Ocala, Florida, USA – February 21, 2021 – Thrilling equestrian sport filled the WEC Grand Arena on Saturday for the $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m and the $7,500 Futures Prix 1.40m. Courses for the classes were designed by Kelvin Bywater (GBR) and challenged riders’ technical abilities throughout the day.
This evening’s $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m featured thrilling equestrian sport under the lights as 42 entries competed for the lion’s share of the prize money, a stunning World Equestrian Center cooler and an elegant bronze trophy from the National Snaffle Bit Association (NSBA). Nine entries advanced to the jump-off with the top three riders separated by less than one second, keeping the crowd on the edge of their seats. Kristen Vanderveen (USA) prevailed for the second consecutive week, this time aboard Bull Run Jumpers Six LLC’s Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace (Cardenio x P-Comtesse).
Eight countries were represented in tonight’s class with several Olympians vying for the win. One of the first entries to jump a clear first round was Sharn Wordley (NZL) and his own Gatsby (Simba x Daisy Cruise). Wordley and the 17-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion (Simba x Come On) have earned countless placings in Grand Prix classes across the country and were on form tonight. The duo jumped a clear first round with ease in a time of 73.347 seconds, well within the time allowed of 75 seconds, securing a spot in the jump-off.
Kady Abrahamson (USA) and Abrahamson Equestrian’s Any also nabbed a spot in the jump-off. Abrahamson and the 12-year-old Holsteiner mare (Aljano x Nina XI) topped the $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m during Week 5 of the 2021 World Equestrian Center — Ocala Winter Spectacular and returned tonight in hopes of another victory. The pair was quick and clear in the first round in 70.369 seconds, signaling that they would be tough competitors on the short course.
The last to secure a return on the short course were Kristen Vanderveen (USA) and Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace (Cardenio x P-Comtesse). Vanderveen has been on a roll over the past few weeks, earning two $20,000 Welcome Prix 1.45m wins aboard Bull Run’s Divine Fortune (Padinus x Amhilavsca Fortuna) and a $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m win aboard Bull Run’s Risen (Utopie x Violette). She and Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace took 2nd place in the $20,000 Welcome Prix 1.45m during Week 4 and were hunting for a blue ribbon tonight. Vanderveen and the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding found a clear first round in 72.661 seconds, guaranteeing a chance at the win.
The course was adjusted as nine entries returned for the jump-off. With few opportunities for inside turns, the jump-off was a true head-to-head race with speed determining the winner. Wordley and Gatsby were among the first entries to contest the short course. With one already clear with a quick time, the pair picked up pace. They cleared the second to last fence, then galloped down to the final oxer. The pair raced through the timers at 41.159 seconds, moving into the lead. As they approached the end of the ring a few strides later, Wordley went right as Gasby went left. Gatsby celebrated his way past the crowd back to the ingate without his rider. Sharn was all smiles as he walked back to the ingate with his fans cheering him on.
Next in the ring were Kady Abrahamson (USA) and Any. Having bested her trainer and mentor Sharn Wordley (NZL) just two weeks ago to win the $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m, the pressure was on for Abrahamson. She and Any gave the course their all as the turned for the final fence. The crowd rode the final few strides with Abrahamson, roaring as she crossed the timers at 41.402 seconds, taking over the lead.
Last in the order were Vanderveen and Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace. Although Abrahamson’s time appeared unbeatable, Vanderveen was not going to stand for 2nd place without a fight. She and her fiery gelding blazed through the first eight fences without touching a rail, then turned up the heat as they headed for the final fence with the crowd urging them forward. The stands erupted in applause as the pair flew over the final oxer and through the timers in 40.635 seconds to win the class.
After her well-deserved victory gallop, Vanderveen took a moment to chat with us ringside about her win, “The atmosphere was amazing tonight. The crowd was really into the class and it was so fun to experience that support from the stands. The entries before me were so fast in the jump-off and I was a little intimidated after I saw the first three go. My plan was to start as fast as I could, but feel out the ride and take back if he started to get worried. He really went for it and my competitive edge kicked in, so I pushed the envelope and it paid off. He helped me a lot and gave it his all tonight.”
When asked about Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace, Vanderveen replied, “He has only shown at World Equestrian Center — Ocala once before, so he hasn’t had a lot of experience in this ring. Tonight was his first time under the lights and I would say that he likes them! I’ve had Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace for a few years and I’ve really taken my time with him. He’s a very special horse. I think he’s such a quality horse and I think he has a great career ahead of him. He’s progressed really well and is now able to step up to the plate when he needs to.”
Vanderveen added, “I think it’s great that WEC is doing night classes, it helps bring along the horses that need to gain experience under the lights, like mine. You don’t typically see that until you’re at the highest level, so it’s awesome to see WEC listening to the riders that wanted to get experience under the lights.”
Final Results – $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m
1) Kristen Vanderveen (USA) & Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace – 0 / 0 – 40.635
2) Sharn Wordley (NZL) & Gatsby – 0 / 0 – 41.159
3) Kady Abrahamson (USA) & Any – 0 / 0 – 41.402
4) Aaron Vale (USA) & Major – 0 / 0 – 41.926
5) Darragh Kerins (IRL) & Lissino – 0 / 0 – 46.104
6) Bryn Sadler (USA) & Cinven CR – 0 / 0 – 46.779
7) Santiago Lambre (MEX) & Dingeman – 0 / 4 – 42.768
8) Cian O’Connor (IRL) & Careca LS Elite – 0 / 4 – 42.953
9) Sean Jobin (CAN) & Darius – 0 / 4 – 51.087
10) Darragh Kerins (IRL) & Skara Glen’s Para Bellum – 2 – 76.564
Source: Press release from World Equestrian Center
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography