Ocala, Fla. – Feb. 16, 2018 – The fifth week of the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit marks the start of the brand new Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series in the North/Central America and Caribbean division. The new series brings a change to the week’s schedule as Friday highlighted the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix CSI5*, while the $450,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the USA CSIO5* will be held on Sunday. At the end of the day, it was Australia’s Rowan Willis who secured Friday’s win aboard his own Blue Movie.
Willis has only been competing internationally with Blue Movie since 2015, and has been planning to come to the U.S. to compete at the HITS Ocala Winter Circuit with the talented mare for 18 months. His strategic plan paid off as they claimed one of their biggest wins to date on Friday.
Friday’s grand prix competition saw 41 of the world’s top horses and athletes set out to jump clear over Marina Azevedo’s technical 13-fence first round course. The time-allowed played a significant role as many athletes faced time faults after their rounds including five combinations who jumped clear but incurred just 1 time fault. Only four pairs performed faultlessly to advance to the jump-off round.
Willis and the 11-year-old Anglo European Warmblood mare were the first to cross the finish line in the preliminary round fault-free and repeated their performance in the jump-off, kicking off the tiebreaking round with another clear effort in 47.46 seconds.
Coming off of their second place finish in the $220,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Wellington CSI3*-W at the Palm Beach Masters just two weeks ago, Laura Kraut (USA) and St. Bride’s Farm’s Confu followed, lowering the height of one fence for 4 faults in 49.25 seconds.
Next, Brazil’s Rodrigo Lambre and Velini, owned by Mario Oñate B., produced the second double-clear finish of the jump-off in 48.92 seconds to move into second place, but not for long.
The USA’s Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue, owned by LL Show Jumpers, LLC, concluded Friday’s $265,000 Longines Grand Prix CSI5*, leaving all of the rails intact and posting a time of 48.17 seconds to secure second place honors, while Lambre took third and Kraut finished in fourth place.
Since Australia was unable to field a team for Sunday’s Nations Cup, Friday’s win was even sweeter for Willis, who was the first to back Blue Movie, as he was still able to represent his country from the top of the podium and hear the Australian national anthem ring proudly throughout HITS Post Time Farm.
Earlier in the day, the Junior’s City of Ocala Grand Prix went to Carolina Villanueva of the USA and her own Zabel D. They jumped clear with 2 time faults in 90.60 seconds to claim first place honors. In addition, the Children’s City of Ocala Grand Prix also saw young Irish rider Daniel Kerins ride to victory with Elwood, owned by Glenbeigh Farm LLC. Following in his father, Darragh’s, footsteps and aiming to be a top show jumping athlete, the pair jumped double-clear in 32.56 seconds for the win.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Rowan Willis – $265,000 Longines Grand Prix CSI5* winner
On Friday’s course:
“It was a great course and asked a lot of questions. I was lucky to have a great horse to help me out.”
On Blue Movie:
“I broke her in. She’s always been quite feisty. I jumped her right from the beginning. I’ve always believed in her. She had a great year last year. I’m just taking my time with her. I’ve been planning to come over here for 18 months or so and it worked out!”
On coming to compete in the U.S. at HITS:
“It’s much nicer weather here. It’s lovely — a great arena and a great show. Tom does a great job. It’s a fantastic place to jump the horses. I think my horse was super and all of the horses jumped really well. What better place to be? I think we’ll take a shot at the $1 million class, maybe one or two of those. I’ll stay a little longer now and try and be a little faster.”
Devin Ryan – Second place
On Friday’s course:
“I think right from the beginning today, time was the biggest question of the whole course and rails fell everywhere. That’s a great sign of a good course designer. It is a beautiful venue and a great show. The horses jump great on the footing here — everyone loves jumping here at HITS. It was a great day.”
On his plan for Eddie Blue for 2018:
“Our main goal this year is qualifying for the World Cup Finals in Paris so hopefully I get enough points to get me there. We have one more shot at Live Oak International. We have one more 5* at WEF and maybe a national class here just to keep the rust from building up in his pipes before we hopefully head overseas. We’ll see what happens. We’ll reassess after World Cup Finals to see what else is in store for us.”
On Eddie Blue’s success:
“It’s always a great feeling to be able to bring a horse up through the levels. I knew as a 5-year-old, once I brought him over to the States, that he was a special horse. I told his owners, ‘This horse is a freak of nature.’ So what’s in store for him? Obviously, he has all of the talent you could want in the sport. We’re just keeping him happy, healthy and not overdoing it. Hopefully I can keep him together and we can do great things together in the future. I plan on holding on to him and giving him a happy retirement one day.”
Rodrigo Lambre – Third place
On Friday’s course:
“This was a great course. It’s always a pleasure to ride [Marina’s] courses. I was lucky to be near the end so I could look where to make up time. I think when you’re first, and you have the skills, you can get caught in the big race. I have the pleasure of riding this amazing horse and I’m very happy.”
“We competed in our first show together in December. I’m just making the plan right now as I go. I’m doing the Nations Cup with another horse on Sunday and then looking forward to the World Equestrian Games.”
Marina Azevedo – Course designer
On the outcome of Friday’s grand prix:
“It was a little bit different this year because it is the first time we’ve had the grand prix before the Nations Cup. It’s big money. I’m happy with the results. Maybe the time-allowed could’ve been a little bit longer; it was tight. I’m happy — I think we had a good start to the weekend.”
Tom Struzzieri – President and CEO of HITS
On the outcome of Friday’s grand prix:
“It’s quite fortunate that this young man from Australia is our winner today. The Australian team had a little bit of a misfortune here. Their team kind of fell apart at the last minute due to an unforeseen situation so how lucky were we that the Longines grand prix was won by an Australian? We can send the Australians home with a little bit of a smile anyway. They don’t get to compete in the team competition, but they still get to take home one of our biggest prizes. We’re humbled here at HITS and thrilled to have this competition here.”
$265,000 Longines Grand Prix CSI5*:
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults / R2 Faults / Time
1. Blue Movie / Rowan Willis / AUS / Rowan Willis / 0 / 0 / 47.46
2. Eddie Blue / Devin Ryan / USA / LL Show Jumpers, LLC / 0 / 0 / 48.17
3. Velini / Rodrigo Lambre / BRA / Mario Oñate B. / 0 / 0 / 48.92
4. Confu / Laura Kraut / USA / St. Bride’s Farm / 0 / 4 / 49.25
5. Ace / Alison Robitaille / USA / Bertram and Diana Firestone / 1 / 74.44
6. Clenur / Cian O’Connor / IRL / Armin Himmereich / 1 / 75.06
7. Cool Hand Luke / Markus Beerbaum / GER / Artemis Equestrian Farm LLC + Michaels and Beerbaum GmbH / 1 / 75.54
8. Fedor / Scott Keach / AUS / Scott Keach and Southern Cross Equestrian, LLC / 1 / 76.84
9. Ares / Nicolas Pizarro / MEX / Ma. Elena Gomez / 1 / 77.12
10. Fine Lady / Eric Lamaze / CAN / Artisan Farms LLC and Torrey Pines Stable Inc. / 4 / 69.75
11. Babylotte / Yuri Mansur / BRA / Euro Stables and Yuri Mansur / 4 / 71.48
12. HH Gigi’s Girl / McLain Ward / USA / Double H Farm / 4 / 71.75