Wellington, Fla. – March 24, 2019 – The Hermès U25 series wrapped up Sunday of Week Eleven of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), as 30 riders descended upon the Stadium Derby Field to vie for top honors in the $50,000 Hermès U25 Series Final Grand Prix. At the end of the two-round competition, it was Daniel Coyle (IRL) and his own CHS Krooze, a 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, who came out on top.
The 13-obstacle course, set by designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. (GER), included a water jump and challenged riders to be quick yet accurate. Riders agreed that though the first round walked easy, they soon realized that it was a long way around the field, and time would play ultimately prove to be a factor. Horses getting tired near the end of the track produced a few dropped rails, and numerous combinations had time faults.
Following fault-free initial rides, a total of six combinations came back for the second round to make for an efficient jump-off. Coyle, Zoe Conter (BEL), Jessica Mendoza (GBR), Ransome Rombauer (USA), Ailish Cunniffe (USA), and Alexanne Thibault (CAN) and their respective mounts came back to compete for the lion’s share of the prize money. Tackling the abridged course, three pairs were able to lay down clear rounds in the jump-off, with Coyle’s time of 39.83 seconds earning the victory almost four full seconds faster than the second-place finishers, Conter and Stephex Stables’ Univers Du Vinnebus, who turned in a double clear trip in a time of 43.53 seconds.
As the first pair to return, Conter and Univers Du Vinnebus, an 11-year-old Selle Français stallion, rode to a time of 39.831 seconds to set the pace for the jump-off and following riders Mendoza, Cunniffe, and Rombauer all pulled rails trying to catch the duo’s quick time. Conter would eventually settle for second place, when last to take to the ring for the day, Coyle and CHS Krooze proved their prowess and mastered the course, leaving all the fences intact and slicing time off the clock with an efficient route that led them to trip the timers in 39.83 seconds to secure the top honors.
Behind Conter, third place was awarded to Thibault and her own Chacco Prime. Chacco Prime is an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding who she has had for two and a half years, and their strong partnership showed today as they finished the jump-off in a steady but clear 44.70 seconds to secure third place.
Thanks to a series of strong results over the course of the circuit, the overall series title was awarded to Cunniffe. She and her mount Baloucento 2, owned by Whipstick Farm Ltd., have had consistent placings throughout the whole U25 series to take home the series championship. Cunniffe was awarded a Hermès mini saddle, a $10,000 store credit, and a flight to Europe and back for her horse to a destination of her choosing.
WEF competition will continue at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in the twelfth and final week of the series, with the highlight event being Saturday Night Light’s $500,000 Rolex Grand Prix CSI5*, held in the International Ring.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Daniel Coyle – $50,000 Hermès U25 Series Final Grand Prix winner
On the U25 series:
“This is my last year in U25s. I think the series here has been incredible for me, and only now that it’s over for me I understand how good it was for me to have this format with the warm-up class, grand prix, and the semi-finals and finals. That’s a real help for whenever we’re older. [It’s good for] our horses obviously; my horse is from a friend in Ireland and I didn’t expect her to be at this level already, and that just proves that the U25 is a really good series. I’m very happy. I am 24 years old and have been doing this for four years now.”
On the first round:
“For me, the toughest thing today was that it was a long, long way around. It’s 96 seconds, the time allowed, and it’s not very often that that happens. That would tell you a lot of how you have to ride the course. That’s a long way around but the time was a little tight so if you’re chasing the time it becomes even longer and your horse runs out of energy, so that’s probably the biggest thing about today.”
On the jump-off:
“I didn’t see any of the jump-off, but I was told it was very fast. I was told my horse was very fast, and today I found that out. I mean, it’s like any jump-off. You just try to go as fast as you can and make sure you don’t get anything wrong. I had planned maybe seven [strides] to the last jump and Jeroen [Dubbeldam] says to me going in the gate, ‘if you don’t have to, don’t do it.’ When I landed I was doing it, and I didn’t and it paid off. Jeroen has been helping me for three years now.”
Zoe Conter – second place
On the U25 series:
“I am 20 years old and this is my second year doing the U25 series. It’s my second year here at WEF, last year I came here for the first time. This series has been really nice for me since I had an accident last year and I’ve been off for 6 months. It’s really nice for me to have the series to get going, and I could jump different horses. Like Daniel said, with the warm-up class, the semi-finals, and the finals, it really motivates you even more. The horse I was riding, I just got him at the beginning of the circuit so I just teamed up with him, and the series has helped me get to know him and really trust him. He jumped really great and I was really happy.”
On the first round:
“I also think when you walked the course it didn’t look so tough, but the fences individually were spread over the whole field. I thought, ‘okay, it’s a big class but it’s not that hard because there are not so many lines,’ but once you were riding it rode much much harder than it walked. The time allowed was really short and you had to canter from one fence to the other, so yeah it was a pretty tough first round.”
On her accident:
“I was at a show in Rome, a 5*, and I fell in a combination and I broke my neck. I had surgery and I was out for 6 months. I just started riding again in October, so this has been my first show. This has been great for me to get back going and showing every week with different horses. For me, my goal is this year to try and step up again a little bit to the 3* and 4* level and try and improve and get back to where I was last year.”
Alexanne – third place
On the U25 and her horse:
“I’m 21 years old and I’ve been doing it consistently for 2 years. We got my horse in June 2016, so a little over two years and a half. We got him from Europe as an 8-year-old just riding in the 1.30m, so we really saw him as a prospect for the bigger levels. The goal was for the 1.40m initially, and then he just kept on showing and going. I’ve been jumping up to the 1.50m with him and he’s just so brave, so scopey. We really have a strong partnership together, so to be able to be third today really shows that the work we’ve done with him and how we’ve trained really paid off.”
On the course:
“I really think the goal today with this course was the time allowed, that was really short and really tricky for some people. You did each jump and then galloped to the next one, and quick turns, because there weren’t that many lines in this course so time allowed was really a deciding factor.”
Alish Cunniffe – overall series winner
On the series:
“I am 21 years old and have been competing in this series for five years now, and it is amazing. It’s always been a goal of mine to be overall [champion]. I’ve always been taught that consistency is key, so being consistent and doing the same program that we do every time, trying not to let the nerves get to you, especially today, was a little nerve-wracking. I have a really special horse who loves all atmospheres, so I’m really lucky to have him. He’s my only horse so we take good care of him and make sure that he doesn’t have to show too often. It’s been great, it means a lot. We’re so lucky to have sponsors to sponsor this amazing event, and without them, we would all not be here and we wouldn’t get this amazing experience in the field, under the lights, these team events. As Daniel said, it will definitely help us later in life with pressure and things like that.”
Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults / R1 Time / R2 Faults / R2 Time
1. CHS Krooze / Daniel Coyle / IRL / Daniel Coyle / 0 / 90.60 / 0 / 39.83
2. Univers Du Vinnebus / Zoe Conter / BEL / Stephex Stables / 0 / 94.53 / 0 / 43.53
3. Chacco Prime / Alexanne Thibault / CAN / Alexanne Thibault / 0 / 89.99 / 0 / 44.70
4. Dollar Girl / Jessica Mendoza / GBR / Jessica Mendoza / 0 / 91.57 / 4 / 40.94
5. Baloucento 2 / Ailish Cunniffe / USA / Whipstick Farm LTD / 0 / 94.01 / 4 / 42.17
6. Emorkus RE / Ransome Rombauer / USA / Ransome Rombauer / 0 / 93.39 / 8 / 43.85
7. Thalie D’Anjou / Daisy Farish / USA / Jose Pablo Salgado / 1 / 96.07
8. Victorio 5 / Abigail McArdle / USA / Victorio Equine Group LLC / 1 / 96.92
9. Las Vegas / KC Van Arrem / USA / KC Van Arrem / 1 / 99.09
10.Coralissa / Sam Walker / CAN / Marbill Hill Farm / 4 / 89.91
11. Carola BH / Sophie Gochman / USA / Gochman Sport Horses LLC / 4 / 90.49
12. Dynamo / Claire Schreder / USA / Ceahorse LLC / 4 / 91.80