/40.46

8. DON VHP Z: 2004 Zangersheide stallion by Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire HARRIE SMOLDERS (NED),Copernicus Stables LLC: 0/4/40.63

9. CORNET 39: 2004 Oldenburg gelding by Cornet Obolensky x Caletto I PARIS SELLON (USA), Paris Sellon: 0/4/40.75

10. BARONEZ: 2001 Belgian Warmblood mare by Skippy II x Heartbreaker KIRSTEN COE (USA), Ilan Ferder, Lovsta Stuteri & Tal Milstein: 0/4/42.56

11. STATUS: 2004 Hanoverian gelding by Satisfaction x Sao PauloRODRIGO PESSOA (BRA), Pessoa Stables LLC: 1/84.73

12. FIBONACCI 17: 2005 Swedish Warmblood gelding by For Feeling x Corland MEREDITH MICHAELS BEERBAUM (GER), Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC: 4/77.86

source: press release

image: top three; Marie Hecart, Eric Lamaze and Ben Maher. Photo (c) Revolutions Sports + Entertainment.