Francis Derwin Claims Overall BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series Title

March 17. 2024

Rising talent soaked up the spotlight on the Sunday afternoon, the final day of Horseware Ireland sponsored Week 10 at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL. The BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series concluded competition in the International Arena with the highly anticipated $50,000 BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series Final after four weeks of U25 competition.  

Francis Derwin, Ansgar Holtgers Jr. and Tom Wachman take season titles, presented by Lisa Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of BrainJuice. Photo © Sportfot

Nineteen-year-old Baylee McKeever (USA) and her own Formidable topped the field in the season finale, while Ireland’s Francis Derwin rode away with the series title after consistent results all season on Elien.

Only two fault-free efforts in the first round set the stage for a head-to-head duel between McKeever and Carlee McCutcheon (USA) riding Coco Mercedes. McKeever laid down a tough time to beat before McCutcheon pulled a rail in final draw to settle for second.

Francis Derwin & Elien. Photo © Sportfot

“My horse is always reliable and we’ve built a really strong partnership over the last two years,” said McKeever of the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Carambole x LBH Calvados) she rides under the tutelage of Mclain Ward. “She’ll forever be one of my favorites and she felt on top form today. Thankfully, I have a team behind me that is able to keep her prepared while I’m in school and had her perfect today.”

McKeever is a communications major at Auburn University in Alabama where she also competes on the division 1 equestrian team.

“We have so much trust in each other,” concluded McKeever of Formidable, a horse found by Ward. “She underwent colic surgery several years ago and I brought her back from that which built our relationship.”

Ansgar Holtgers Jr. finished third aboard Good Morning B in the final, and second in the overall standings.

Baylee McKeever & Formidable. Photo © Sportfot

Derwin’s top-ten finish was enough to hold onto his lead in the series standings and take the overall title. A shake-up in the season standing came when Tom Wachman’s (IRL) sixth-place results in the irons of Obora’s Laura on Sunday moved him from fifth onto the podium in third overall.

Of the season he’s had, Derwin said, “It makes it easier to do well when you have an incredible horse. I started riding Elien when I arrived here [from Ireland] in November. She was clear in all the grand prix except for an unlucky rail today.”

Elien is a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Carambole x Mermus R) owned by Darragh Kenny’s Oakland Ventures. Derwin came to Wellington last year to ride under Kenny and has returned this season for further experience in the American market.

Baylee McKeever & Formidable are presented as winners of the $50,000 BrainJuice U25 Series Final Grand Prix by Lisa Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of BrainJuice. Photo © Sportfot

“This is my third year in the Under 25 [division] and the competition is very good here. This is up there with some of the best wins of my career,” he concluded.

As the overall series winner, Derwin received a customized electric bike from BrainJuice and an invitation to compete in Europe with equine flight expenses covered by the Dutta Corp.

“We came in with high expectations and they blew them away. I love that we can be a part of the next generation of the best riders in the world,” said Lisa Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of BrainJuice. “You saw many of them build confidence over the season – these riders we saw in January are not the same as the ones we see now in almost April. It was also extremely competitive. The U25 sounds like a group of younger riders but it is really difficult and these are on two, three, four-star level. For our brand, we love being associated with riders that are focused. These young people are hyper focused on their careers and committed to the sport.”

Francis Derwin accepting his prize of a customized electric bike from BrainJuice. Photo © Sportfot

Timmy Dutta was on hand to congratulate Derwin on the opportunity to compete at any show in Europe this summer, saying, “For a young athlete, this is an opportunity to be a part of top sport in the summer and we are thrilled to be able to get them there. Francis showed that he’s a true up-and-coming athlete this season and hopefully he can go to Europe and continue that. This is the next generation of the sport and you saw Natalie Dean, who is at the end of her U25 career, today competing and winning at the top international level. For us to support these riders on their way is very important.”

BrainJuice is the number-one natural daily brain supplement, and can be found at  Wellington International concessions, or online at www.BrainJuice.me.

Francis Derwin with Timmy Dutta and Oliver Firestone of the Dutta Corp. Photo © Sportfot

Natalie Dean Nabs $62,500 Hermés 1.50m Jumper Classic with Oasis Van De Bucxtale

A large field of 52 horse-and-rider combinations contested Oscar Soberon’s (USA) final international track of WEF 10, but Natalie Dean (USA) bested the rest. An international field of riders brought their A-games in the $62,500 Hermés 1.50m Jumper Classic as 21 pairs advanced to the short course. The lead changed hands as the riders put the pedal to the metal and the time to beat got tighter. Late in the starting order, Dean had a prime position and soared into the lead with a time of 39.73 seconds. 

Natalie Dean & Oasis Van De Bucxtale, winners of the $62,500 Hermés 1.50m Jumper Classic. Photo © Sportfot

The U.S. national anthem rang out as Dean led off the well-rounded victory gallop with Marigold Sporthorses, LLC’s ten-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Oasis Van De Bucxtale (Quinn vd Heffinck x Skippy II). She has been forming a partnership with the mare for the better part of the year, but the victory is the first big win for them as a team. 

“I got her at the beginning of last year and we’ve been building her up,” explained Dean, who trains with world no. 2 Ben Maher (GBR). “She’s very careful and brave, and for a small horse she has a huge stride which covers a lot of ground. In this jump-off that suited her because there was a lot of galloping and not a lot of turning.” 

For Dean, who landed the pinnacle position in the large field of jump-off contenders, the winning secret was leaving it all on the field.

Natalie Dean & Oasis Van De Bucxtale are presented as winners of the $62,500 Hermés 1.50m Jumper Classic. Photo © Sportfot

“To be honest, this kind of jump-off is almost easier because you just have to go as fast as you can,” she said. “I got the luck of the draw to go last and I did get to see what everyone was doing, but really the only thing to do in a field that big is to go full out.

“I think this series is really great for developing young or less experienced horses,” she added. “Generally in these jump-offs there are quite a few clear, so you can really test them and train them to go fast.” 

Fractions of a second off the leading time, Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts laid down a fault-free effort in 39.98 seconds partnered with Team Philippaert’s nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, Pandora Van De Kruishoeve (Cidane x Elvis ter Putte). Tom Wachman (IRL) rounded out the winner’s circle in a time of 40.81 seconds on Coolmore Showjumping’s 15-year-old Italian Sport Horse gelding, Lazzaro Delle Schiave (Acodetto 2 x Gluecksgriff). 

Ryan Kenny and True Cassini Take Top Call in Horseware Ireland Adult Amateur Hunter

The amateur hunters wrapped up their tenth week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) on Sunday with the Horseware Ireland Adult Amateur Hunter 18-35 division. Out of a competitive field, it was Ryan Kenny of Alpharetta, GA, and True Cassini, owned by Kelly Sims, who remained consistent and victorious. The pair claimed the top tri-color with two scores of 87, an 87.5 and a win in the under saddle. 

Ryan Kenny & True Cassini, champions of the Horseware Ireland Adult Amateur Hunter 18-35 division. Photo © Sportfot

The 11-year-old gelding, True Cassini, has taken his success across multiple hunter divisions throughout the 2024 season. Kenny’s trainer, Michael Britt-Leon, took top-three placings with Cassini during World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) week in the 3’6” Green Hunter division, while the gelding’s owner, Kelly Sims, has consistently placed in the ribbons all season, including a few wins in the 50+ section of the Adult Amateur Hunters. 

“True Cassini aka ‘Bubbles’ is owned by a good friend of mine, Kelly Sims. I’ve had the pleasure of riding him at the indoor circuits as well as these past two weeks in Wellington. He’s one of my favorite horses to ride,” said Kenny. “We have been fortunate to have a lot of success together in the limited time I’ve gotten to show him. It’s a real honor to ride any of Kelly’s horses. 

“My personal goals for this WEF season was to just enjoy the winter circuit here,” said Kenny. 

As a full-time student at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Kenny has balanced his time this season between the SCAD Equestrian Team, the classroom and the arenas here at WEF. “With being away at college, I’ve had limited time to show and practice so I’m just excited for the weeks I get to come show.” 

Following Kenny in the week-end results, Lexi Manounis of Greenwich, CT, and her own Forsini were Reserve Champions after taking third in the under saddle and topping an over-fences class with a high score of 90. 

As for the rest of season, Kenny hopes to win the Bruno Delegrance Palm Beach Medal Final during WEF 12, an event he won during the 2023 season.

Competition returns to all arenas on Wednesday, March 20, for the penultimate week of the WEF 2024 season. For the full WEF 11 schedule, click HERE.