Wellington, Fla. – March 2, 2018 – Nations Cup weekend during Week Eight of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) kicked off on Friday evening with the $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Semi Final. The event was hosted under the lights in the International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Forty-seven horse-and-rider combinations from over 10 different countries returned for the fourth week of under 25 competition in preparation for the U25 final. Week Two winner Lacey Gilbertson dashed through the timers in a blazing pace yet again to claim the top prize after only seven horses returned for the jump-off.
The 16-jump course saw only seven totally fault-free rounds, which left 40 riders with fences down or refusals. With a time-allowed of 79 seconds, riders were able to take the clock but the pressure of being under the lights took a toll as seven combinations were eliminated or disqualified due to refusals, while a majority of competitors suffered downed rails in the last line consisting of a triple combination with a long gallop to the final oxer. Of the seven athletes to make the jump-off, only three completed both rounds fault-free. The seven returning competitors consisted of Gilbertson, Lucas Porter, Jad Dana, Daniel Coyle, Ailish Cunniffe, Sydney Shulman and Ransome Rombauer.
Cunniffe was the first to return in the jump-off round and set what seemed to be an uncatchable pace in a blazing 41.707 seconds with her partner Baloucento 2. Cunniffe and the Whipstick Farm LTD.’s 13-year-old Oldenburg (Baloubet du Rouet–Centina Z) gelding moved up in the overall rankings from their previous place following the $25,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix during Week Six, where they found themselves in third.
Cunniffe’s quick pace remained untouchable time and time again until the second to last athlete, Gilbertson, entered the ring. Gilbertson and Baloppi, an 11-year-old Danish Warmblood (Balou Du Rouet–La Loia) mare, owned by Seabrook LLC, are known for their incredible pace across the ground. The pair finished second ahead of Cunniffe and behind Madison Goetzmann in the Week Six under 25 event in addition to their victory during Week Two. Gilbertson laid down a flawless round and, even after missing one inside turn, managed to overtake Cunniffe in a time of 40.211 seconds.
New to the U25 events, U.S. athlete Rombauer piloted her self-owned 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Quasimodo VD Molendreef–Worka R) gelding to an impressive 41.979 seconds, and with the only other clear round of the jump-off, managed to secure the third place title.
Competition under the lights at PBIEC will continue on Saturday evening with the highly anticipated $150,000 Nation’s Cup CSIO4*.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE:
Lacey Gilbertson— $25,000 Hermes Under 25 Grand Prix Semi-final Winner
“To be honest I can’t really praise her enough, she’s the most magnificent animal in the entire world. She’s incredibly brave, very fast and careful. She has a lot of heart, and she’s good in all different rings. She’s really just amazing.”
On her jump-off:
“Ailish is super fast so I knew I was going to have to run her a bit if I wanted to win. I actually missed one of the inside turns but thankfully my horse is very quick across the ground so she covered it okay and luckily it was just barely faster.”
Ailish Cunniffe – Second place
On her jump-off:
“Going into the jump-off, my plan was to put the pressure on. You don’t always know the striding or how fast everyone else will go so you basically have to go as neat and fast as you can without making any mistakes to put pressure on the rest of the competitors. Balou is really good at that because he’s a naturally fast horse so I was able to keep going a bit.”
Ransome Rombauer – Third place
On Emorkus RE:
“ This is a new horse for me and I’m new to the U25 events. I got him at Spruce Meadows from Eric Lamaze. Spencer Smith helped me find him. This was our first time under the lights for both us and he was amazing, I couldn’t have asked for better. I was a little nervous going in the ring because I didn’t know how he was going to react to the open water and a couple of other things but he really helped me fight and held my hand during the whole course.”
$25,000 Hermes Under 25 Grand Prix Semi-Final
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / R2 Faults | Time
1.Baloppi / Lacey Gilbertson / USA / 0 | 75.79 / 0 | 40.211
2.Baloucento 2 / Ailish Cunniffe / USA / 0 | 75.81 / 0 | 41.707
3.Emorkus RE / Ransome Rombauer / USA / 0 | 78.81 / 0 | 41.979
4.Villamoura / Sydney Shulman / USA / 0 | 75.88 / 4 | 39.24
5.B Once Z / Lucas Porter / USA / 0 | 77.07 / 4 | 39.259
6.Farona / Daniel Coyle / IRL / 0 | 78.04 / 4 | 42.232
7.Carnaval / Jad Dana / LBN / 0 | 78.14 / 4 | 45.624
8.Upper / David Oberkircher / USA / 4 | 75.87
9.Durosa W / Mckayla Langmeier / USA / 4 | 75.89
10.Julio VH Elzenhout / Giavanna Rinaldi / USA / 4 | 77.09
11.Al Capone / Andres Azcarraga / MEX / 4 | 78.17
12.Prestigious / Madison Goetzmann / USA / 4 | 78.55
For a full list of results, click here.