Jordan Coyle Goes For Gold in $150,000 Hermès 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final

March 23. 2024

Twelve weeks of 1.50m competition came to a peak on Saturday evening in the $150,000 Hermès CSI4* 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final during the penultimate week of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) at Wellington International. From a field bursting with talent and international accolades, Ireland’s Jordan Coyle sealed the deal with For Gold from a 13-horse jump-off with less than a second to spare.

Forty-four qualified entries moved forward to the Hermès Final during the IDA Development sponsored WEF 11 over courses designed by Andy Christiansen (ECU). Coyle and For Gold, a 13-year-old Holsteiner gelding (For Fashion x Heraldik), owned by Falkirk Farm, returned halfway through the short course and posted a difficult time to beat. 

Jordan Coyle & For Gold, winners of the $150,000 Hermès CSI4* 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final. Photo © Sportfot

“Winning anything here [at WEF] is pretty good. To be honest, that was one of the only times I ever went into the arena in a big competition and felt like I was one of the favorites,” said Coyle. “He felt very fast tonight, and I have come to know him very well. 

“I thought Conor [Swail] was for sure going to beat me going to that last jump,” continued Coyle with a laugh. “He’s beat me plenty before, but luckily today it's been the other way around. This is the first Saturday night that I've won. I've been trying for a while, so it's pretty nice.”

Fellow Irishman Conor Swail traveled from California to finish his winter season in Wellington and returned last in the jump-off on Gamble for owner Asta Torokvei. He put the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding’s massive stride to good use, crossing the timers in 39.84 seconds. The effort was strong, but not enough to beat Coyle’s time of 39.69 seconds. 

Jordan Coyle & For Gold are presented as winners of the $150,000 Hermès CSI4* 1.50m Championship Jumper Series Final by Diane Mahady, President of Hermès US. Photo © Sportfot

“What Gamble does better than most horses is he turns extremely well, and I knew I was able to get inside that vertical after the double of verticals,” said Swail. “Everything came up well for me. WEF is where all the high level competition is and if you're coming here and winning anything above 1.50m, you've really earned it. I'm glad that I'm able to come and show everybody that I am competitive.”

Conor Swail & Gamble. Photo © Sportfot

Rounding out the podium Abigail Mc Ardle (USA) stopped the clock in 40.95 seconds aboard Olympia van het Eikenhof (Elvis Ter Putte x Toulon). She found the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare during her eight-year-old year after the mount drew attention under the direction of an amateur in the U.S. 

“I'm very happy to be here in this company,” said Mc Ardle, who is based in Wellington this season with a barn of 30 horses ranging from her international mounts to client-owned jumpers. “This is our first night class. We have taken it pretty slow, but she has a great brain, a lot of scope and is easy; everything you want in the horse.” 

Abigail Mc Ardle & Olympia van het Eikenhof. Photo © Sportfot

The 2024 Hermès 1.50m Championship Jumper Series took place weekly throughout WEF. Taking the overall title after consistent results throughout the season, Canada’s Erynn Ballard was awarded a $10,000 Hermès store credit and a bespoke Hermès horse rug.

Canada’s Erynn Ballard won the Hermès 1.50m Championship Jumper Series, accepted on her behalf by Allison Robitaille from Diane Mahady, President of Hermès US. Photo © Sportfot

Earlier in the evening, several special awards were presented as the 2024 WEF season nears its end. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to course designer Steve Stephens.

The David E. Burton Jr. Perpetual Trophy for Extraordinary Service was presented to dedicated Wellington International course designer Andy Christiansen. 

The Carly Anthony Showjumping Junior Sportsmanship Award, given in memory of Candida C. Forstmann, was presented by Carly Anthony to 15-year-old RJ Maya.

Nicky Galligan and VDL Nikita Van De Leeuwerk Give It Their All in BrainJava CSI2* Grand Prix

Ahead of ‘Saturday Night Lights,’ two-star riders took to the International Arena on Saturday afternoon for the BrainJava CSI2* Grand Prix. Forty-five riders attacked the Andy Christiansen (ECU) designed course, with eight riders returning for the short course. 

Of the returning group, it was Nicky Galligan (IRL) and VDL Nikita van de Leeuwerk, owned by the Santa Rosa Group, who sped to the grand prix win. The win came just in time for the pair’s one-year anniversary. They jumped double-clear and claimed the win with a time of 38.09 seconds. 

Nicky Galligan & VDL Nikita van de Leeuwerk, winners of the $62,500 BrainJava CSI2* Grand Prix. Photo © Sportfot

“We bought her as a project horse this time last year, actually, here in Wellington. We've gotten to know each other over the course of the year and really enjoyed the benefit of a season here and gotten to work on the small things being here at WEF throughout the season,” said Galligan of the 11-year-old mare (Zavall VDL x Argentinus). 

“Today I just felt that my horse gave me every centimeter that I asked for. Regardless of where I finished or what happened, I could not have been prouder of how she's learned and evolved over this season,” mentioned Galligan. “It's just one of the most rewarding feelings as a rider when your horse understands and learns what you're asking for them to grow, so to me that was special.” 

Following Galligan on the podium was the 2* Grand Prix winning combination from WEF 9, Caitlin Boyle (USA), and Navaar (Tonixe x Deauville van T&L), owned by Beyaert Farm Inc. The pair nearly caught the win, finishing on a clear time of 38.15 seconds. Closing out the podium was Luke Jensen (USA) and Meadowvale Cruise (Creevagh Ferro x Cruising), owned by Wyndmont. The pair finished clear in 40.07 seconds. 

Nicky Galligan & VDL Nikita van de Leeuwerk are presented as winners of the $62,500 BrainJava CSI2* Grand Pri by Lisa Ellis, CEO of BrainJuce. Photo © Sportfot

A horse Galligan acquired thanks to his clients, the Buckingham family, VDL Nikita has quite the fan club behind her and it has been easy to see the pair’s progression together. Taking second in the 2* Grand Prix just a few weeks ago, they returned to move up on the podium today.

“Without the team, without the people supporting you, we can't do this. It takes a village to get the horses here and get them in the right place. Vets, farriers and everyone in between,” said Galligan of the team behind his win today, including his sister who came all the way from Ireland to witness his win.