Wellington, Florida, USA – January 19, 2020 – Emily Ward (GBR) made a splash in the Under 25 division at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) by winning the $25,000 Hermès Grand Prix CSI U-25 riding Millioninmind on Sunday, January 19, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, Florida, USA.
Fifty-five horses challenged Oscar Soberon’s (USA) opening track with 19 returning for a deciding jump-off. After winning the Hermès Under 25 Welcome just a day earlier, Ward wasted no time in establishing herself as the one to beat this season. She and Millioninmind, owned by Steven Barnes, stopped the clock in a quick 35.99 seconds over second-place finisher Sydney Shulman’s (ISR), who finished in a time of 36.18 seconds riding Jill Shulman’s Azilis du Mesnil.
“I’ve actually never competed in America before, but I am off to a great start,” said Ward, 20, who rides for Canadian Tiffany Foster’s Little Creek Equestrian. “We’ve owned Millioninmind since he was six years old, so we’ve had him quite a long time. He took me on my first senior Nations Cup team, and won my first international grand prix with me. Now, he has come over here and flourished.
“He’s super careful, so these types of classes are perfect for him,” said Ward of Millioninmind, a 12-year-old Irish Sporthorse gelding by ARD VDL Douglas. “He loves to go fast, and he’s always looking for the next jump. I jumped the first line [in the jump-off] on the five, and then I had a really good shot back to b and c of what was the triple combination. [Millioninmind] knows exactly what he’s doing, and that’s where I knew I won it.”
Sydney Shulman’s (ISR) & Azilis du Mesnil
Fractions of a second off the win, Shulman’s top finish was an early birthday present to herself before turning 25 on Monday. She hails from Greenwich, Connecticut, and rides for Israel with seven years of experience in the under 25 division.
“It’s an amazing division, and I am very grateful to Hermès for sponsoring it,” she said. “It’s a great stepping stone for riders like me. When I was younger coming up, and I couldn’t do FEI legally, it was great to get my feet wet in FEI competitions. The horse I did today [Azilis du Mesnil], I bought her a little less than a year ago, and she’s so competitive. She was a little bit green when I got her, but all she wants to do is jump the jumps and go fast.”
Catherine Wachtell (USA) & Coverboy
Rounding out the top three, Catherine Wachtell (USA) finished third aboard Coverboy, owned by Autumn View Farm, in a time of 36.71 seconds. The 24-year-old rider hails from Chatham, NJ, and is in her second year of law school at Fordham University in New York, New York, USA.
“The course really tested rideability, and my horse and I have a good partnership,” said Wachtell of the mount she’s had for nine years. “He’s not the fastest or the most scopey, but he listens really well, so that worked to my advantage.
“I feel lucky to have been able to develop with him,” continued Wachtell. “We went from Low Junior Jumpers to Mediums to Highs, and now to be able to do the Under 25 is really special. I am a weekend warrior and a true amateur. I flew in on Friday on a 7:30 a.m. flight, and I had to just get on and go. Having a horse that you have a special partnership with is the only way to make it possible.”
Finishing fourth, Eugenio Garza Perez (MEX) rode Caracas to a time of 37.29 seconds for owner Nerijus Sipaila, while Natalie Dean (USA) capped the top five riding Jewel de Kwakenbeek, owned by Marigold Sporthorses LLC, in 37.35 seconds.
Leah Rogers Meierfeld, Senior Equestrian Account Executive with Hermès commented at the conclusion of the weekend’s events, “It’s super special to be able to support a younger generation that’s moving up. I think it’s one of the most amazing classes within the Winter Equestrian Festival just because of that. It gives them an opportunity that they might not have had. To be able to support that and be a part of that is what Hermès is all about.”
WEF continues through March 29, 2020 with 12 consecutive weeks of world-class competition and $13 million dollars on offer. The third week of competition at WEF will run January 22 through 26 and is sponsored by Adequan®. Recognized as a CSI 3* by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the week’s featured event will be the $137,000 Adequan® Grand Prix CSI3* during “Saturday Night Lights” on January 25.
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Source: Press release by Lindsay Brock, Juliana Chapman and Sabrina Brashares / Jennifer Wood Media, Inc. for ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions / PBIEC – Palm Beach International Equestrian Center
Photos: © Sportfot