Wellington, FL – Men and Women were pitted against each other for the eighth annual $75,000 Battle of the Sexes in front of a crowd of more than 5,000 spectators during the first “Saturday Night Lights” of the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC).
After three rounds of competition that ended in a duel between the final two riders, the women broke the tie that ended the 2015 battle to come out on top this year.
The men and women of the Battle of the Sexes. Photo © Sportfot, an official photographer of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
The first week of WEF will conclude Sunday, January 17, with the $75,000 Rosenbaum Mollengarden PLLC Grand Prix at 2 pm. WEF, which kicked off on Wednesday, continues through April 3 and awards $9 million in prize money.
Candice King led the women’s team as captain alongside fellow riders Nicole Bellissimo, Heather Caristo-Williams, Tori Colvin, Amanda Derbyshire, Margie Engle, Abigail McArdle, Catherine Pasmore, Alison Robitaille and Denise Wilson. The men were captained by Charlie Jayne and their team included David Blake, Daniel Bluman, Eugenio Garza, Alex Granato, Andy Kocher, Adam Prudent, Andrew Ramsay, Michael Tokaruk and Daniel Zetterman.
Heather Caristo-Williams and Wistful during their speed round. Photo © Sportfot, an official photographer of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
The two teams competed over three phases including a speed course, relay and match race, all set by U.S. Course Designer Eric Hasbrouck. In the speed round, the women established an early lead with a seven to three score. The men, however, answered in the relay and jumped ahead 13 to 12.
The match race determined the final standings with one member of each team jumping identical courses at the same time on opposite sides of the International Arena. The men won the first four rounds worth three points apiece before Pasmore and Catara 4 put the women on the board by toping Granato in the fifth race. She gained the momentum her team needed to make a comeback, and the women crossed the timers first in the next four races.
Amanda Derbyshire and David Blake in their match race. Photo © Sportfot, an official photographer of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
McArdle beat Prudent in the second-to-last race to set the stage for a head-to-head battle between captains King aboard Hoover and Jayne on Endy in the final race.
King had an early rail, but Jayne suffered a refusal soon after to open the door for her to cruise through the final timers ahead. The final score stood at 30 to 25 for the women, a team that was made up by 10 female riders, but also six mares.
McArdle was ecstatic to help her team secure the win in her second year competing in the Battle of the Sexes.
“I kept looking over knowing I had to do eight strides and get off the ground,” she said of her match race performance. “It was a fantastic feeling and so fun to have someone riding right next to you — it really puts on the pressure.”
The winning women after the Battle of the Sexes. Photo © Sportfot, an official photographer of the Winter Equestrian Festival.
For King, she enjoyed seeing a packed house at PBIEC Saturday night.
“The crowd understands men versus women, so they get behind us and our horses. When these horses hear the cheers, they know it’s game on,” she said. “It’s a great way to start the season, and we all look forward to it every year.”
King also acknowledged that, while the competition is exciting, she thinks the Battle of the Sexes is an opportunity to showcase show jumping to a new audience.
“We want to promote our sport and this introduces the local community to what we do and gets them to come back again,” she said. “For me, it’s not just about having fun, it’s about educating the public and getting them to have fun and grow this sport. We have to thank Equestrian Sport Productions because they have done a great job at encouraging that growth.”