Caroline Mawhinney and Stella Levista Repeat Winning History in $32,000 BrainJuice U25 Semi-Final Grand Prix

March 1. 2024

The BrainJuice Under 25 series returned to Wellington International during Week 8 of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Under the lights of the International Arena, the penultimate competition of the series welcomed fifty of the season’s best young riders to the $32,000 BrainJuice U25 Semi-Final Grand Prix. The course tested the young riders once again ahead of the series final to be held during WEF 10. 

The track, designed by USA’s Steve Stephens and Nicholas Granat, proved difficult with only seven returning for the jump-off. However, going clear was a common theme across the jump-off with six of the seven riders not touching a rail in the race for the win. Coming down to speed, it was Caroline Mawhinney (USA) and her own Stella Levista who bested the rest.

Caroline Mawhinney & Stella Levista, winners of the $32,000 BrainJuice U25 Semi-Final Grand Prix. Photo © Sportfot

Coming in to a time to beat of 34.99 seconds, set by third-place finisher Tom Wachman (IRL) and Obora’s Laura (Luidam x Non Stop), owned by Coolmore Showjumping, Mawhinney quickly knocked more than a second off, finishing in 33.11 seconds. 

“I've had her for over four years now and she truly is incredible. I couldn't ask for a better horse. She's really small and a little crazy, but has the biggest heart in the world,” said Mawhinney of the 16-year-old mare by Satisfaction FRH x Levisto. “She's given me so many achievements. She's really made me the rider that I am and I owe her everything.”

At the age of 18, Mawhinney has already made her mark on the BrainJuice U25 series. Entering her first season at the age of 15, Mawhinney and Stella Levista repeated history after also winning the same semi-final back in 2022. 

Caroline Mawhinney & Stella Levista are presented as winners of the $32,000 BrainJuice U25 Semi-Final Grand Prix by Lisa Ellis, CEO and CMO of BrainJuice. Photo © Sportfot

“It's really an amazing stepping point for a lot of young riders,” said Mawhinney. “The High junior-amateur classics are big enough but the U25 is definitely that next level, but not quite that two star level. It's a nice in-between and it teaches riders a lot. It starts to get you familiar with open water, those more technical courses and it's an important stepping stone that has been vital for me in my career and stepping up to the bigger levels.” 

Going into the jump-off, Mawhinney had full trust in her mare’s need for speed, giving her the title ‘small but mighty.’ “I know she's naturally fast. She has a bit of a left shift, so I knew I wanted to watch out for that. She has a bit of a smaller stride so I tried to be tight in places that I could and let her go and use her ground speed,” said Mawhinney. “She is so careful, that I just let her go. The seven stride home was really long, kind of closed my eyes but she's incredible and made it work.” 

Francis Derwin & Elien. Photo © Sportfot

Taking second behind Mawhinney was Francis Derwin (IRL) and Elien (Carambole x Mermus R), owned by Oakland Ventures LLC.  The pair came in close behind the lead, finishing in a clear 33.38 seconds, bumping Wachman into third. 

Mawhinney hopes to return for the BrainJuice U25 Series Final with her mighty mare during WEF 10 in the International Arena. 

Tom Wachman & Obora’s Laura. Photo © Sportfot

Tom Wachman and Cathalina S Speed to Blue in $32,000 Dodd Technologies CSIO4* 1.45m

Nations Cup week at WEF continued on Friday with the $32,000 Dodd Technologies CSIO4* 1.45m. Thirty-eight riders took to the speed track with young Irishman and U25 star, Tom Wachman, taking the win aboard Cathalina S (Salt N Pepa S x Sandro), owned by Coolmore Showjumping. The pair rode to a time of 58.37 seconds for the win. 

Going later in the order, Wachman just caught the time-to-beat of 58.49 seconds, set by runner-up Jad Dana (LBN), and Fleur-De-Lis’ Cherie (Clarimo x Lancer II), owned by The Cherie Group. 

Tom Wachman & Cathalina S, winners of the $32,000 Dodd Technologies CSIO4* 1.45m. Photo © Sportfot

“I think I was the only one in the class to do five to the double of verticals,” said Wachman, 19. “She [Cathalina S] has a huge stride and that's one of the big things for her, it's how she can be very quick in the speed classes. I think that's where I probably won.

“I started riding her here in Wellington last January,” said Wachman of the 15-year-old mare. “She won a 1.50m class in Ocala two weeks ago, and she nearly won the WEF yesterday; she's super.” 

Cathalina S carried Wachman to team gold and individual silver at the FEI Youth European Show Jumping Championships in 2023.

Tom Wachman & Cathalina S are presented as winners of the $32,000 Dodd Technologies CSIO4* 1.45m by Mark Dodd, CEO of Dodd Technologies, Inc. Photo © Sportfot

Wachman will be the reserve rider for Team Ireland in the CSIO4* Nations Cup, presented by Florida Coast Equipment, this week. “I'm delighted to be the fifth rider here for the team, it's a great experience to jump these classes,” explained Wachman. “It's a great experience just to be around the good Irish lads here and learn a lot from them.”

Following Wachman and Dana on the podium was Karima Perez Nunez (MEX) and her own Felicie De Coquerie (Ivresse De Coquerie x Quiniou). The pair took third in 58.99 seconds. 

As for Wachman, he will return to the arena, representing Ireland in Sunday’s $200,000 JTWG CSIO4* Grand Prix, atop his mount Berlux Z.