The WEC Fall Horse Shows are officially underway and we have already seen stiff competition in WEC Fall I. Sixteen entries contested the course in this afternoon’s $1,500 Welcome Stake 1.35 m sponsored by CWD Sellier where less than one second separated the top three entries, making for a nail-biting class. Robert Mendoza and Bannockburn Farm’s United M (Baloubet Du Rouet x United) stole the top spot about mid-way through the class with an incredibly speedy jump off round and remained atop the scoreboard for the rest of the class, taking home the win.
The course for this afternoon’s Welcome Stake was designed by Bobby Murphy of Lexington, Kentucky and featured three combinations and flowing lines. The course was challenging, catching a few riders at the flowing vertical-to-combination lines. However, entries brought their A-game and with eight of the sixteen entries jumping double clear, time was the deciding factor in this afternoon’s class.
First to jump a clear first round was second in the order, Robert Mendoza and Bannockburn Farm’s Java Van De Kleinheide (Thunder Van De Zuuthoeve x Eclinta Van Der Bosrand). The pair had a fantastic Summer, winning the $25,000 WEC Grand Prix during WEC July I and taking top placings in several 1.25 m and 1.30 m classes. This afternoon, Mendoza and the ten year old Belgian Warmblood mare came to play, jumping the first round in 74.858 seconds, well under the time allowed of 79 seconds. The pair continued straight to the jump off of the Table II 2b event, jumping clear and setting the pace at 38.016 seconds.
The lead was soon taken by Stephen Foran and Freedom Woods’ Cassius 74 (Conrad x Landra). Foran and the twelve year old German Sporthorse regularly compete in Welcome Stakes and Grands Prix, most recently taking fifth place in the Chicago Equifest III $25,000 Grand Prix. The pair were quick in the first round, jumping clear in a time of 72.873 seconds and continuing straight to the jump off. Foran and Cassius 74 kept their pace throughout the jump off, executing a tricky inside turn to the last fence and crossed the timers at 35.758, setting the new time to beat.
Foran and Cassius 74 held their lead until Robert Mendoza entered the ring again, this time aboard Bannockburn Farm’s United M (Baloubet Du Rouet x United). Mendoza rode the nine year old KWPN mare to a third place finish in WEC July I’s $25,000 WEC Grand Prix and the pair were ready to win today. Mendoza and United M flew through the first course with all rails up in 73.196 seconds and continued straight to the jump off. United M was on fire, charging through the course and clearing each fence with ease. The pair also executed the tight turn back to the final fence and stopped the clock at 35.105 seconds, moving themselves to the top of the leader board.
Near the end of the class, Morgan Ward and Lindsey Ward’s Contiki attempted to best the quick time set me Mendoza and United M. The pair recently took second place in the Monmouth at the Team $10,000 Mini-Prix, preparing them for this afternoon’s class. Ward and the six year old KWPN gelding held the fastest first round time of the class, crossing the timers at just 69.423 seconds. Though they carried their pace into the jump off, the pair could not catch Mendoza and United M or Foran and Cassius 74, stopping the clock at 35.872 seconds, sliding neatly into third place.
We caught up with Mendoza ringside after the Welcome Stake to chat about his rounds. “It was actually a fairly challenging course for this early in the circuit. Both of my horses jumped really well and felt like they were really comfortable being back [at WEC]. It’s always fun to be here. Bobby’s tracks are always fair. They might be a little challenging, but they’re always fair. They both jumped really well.”
Mendoza let us in on United M’s history at WEC, “United M belongs to Allyn McCracken of Bannockburn Farm. She’s grown up here, basically. She did the little classes here, then started doing the Futures Prix and now has moved up into the Grand Prix. She just loves it here.” When asked about their impressive round today, Mendoza replied, “She’s not usually that fast, but I got to fence two really nicely and I saw the line to three well. At fence eight she contorted herself just enough to get over it and was just trucking. I’ve never asked her to go fast because she’s always been so clean and careful that I’ve always just wanted her to feel comfortable. But, now, she’s grown up enough and has made enough jump offs this Summer that she’s starting to understand. I started the jump off and came around to one and she said, ‘Oh, we’re going again? Okay we’re going!'”
When asked about his seventh place mount Java Van De Kleinheide Mendoza replied, “Java was excellent. Java has also had a good Summer. She’s fast along the ground but tends to jump a little higher. Actually, I was really happy with her. I knew I was a little slower with her. She’s had a little less confidence here and there this Summer, so I didn’t want to get too cute with it. Once she was clean, all bets were off with United M.”
We’re looking forward to seeing both of Mendoza’s mounts back in the ring on Saturday for the $10,000 WEC Grand Prix, as is Mendoza, saying “I’m hoping they both do well again on Saturday!”
$1,500 Welcome Stake 1.35 m Results
- United M, Robert Mendoza – 0 | 0 | 35.105
- Cassius 74, Stephen Foran – 0 | 0 | 35.758
- Contiki, Morgan Ward – 0 | 0 | 35.872
- Cymo, Brian Shook – 0 | 0 | 36.097
- Dantura, Morgan Ward – 0 | 0 | 36.324
- Silver Spring, Megan Bash – 0 | 0 | 36.772
- Java Van De Kleinheide, Robert Mendoza – 0 | 0 | 38.016
- Gangnam Style, Javier Berganza Anderhub – 0 | 0 | 39.046
- Time Out, Morgan Ward – 4 | 70.015
- Ciceron Chavannais, Emily Brown – 4 | 75.537