Women beat men in battle of the sexes at the Winter Equestrian Festival

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WELLINGTON – After a year away due to the coronavirus pandemic, the women’s team topped the battle of the sexes at $ 75,000 during the Saturday Night Lights season opener at the Winter Equestrian Festival.

In front of a packed house at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the women’s team beat the men’s team, 30-13, to claim their 11th victory in the event’s 13-year history.

Sponsored by Wellington Regional Medical Center, the popular event closed the first week of the 13-week circuit.

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The women’s team were Team Captain Kelly Soleau-Millar, Hayley Iannotti, Taylor Land, Caelinn Leahy, Samantha Mackenzie, Mia Mannis, Abigail McArdle, Jacqueline Steffens, Anna Wilks and Heather Caristo-Williams.

The men’s team, which won in 2020 and 2019, were captain Charlie Jayne, David Blake, Christian Coyle, Daniel Coyle, Jordan Coyle, Luis Larrazabal, Simon McCarthy, Samuel Parot Jr., Michael Tokaruk and Hardin Towell.

A fisty Leahy landed bragging rights for the women when she cleared and Tokaruk dropped a rail in the sixth head-to-head competition of the race match. Prior to this match, the men’s team, down 27-14, were expected to win the remaining matches.

The competition consisted of three rounds: a head-to-head speed class, a relay and a match race. It was the first time that the horses competed under the lights.

The women’s team led 5-1 in the first round but rallied to a tie, 5-5, with a quick lap (51.980 seconds) from Leahy, 20, at 5-4 and 56.185 for Ianotti. The women increased their lead, 15-10, after the relay race and never lagged after that.

“It was so exciting,” said Soleau-Miller. “We had an amazing team. There were great young riders, some promising riders, some professionals who have done it in the past, and we had a lot of fun.

“It was amazing. They are doing a fantastic job here at WEF. The energy was just amazing and so much fun.”

Fans were welcomed back to the Winter Equestrian Festival and a packed house watched Saturday night's battle of the sexes.

During the break, Susan G. Komen South Florida was selected in a draw for the February 5 Great Charity Challenge, sponsored by Fidelity Investments. It is the latest charity chosen to participate in the fundraising event which has raised nearly $ 16 million for 276 charities over the past 12 years.

This weekend’s Saturday Night Lights event is the Southern Arches CSI3 Grand Prix at $ 140,000. Doors open from 6 p.m. to March 12 with the competition from 7 p.m.

Spectators are reminded to bring their face masks for use in all indoor areas, including bathrooms, restaurants and closed shopping areas. Live streaming is also offered again this season on pbiec.coth.com.

General admission is free. Parking costs $ 20 per car. The site is located at 3400 Equestrian Club Drive, just off South Shore and Pierson Road. For more information, call 561-793-5867.

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