Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 31, 2020 – Competition at the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) continued on Friday, January 31, showcasing young show jumping talent with the $25,000 Hermés U25 Team Event. The class was set in the International Arena of the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) showgrounds, which will host many U25 classes offered during WEF 2020. Fifty-seven horse-and-rider combinations made up the 15 teams, all hoping to band together to lead their team to the top of the podium. Working together to rise to the challenge, it was Ashland 2 team that claimed the gold medals, wearing them proudly at the conclusion of the two round competition.
Using the Nations Cup format, the $25,000 Hermes U25 Team Event split riders into 15 teams, each with three or four riders. Teams with four riders would have a drop score from the first round, giving them an extra bonus going into round two. Following the first round, seven teams returned for the second round and a final shot at improving their scores. Flore Giraud (FRA) of the Stephex & Friends team was the pathfinder of the complicated track, laying down the first clear ride in the first round. Only four other combinations would follow suit, leaving 52 with faults on the scoreboard.
Leading the way after round one was team Stephex & Friends. Giraud’s perfect score set the team ahead of the others, including Ashland 1, who sat in second, and Sleepy JMexicoS, who sat in third heading into round two. Whipstick & Friends, Ashland 2, and Little Creek also made the cut, advancing to the second round of competition with their game faces on and ready to make up some ground.
The teams returned to the arena in reverse order. Two riders from each team challenged the second track, but inclement weather halted the competition, forcing stewards to use only the first two scores from each team in the final tally. Despite the storm, the Ashland 2 team was able to capture the win with a final score of 8 after Klas Kudlinski (GER) put in a fault-free ride and Helen Graves (USA) finished with only one time fault in round 2. Although the team had only assembled a few short days ago, team members Kudlinski (GER), Graves (USA), Austin Krawitt and Ty Simpson (USA) prevailed throughout the two tracks, strategizing and working with their Chef D’Equipe Ken Smith to come out on top.
Ashland 1 also made up some time in the second round to claim the second place title with a score of 9 from riders Brian Moggre (USA), Daisy Farish (USA), Ransome Rombauer (USA) and Spencer Smith (USA). The one-two finish for Ashland Farm’s Ken Smith was an exciting one that left both teams thrilled with the result.
Rounding out the top three teams was the Stephex & Friends team, made up of Flore Giraud (FRA), Zoe Conter (USA), Emilie Conter (USA) and Carlos Hank Guerreiro (MEX) with a score of 13. Guerreiro and his mount, H5 Market Irminka, owned by H5 Stables, had a stellar night going clear in both rounds for their team.
U25 competition will continue throughout the remaining eight weeks of WEF. To continue an exciting week of competition, the FEI Marshall & Sterling American $214,000 Grand Prix CSI4* and the infamous Great Charity Challenge will take place on Saturday, February 1.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Ashland Team 2 – $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Team Event winners (Graves, Simpson, Krawitt, Kudlinski)
About their experience with the U25 series:
Graves: This is actually my first year doing it on this horse. I’ve done probably about five before, so I’m not just now getting into it. So it was exciting. It was my first time doing a U25.
Krawitt: This was my second U25 class. I’ve never done it before. So far, I love it. This is my first year doing it, and my second event.
Kudlinski: This is the first time I’ve brought my horses over to America, so it’s the first time that I’m doing the U25.
About their first rounds:
Graves: The first round, he actually jumped quite well. I wasn’t sure… he’s really big and scopey, so I was kind of nervous with such a small ring and I knew the time was going to be a problem. I thought our first rail was kind of unlucky in that first round, but he jumped really well and I’m really happy with him.
Simpson: The first round for me was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. My mare, she was fantastic, and I would have just gone a little faster if I had to do it again. I’ve had her for about a year now, and we have our good and bad days.
Krawitt: My horse jumped super, he really rose to the occasion. I was a little slow on time, just over the time allowed, so I had the one time fault that I was happy with.
Kudlinski: I had one down in the first round. My horse jumped really, really good. It was obviously a rider’s mistake. In the second round, I was more on it and he jumped clear.
About how they formed their team:
Graves: We’re at the same barn and we’ve known [Austin] forever.
Kudlinski: I had no idea about the stuff here, so the other three, they found me somewhere last.
Graves: It was real last minute, actually, forming the team. Because I don’t think we got in contact with [Klas] until Tuesday. So, it was very last minute.
Kudlinski: And apparently it worked out really well! [Riding in the USA] is good, yea. It’s just my second show right now. I did the 2* at WEF [Week Two], and that was actually pretty good.
About what it means to win as a team:
Graves: I think I like team events. It always makes me a bit nervous because it’s a lot of pressure. But I think it’s really fun rooting on your teammates and wanting everyone to do well. It’s a really good experience.
Simpson: I like the team event. I think it’s great practice for doing bigger stuff and being on the USA team.
Krawitt: I think this is a preparation for Nations Cup, so it’s awesome to do it and get some experience with double rounds.
Kudlinski: I don’t have much to add. It’s different, you’re not riding just for yourself. You have the pressure to take care of the other riders on your team. When you miss something, the whole team missed something.