Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 1, 2019 – The $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Team Event was the highlight of Friday night at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), held in the International Ring at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) showgrounds. Just one of many classes in the U25 series held during WEF 2019, Friday had no shortage of tight competition and team camaraderie. Thirty-seven riders contested the first round over a course set at 1.45m, but ultimately it was the PonyApp team who came out on top, maintaining the lowest score over two rounds of competition.
Held in the same format as a Nations Cup, the 37 riders were split into 10 teams, with six of those teams returning for round two. Teams were made up of three or four riders, and those with four had the luxury of utilizing a drop score from the first round to hopefully put them in the top six for round two. Round one saw 13 clear rides, with six riders picking up time faults and many others collecting just one rail.
Team Sweet Oak/Whipstick held first place after round one on a perfect score of zero, while teams Leftovers, PonyApp and Missy’s Misfits all sat on a score of four. JR Show Stables made it in on a score of five, and John’s Jumpers rounded out the top six with a score of eight. Jumping the same track in round two, teams returned in reverse order to jump for the win.
The six teams that returned were able to improve upon their mistakes from round one, with many riders who had 4 faults in the first round going clear in the second round. Most notably for team PonyApp was Caitlin Creel (USA), who was able to come back in round two and put in a clear effort aboard her own mount Dynamis KC, helping her team secure the win.
Also a part of the winning team was Claire McKean (USA) aboard her own Chloe, Carlos Hank Guerreiro (MEX) riding H5 Quantador 3, owned by H5 Stables, and Eugenio Garza Pérez (MEX) aboard El Milagro’s Caracas. Taking second place was team Sweet Oak/Whipstick, made up of teammates Ailish Cunniffe (USA), Kelly Arani (USA), Anna Beth Athey (USA) and Kaely Tomeu (USA). Coming in third was the JR Show Stables group consisting of Jennifer Gates (USA), Helen Graves (USA) and David Oberkircher (USA).
The PonyApp, spearheaded by U.S. Olympian Lucy Davis, chose eight riders in the U25 division to be ambassadors, and Friday night’s winning team made up half of them. A good start to the season, they look to continue this success as the U25 series carries on through Week Twelve of WEF.
Competition at WEF continues through Sunday, Feb. 3, with the popular Great Charity Challenge set to take place on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Team PonyApp – $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Team Event winners (Eugenio Garza, Claire McKean, Caitlin Creel, Carlos Hank Guerreiro)
On their experience in the U25 series
Garza Pérez – “I’m 22 years old and I’ve been doing the U25 for about five years. This is my fourth team event and it’s always a fun night.”
McKean – “I’m 20 years old and I’ve been doing the U25 for about four years and this is my third team event. I think it’s a great class to get used to bigger stuff and the bigger pressure that comes from it.”
Creel – “I’m 22 and this is my first team event and my second year doing U25. It didn’t go quite my way but I appreciate my teammates for stepping it up!”
Hank Guerreiro – “I’m 18 years old and this is my third year doing the U25. This is one of my favorite classes of the whole season because it’s good experience to be on a Nations Cup team and bonding with your teammates. It’s a cool class.”
On their horses
Hank Guerreiro – “[H5 Quantador 3] is a horse that I’ve had since he was 7 years old. He actually did this same event last year and it didn’t go so well but this year he was a lot more experienced and he came in very relaxed. I was up first so I didn’t really get to watch any of my other teammates, but we had a good, clear round. In the second round, he actually jumped a bit better so I’m really happy with him and his double-clear.”
Creel – “I rode [Dynamis KC]; I’ve had him for about six months now. He has only been doing the jumpers for about a year. He was doing the Children’s Hunters up until then so he’s very green with all of this. He had a bit of a green moment tonight but I was very proud of him. I really trust him and I knew that it was a green moment. My trainer, Quentin Judge, is great and gave me a lot of confidence. He came out in the second round and really gave it a good go. We got a little tired at the end, but it was a great experience. It was both of our first times jumping under the lights and in a small ring. He’s a big horse and I’m really looking forward to the future with him.”
On adjusting to a new venue:
McKean – “My horse is very experienced and she actually goes better in a little bit of a smaller setting. It would actually be harder for her to jump on the grass than it would be to jump here so it was kind of a perfect set-up for her. She jumped very well and I was really pleased with her.”
Garza Pérez – “It’s a great ring. It’s a bit of a change of scenery from the [Winter Equestrian Festival], you feel like you’re in Europe a bit. It’s a smaller ring and everything is fast but it’s really fun to ride in. It’s great to have a change of venue and it’s great for the horses and us.”
On forming the PonyApp team:
Creel – “This team was actually formed from a bunch of U25 ambassadors for the PonyApp, who hand-selected eight of the best under 25 riders. Obviously we came out with a really good result tonight and that will be fun to continue on. That’s how we all came together and it worked out very well!”