Week seven of the Winter Series of the Midwest at World Equestrian Center is off to a fantastic start with a brilliant win by Jill Gaffney and Z Love Story in this evening’s $5,000 Welcome Stake 1.35 m sponsored by CWD. This evening’s course featured one stride combinations on either side of the ring, two oxer-to-vertical lines across the diagonal, and several fences that gave riders options on the approach to their next fence.
In the first round, entries began on a vertical on the center line at the top of the ring, then rolled right to continue down the diagonal over an oxer-to-vertical line. Entries then rode up an oxer near the ingate and bent left to jump the CWD vertical, then rounded the top of the ring to jump an oxer in the corner. From there, entries continued down the rail to catch an oxer-to-vertical one stride line, then rode past the ingate and up a second oxer-to-vertical line. To finish, entries rounded the top of the ring, jumped an oxer in the corner, then jumped a vertical-to-vertical one stride line.
First in the order of go was Jason Berry aboard Lee Cesery’s Quantos (El Darodo). The pair were well schooled, having placed third in the $25,000 WEC Grand Prix just last week. Berry and Quantos were quiet throughout the course, ensuring a clear first round, crossing the timers at 82.786 seconds, still within the time allowed of 84 seconds. The pair continued straight to the jump off of the Table II event. The course for the jump off saw entries beginning by serpentining over an oxer headed away from the ingate, an oxer across the center of the ring and a vertical headed up the rail. Entries then to the in of the oxer-to-vertical line headed toward the top of the ring, then rolled back to jump the one stride combination on the rail. To finish, entries rolled back around, completing almost a full circle, to jump the CWD vertical and gallop through the timers. Berry and Quantos continued their steady pace throughout the jump off for a clear round in 44.574 seconds.
Next in the ring was Taylor Flury aboard Aliboo Farm, Inc.’s Cosmea Z (Calvados Z x Zianne), winners of last week’s $25,000 WEC Grand Prix. The pair were a bit quicker in the first round, jumping clear in a time of 77.678 seconds and continuing to the jump off. Flury and Cosmea Z picked up the pace in the jump off, just as they did last week. The pair were fierce, surging through the course, taking a few strategic inside turns and stopping the timers at a quick 33.288 seconds, setting a speedy time to beat.
Soon after, Kevin McCarthy and his own Catch A Star HSS (Sheraton x Tolinda) stepped into the ring, up to the challenge of beating Flury and Cosmea Z’s time. The pair have had great success at World Equestrian Center, winning the $5,000 Welcome Stake 1.35 m just three weeks ago and winning the $25,000 WEC Grand Prix in November. McCarthy and Catch A Star HSS were meticulously correct and clear in the first round in a time of 76.107. The pair continued to the jump off, pulling an unfortunate rail about halfway through the course and backing off of their speed to ensure the rest of the rails stayed up. The pair crossed the timers at 38.233 seconds with just four faults.
One of the last to go in the class was Jill Gaffney aboard Freestyling Farms LLC’s Z Love Story (Hunter x Elli). Gaffney and Z Love Story had an excellent show last Fall at World Equestrian Center, placing fifth in the $10,000 WEC Grand Prix and third in the $5,000 Welcome Stake 1.35 m. The pair were determined this evening, laying down a clear first round in the fastest time of the class in 72.439 seconds. Gaffney and Z Love Story brought their fiery determination to the jump off, knowing they needed to beat Flury and Cosmea Z’s time of 33.288 seconds. The pair blazed around the course and through the timers, stopping the clock at 32.290 seconds to win the class.
We caught up with Jill Gaffney of Freestyling Farms in Batavia, Ohio after her win. When asked about her strategy in this evening’s class, Gaffney explained, “I knew that with Kevin McCarthy in the class, along with a couple other really fast riders, if we did get in the jump off, the times were going to be fast. So I had to really go for it.” When asked about her mount, Z Love Story, Gaffney smiled, “Z Love Story tries her heart out. She has the biggest heart. I feel like every time I go in the ring on her she’s like, ‘Alright let’s do it!’ She was perfect today.” Gaffney recently acquired Z Love Story from good friend and client Beverly Knobel and has taken the mare from the 80 cm Jumpers to the 1.45 m Jumpers, and even does 1.45 m FEI classes with her. Gaffney noted that Knobel was watching Z Love Story on the ShowNet live stream on WEC.net, and that Knobel will be extremely happy to see Z Love Story’s win this evening.
$5,000 Welcome Stake 1.35 m Results
- Z Love Story, Jill M. Gaffney – 0 | 0 | 32.290
- Cosmea Z, Taylor A. Flury – 0 | 0 | 33.288
- Quantos, Jason Berry – 0 | 0 | 44.574
- Catch A Star HSS – 0 | 4 | 38.233
- Hilma, Sam Pegg – 4 | 76.427
- In Private, Lindsay Lyden – 4 | 79.894
- Zero Gravity, Scott Durchslag – 4 | 82.229
- Oliver’s Army, Lauren E. Ditallo – 4 | 82.546
- Sherlock Holmes, Meagan Bennett – 7 | 86.852
- Strawberry, 8 | 78.093
Photos by Andrew Ryback Photography