Wellington, Fla. – Jan. 20, 2019 – The second week of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded on Sunday afternoon with the first $25,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix of the season kicking off the popular series. Despite a challenging course and inclement weather, Eugenio Garza Pérez (MEX) and El Milagro’s Caracas rose to the occasion to emerge victorious and gain valuable points towards the $50,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix Series Final, which will take place on Sunday, March 24 during the eleventh week of WEF at the Stadium Derby Field.
While Garza Pérez has been a strong competitor in the U25 division for the last five years, his partnership with Caracas is fairly new as he recently acquired the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding at the end of the summer. The combination of Garza Pérez’s talent paired with Caracas’ carefulness and speed ultimately secured the new team the victory.
After winning the $15,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame (SJHOF) High Amateur-Owner Classic with Caracas during WEF Week One, Garza Pérez decided to showcase the gelding’s skills once again on Sunday in the International Arena’s opening class, which certainly paid off.
Riders took on course designer Oscar Sobero’s demanding track and vied to have a clear round in the time-allowed of 74 seconds, but the starting lineup of 42 riders was quickly whittled down to a returning field of just six as many athletes accrued an unfortunate rail or time fault.
Along with Garza Pérez, the short course welcomed back Caitlin Creel (USA), Annabel Revers (USA), Samantha Cohen (USA), Manuel Fernandez Hache (DOM) and Ailish Cunniffe (USA).
As the final pair to go in the jump-off, Garza Pérez used his mount’s natural footspeed to surpass his competitors’ times, stopping the clock in a mere 38.075 seconds to take the lead ahead of second place finisher Cunniffee and Whipstick Farm’s Baloucento 2, who finished in 38.405 seconds. Fernandez Hache galloped through the timers in just 41.97 seconds to capture the third place ribbon aboard Divin Du Haras Des Barrages, owned by Aristides Fernandez Zucco.
Sunday’s competition proved that what these young riders lack in age is surely made up for in talent. The next part of the Hermès U25 series will be the $25,000 Hermès U25 Team event, which is set to take place on Friday, February 1 starting at 4 p.m. at the Stadium.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Eugenio Garza Pérez – $25,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix winner
“We got him at the end of the summer — October was my first show with him. He’s a relatively new horse. He’s a real winner and he’s extremely careful, brave and just an all-around nice horse. I’m really lucky to have him. Last week we jumped the highs with him and we thought he jumped great so we thought it would be a nice step up for him to do the U25 and he handled it really well. We got a little bit lucky with the weather that we went towards the end and we didn’t get a rain storm. It all worked out for us.”
On the jump-off:
“I think Caracas is a really fast horse, he covers a lot of ground. I saw Ailish go — we’ve gone up against each other a lot of times and she’s really fast — so I knew we had to give it our best. Caracas was there with me every step of the way and we had a good run.”
On the U25 series:
“I have been doing the series for five years and it’s an amazing series, we’re really thankful to Hermès for it. It’s a great series to step up between the highs and the international classes. It’s a very competitive class and very hard competition.”
Ailish Cunniffe – $25,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix second place finisher
On competing Baloucento 2 in the U25 series:
“I’m still in school and I’m a full-time student. I only come here every other weekend so there’s no point in moving up when I can’t miss Thursdays to do the WEF Challenge Cup and qualifiers. For now, we’re sticking with this division and he seems to like it a lot.”
On the U25 series:
“I’ve been doing the series for four years now. It’s an amazing series and it’s a really good step in between the high amateurs or high juniors and doing the upper-level classes against really top riders, especially here in Florida. I love that we get to go under the lights next week and then after that we get to go in the field. The horses don’t get bored by being in the same ring all the time. It also gives us good experience for shows during the summer when you have to go in fields.”
Manuel Fernandez Hache – $25,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix third place finisher
On Divin Du Haras Des Barrages:
“He’s actually a new horse for me, we got him last October. We don’t know each other as well so we’re trying to get to know each other a little bit. We did a few classes in December before I went back home for the holidays and we just got back and this is our first time out. I think we’re getting to know each other a lot more and I think he’s a very competitive horse. We will see how far we can get and just keep moving up.”
On the U25 series:
“I’ve been doing the series for three years, and this is my last [year]. Thank you to Hermès for being the sponsor and for supporting the sport for younger people. I think it’s a very good place for us to all try to move up and learn about the different atmospheres for jumping international classes. We all feel very comfortable. It’s a little bit lower level but still very competitive and interesting and we get a better look at what’s to come as we progress.”
$25,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix:
Place / Horse / Rider / R1 Faults / Time / R2 Faults / Time
1. Caracas / Eugenio Garza Pérez / 0 / 74.57 / 0 / 38.075
2. Baloucento 2 / Ailish Cunniffe / 0 / 74.14 / 0 / 38.405
3. Divin Du Haras Des Barrages / Manuel Fernandez Hache / 0 / 73.33 / 0 / 41.97
4. Carmen / Samantha Cohen / 0 / 73.55 / 4 / 39.503
5. Ilias / Annabel Revers / 0 / 75.92 / 4 / 41.208
6. Dynamis KC / Caitlin Creel / 0 / 76.57 / RT
7. For Serrano SR / Anna Beth Athey / 1 / 80
8. Cashew CR / Alex Matz / 4 / 72.12
9. Copain Z / Cormac Hanley / 4 / 72.57
10. Hilgarie / Sydney Shulman / 4 / 73.55
11. Armageddon / Tanner Korotkin / 4 / 74.13
12. Aletta / Maria Brugal / 4 / 74.66