Mill Spring, North Carolina, USA – October 28, 2018 – The $25,000 Sunday Classic hosted in Tryon Stadium wrapped the week of competition at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), where Rowan Willis (AUS) piloted his own Shark to the top of the leaderboard in 42.315 seconds in the jump-off. Ilan Bluman (COL) and Cap Diamond D’Hof Ten Bos, a 2008 Belgian Sport Horse stallion (Diamant de Semilly x Farmer) owned by Hph & S. & B. Van Paesschen, received reserve honors after stopping the timers in 42.362 seconds, while Stefanie Collier (USA) was welcomed to the podium for her efforts aboard The C and C Group’s Emma-Lee, a 2009 Dutch Warmblood mare (Up to Date x Contendro I), flying through the jump-off in 42.7 seconds.
Nineteen entries tested the track set by Manuel Esparza (MEX), with five horse-and-rider pairs soaring clear into the jump-off. Shark, a 2008 Anglo European Sport Horse gelding (Arko x Pilot), is a lot more like a dog than his name, Willis remarked. “He’s a personal favorite of mine. He’s my pet!”
Despite his friendly and easy-going nature, Shark and Willis were predators on course, earning the victory by just .047 of a second. “The course was tough enough, but it was good. The designer had us quite open in the jump off as well,” Willis elaborated. “It was very tight and I don’t know really where I shaved off time, but I think maybe I did one less to the last. He’s naturally a very quick horse, so I don’t have to push too hard to go fast.”
Rowan Willis (AUS) & Shark during the awards ceremony
For Willis, the day’s success was a redeeming moment for one of his favorite rides. “Unfortunately I haven’t ridden so well for the last couple of classes with him – he was actually seventh in the [$132,000 Adequan® Grand Prix CSI 3*] here, which was super. I had a few mishaps with him, which were unfortunate, and so he was a little bit out of confidence last night and under lights,” Willis explained. “It was nice to give him a smaller round and get his confidence back today. He’s always a good horse to have.”
After a successful season for Shark, including top finishes in Wellington, Spruce Meadows, Ohio and Tryon, Willis and his string have just a few more stops on tour before a well-earned break. “I’ve got two shows left for the year – I’m headed to Lexington and then Toronto. Shark’s half sister, Blue Movie, will do those, and Shark might join me in one of those as well. After that, they’ll all go back to Florida for a well-earned holiday,” Willis concluded.
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Source: Press release from TIEC – Tryon International Equestrian Center
Photos: © Sportfot / TIEC
Categories: CSI 3*