Ocala, Florida, USA – March 25, 2023 – The $250,000 Mars Equestrian Grand Prix was the highly anticipated finale of the 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series at World Equestrian Center – Ocala. Spectators near and far flocked to the WEC Grand Arena to watch 42 of the world’s best show jumping athletes representing 12 nations battle it out for the lion’s share of the prize money. Only five combinations advanced to the jump-off and in the end, it was Geronimo Marcello Viana Ciavaglia (BRA) and HST Cartouche (Carthoes B Z x ADC Chantilly Z) owned by Arnoldo Wald Filho who earned sweet victory.
Kevin Holowack (CAN), Bobby Murphy (USA), Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR) and Chris Barnard (USA) laid the stunning tracks for Saturday evening’s class which included a whimsical tea garden, a waterfall and the iconic M&Ms characters. Lead designer, Kevin Holowack spoke about the final course of the 12-week circuit, “This build started months ago between the team. We designed jumps specifically for this class. We have been tweaking and working on the track itself for a long time. Every jump came down and each part of the course had a different challenge. I think we saw some great rounds and had the best rise to the top.”
Five elite athletes representing New Zealand, Ireland, Brazil, Germany and the United States managed to find the path to a clear first round to qualify for the jump-off.
Sharn Worldey (NZL) was the first athlete to return. Wordley piloted his brand-new partner Bull Run’s Risen (Utopie x Indoctro). “It’s an extremely new partnership. I have been riding him for a week, we bought him last Thursday,” laughed Wordley. “He’s been there and done that with Kristen Vanderveen. He’s seventeen now, but I have never owned a horse with that much scope and stride. I didn’t have high expectations tonight, and now I couldn’t be more thrilled.”
Wordley and the 17-year-old Royal Dutch Sport Horse / Dutch Warmblood gelding laid down a crisp, clean effort to set the pace at 47.223 seconds.
Cian O’Connor (IRL) descended down the ramp next aboard Nicole Walker’s Eve D’Ouilly (Qlassic Bois Margot x Poor Tefnout D’ouilly). The pair were quick, but had one unfortunate rail in 48.661 seconds.
Geronimo Marcello Viana Ciavaglia (BRA) followed aboard HST Cartouche. Viana Ciavaglia and the 12-year-old Zangersheide stallion were off at the sound of the tone, “I did six from one to two. I jumped the oxer going very forward and tried to pull to the double, but he resisted, so we ended up getting nine strides. I put a super close distance to the vertical, and he jumped out. He was like turbo and jumped it clean. I tried to do my best to the rest, but he did the job. To the very last I saw a very far distance and he jumped clear. He’s an amazing horse.”
The pair flew through the timers stopping the clock at an uncatchable 43.043 seconds.
Coming to Ocala was a dream for Marcello, “I have had a dream to come to Ocala since I was 17. I had a good friend visit Disney many years ago and told me he went to the small city called Ocala, and since then it was a dream to come here. This is my second time in America, I came three years ago to Wellington, but always wanted to come here. I have never seen anything like this. If you love horses, you have to come here. It’s incredible for the horses and riders. The courses have been spectacular. I am going back to Brazil a better rider and for sure coming back for the summer circuit. I love this and learned so much.”
Last year’s winner of the $200,000 MARS Equestrian Grand Prix, Andre Thieme (GER) was next in the jump-off aboard Paule S (Perigueux x Lassia). Thieme and the nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding were just shy of the winning time in 43.583 seconds, but had one rail down to ultimately secure third place.
Thieme complimented the course designers on the grand prix tracks, “I want to say that course tonight was a dream for every rider. The designers had a lot of material to work with at an absolutely incredible facility and the way it was done without making it huge or unjumpable, it was perfect. I have been to the Olympics, and this feels just like it. The flowers, waterfall, and incredible décor, it makes it so special. There’s a reason I am coming all the way from Germany, this place is unimaginable.”
Dorothy Douglas (USA) and Davenport Farms MTM Pablo (Perigueux x Celina) were the final contenders to attempt the jump-off track, but incurred two rails down along the way to earn fifth place.
Geoffrey Galant, Vice President of MARS Equestrian spoke about sponsoring the class for a second consecutive year, “It’s amazing to watch this facility grow. It was an amazing night of competition. We were discussing the level of the course and everything the course designing team has done. Everyone here at World Equestrian Center is incredible. The impact and growth is something we are proud of; we like to grow and be partners that share in that growth and contribute.”
Director of Operations at World Equestrian Center, Vinnie Card expressed his gratitude, “It’s been an incredible evening. We want to thank everyone who came out to join us tonight and during the 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series. We had 12-weeks of great sport and we are already looking forward to the 2023 Ocala Summer Series beginning in June. We wish everyone safe travels and can’t wait to have you all back soon.”
Rowan Willis (AUS) and his own Wellington Grey Goose secured the $5,000 fastest four-faulter award with a time of 76.207 seconds with one rail down.
Nicole Walker (CAN) received the ‘Luck of the Draw’ award.
Final Results – $250,000 MARS Equestrian Grand Prix
1) Marcello Ciavaglia (BRA) & HST Cartouche, Arnoldo Wald Filho: 0 | 0 | 43.043
2) Sharn Wordley (NZL) & Bull Run’s Risen, Sharn Wordley: 0 | 0 | 47.223
3) Andre Thieme (GER) & Paule S, Andre Thieme: 0 | 4 | 43.583
4) Cian O’Connor (IRL) & Eve D’ouilly, Nicole Walker: 0 | 4 | 48.661
5) Dorothy Douglas (USA) & MTM Pablo, Davenport Farm: 0 | 8 | 44.476
6) Rene Tebbel (UKR) & Nabucco Z, Gut Einhaus, LLC: 3 | 84.050
7) Rowan Willis (AUS) & Wellington Grey Goose, Rowan Willis: 4 | 76.207
8) Luis Sabino Goncalves (POR) & Vick Du Croisy, Sigma Stables LLC: 4 | 76.225
9) Aaron Vale (USA) & Cristo Beech, Alise Carrico & Thinks Like A Horse: 4 | 76.659
10) Lisa Goldman-Smolen (USA) & Sovereign, Barbara Disko: 4 | 77.035
Source: Press Release from World Equestrian Center
Photos: © WEC – Andrew Ryback Photography