Karime Perez Nunez Tops BrainJuice U25 Grand Prix

February 19. 2024

Rainstorms brought show jumping competition to the VanKampen Covered Arena on Sunday to close out the KASK-sponsored Week 6 at Wellington International’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). The highlight class of the day welcomed up-and-coming talent in the $31,000 BrainJuice U25 Grand Prix, but it was a winning day for Mexico’s Karime Perez Nunez.

Karime Perez Nunez & Dolcevita de Lacke, winners of the $31,000 BrainJuice U25 Grand Prix. Photo © Sportfot

Over courses set by fellow Mexican, Ana Catalina “Catsy” Cruz, Perez piloted Dolcevita de Lacke, an 11-year-old Selle Français mare (Arko x Alligator Fontaine), to the top over a field of 59 riders. A competitive jump-off produced 16 double-clear rides, making the deciding factor speed. Fortunately for Perez, Dolcevita de Lacke – a horse she owns together with her trainer Ilan Ferder – has that in spades. 

“I have a good team supporting me. That's the most important thing about all this success,” said 23-year-old Perez. “I'm so happy. I love this division because it’s a place where you can have experience with people your age. Some might have more experience than others, but it’s always good for new horses at this level and new riders moving up. It helps us to be ready for the two stars.”

When asked what she likes most about Dolcevita de Lacke, Perez noted, “I love that she's really spicy. She’s very sensitive, so she connects with her riders so fast. She has her own character, but I love spicy mares. 

“Today, I think from one to two is where we won it,” continued Perez. “I had a really long distance to get there and she was so fast.”

Karime Perez Nunez & Dolcevita de Lacke are presented as winners of the $31,000 BrainJuice U25 Grand Prix by Lisa Ellis, CEO and CMO of BrainJuice. Photo © Sportfot

Perez is having a banner season after also winning the 1/ST Racing CSI2* Grand Prix during WEF 5.  

A single second separated the top three with Perez clocking it at 28.38 seconds. Finishing out the podium, Sofia Cady (USA) riding ZG Bella, owned by Twist Studio, LLC, took second on 28.49 seconds, and Carlee McCutcheon (USA) claimed third on Coco Mercedes, owned by Purple Rein Investments, in 29.43 seconds.

Tom Wachman claimed the BrainJuice U25 Welcome earlier in the week. Along with the win, his Coolmore Showjumping-owned mount, Obora’s Laura, was named the Champion Equine Insurance Jumper Style Award for WEF 6 by Laura Fetterman. 

Juan Manuel Gallego & Fee des Sequoias Z, winners of the $25,000 CPKC National Grand Prix. Photo © Sportfot

Closing out the week, Juan Manuel Gallego (COL) claimed the $25,000 CPKC National Grand Prix as the fastest double-clear from a five-horse jump-off riding his own Fee des Sequoias Z. British Olympic Champion Ben Maher took second on Corlander for owners Charlotte Rossetter and Pamela Wright, and Marilyn Little was third riding her own La Contessa. 

Amira Kettaneh and Cloud 9 Take Top Honors in $5,000 NAL/WIHS Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic 

World Championship Hunter Rider Week (WCHR) at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) resumed on Sunday in the International Arena with the $5,000 NAL/WIHS Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic. A large field of 68 competitors took to the original course designed by Andy Christiansen (ECU) with the top 12 pairs returning for the podium-defining round. 

Amira Kettaneh & Cloud 9, winners of the $5,000 NAL/WIHS Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic. Photo © Sportfot

Amira Kettaneh of Hollis, NH, and Cloud 9, owned by ETA Equestrian LLC, took the win to open the final day of WCHR competition. Going towards the bottom of the order, the pair secured a first-round score of 89 to sit at the top ahead of the second round. Returning in reverse order, Kettaneh returned last and secured the win with a score of 92 for a total score of 181. 

“I was thrilled. I'm so lucky to be able to ride this horse and I'm so grateful to the Myers family and the Colvins for letting me show him,” said Kettaneh, “It started to rain for the second class so there definitely was a little bit of a weather factor, but he walked in there like he's done it a million times and marched straight around.

 “He was jumping incredibly. I couldn't have asked for him to be better,” continued the 18-year-old. “I thought the courses rode really nicely. They were beautifully decorated, and it was all-around gorgeous.”

Amira Kettaneh & Cloud 9 are presented as winners of the $5,000 NAL/WIHS Peggy Cone Memorial WCHR Adult Hunter Classic. Photo © Sportfot

Taking second was Jessica Yeager of Boston, MA, and Casallo, owned by Anna Mae Saunders. The pair sat third going into the second round with a score of 87.5 seconds, but moved up to the second spot with a handy score of 90 for a combined 177.5. Closing out the podium was Brendan Weiss of Southampton, PA, and Jaguar, owned by Camilla Grover-Dodge, with scores of 85.5 and 88 for a total of 173.5. 

WCHR week gives hunters the opportunity to shine in the International Arena and be the feature focus of WEF. “It's really special for a lot of us. We don't get many opportunities to go into the International Arena unless you have jumpers,” said Kettaneh. “It's a really great class for people to be able to get in there even if you don't have something like a 3’6” A-O or a 3’3” A-O. You don't often get the opportunity to do that.” 

A Day of Triumph for Lily Sonneborn and Emma Coristine in $5,000 WCHR 3’3” Junior Hunter Classic 

WCHR week closed out in the International Arena on Sunday with the $5,000 WCHR Junior Hunter 3’3” Classic. Held in a California split format, forty-seven riders took to the Christiansen designed course. Due to weather conditions, the class was judged over a single round rather than returning for a top-12 handy round. 

Lily Sonneborn & Juan Carlos, Section A winners of the $5,000 WCHR 3’3” Junior Hunter Classic. Photo © Sportfot

Victorious over the course for Section A with the highest score of the class with an 88 was Lily Sonneborn of Washington, DC, and Juan Carlos, owned by Andesite Equestrian. The Section B winner with the second highest score overall was Emma Coristine of New Canaan, CT, and Lucky For You, owned by Ivy Equestrian LLC, topping the section with an 87. 

Emma Coristine & Lucky For You, Section B winners of the $5,000 WCHR 3’3” Junior Hunter Classic. Photo © Sportfot

Sonneborn held the top score of her section from early in the course, going ninth in the order. “Hunter Week is so prestigious,” said Sonneborn. “There's so much tradition and it's my first time at WEF, so it's also my first WCHR week here. It was really cool to be able to go in the International Arena; the atmosphere is great.” 

For Section A, the second place prize went to Katherine Babun of Miami, FL, and Ladies First, owned by Elysian Stables LLC. The pair secured the red ribbon with a score of 86. Coming in third with a score of 85 was Henry Hollis of West Grove, PA, and his own Bliss. 

For Section B, the red ribbon went to Alice Goodwin of Richmond, VA, and her own Adler, with a score of 85.5. Third was awarded to Remy Becker of Santa Barbara, CA, and Quivaro owned by Valley Heart Ranch, LLC. The pair closed out the section with a score of 84.5. 

Not only is this Sonneborn’s first WEF, but first season with mount Juan Carlos. “He knows when it's time to really try his best. He goes in the ring and he puts his best effort forward. He tries so hard for me and that's all I can ask for,” said Sonneborn. 

Training with the Hesslink Williams team, Sonneborn has experienced first hand what it takes to be at the top of the hunter sport. “It's kind of my dream to be here [at WEF]. I've seen it so much online and on social media, so to be here is so surreal,” said Sonneborn. “With such talented trainers, it's really amazing to learn so much from them because they know so much about hunters and how to ride.” 

WCHR Classic Winners

Large Pony Hunter Classic
Currie Cooper & Brixton, owned by Dr.Betsee Parker

Carol Sollak, Engel & Völkers Medium Pony Hunter Classic
Section A: Beatrice Klemann & Pursue The Blue, owned by Omi Enkin
Section B: Ella Endzweig & Deja Blue, owned by Lily Epstein

KIND Bars Small Pony Hunter Classic
Section A: Lilly Ward & Celebration, owned by Mclain Ward
Section B: Grace Stenbeck-Werner & Smitten, owned by Swede Ventures LLC

Always Faithful Farm/Flagler Insurance Low Adult Hunter Classic
Marielle Babington & Kinsale, owned by Continental Stables, LLC 

WEF 2’9” Adult Amateur Classic
Haylee Jerkins & Fortunately

WCHR Florida Children’s Hunter Classic 14 & Under
Porter Campbell & Cue The Blue, owned by Sean Mulleady

WCHR Florida Children’s Hunter Classic 15-17
Lila Racanelli & Izabelle S, owned Chansonette Farm LLC

Sunday Champions

Large Pony Hunter
Section A: Cecelia Perry & Centreville, owned by Trevor Hawthorne
Section B: Currie Cooper & Brixton, owned by Dr.Betsee Parker

Currie Cooper & By4Now. Photo © Sportfot

Carol Sollak, Engel & Völkers Medium Pony Hunter
Section A: Currie Cooper & By4Now, owned by GC Ponies
Section B: Luca Endzweig & Super Sport, owned by Twin Island, LLC

Luca Endzweig & Super Sport. Photo © Sportfot

KIND Bars Small Pony Hunter
Section A: Lilly Ward & Celebration, owned by Mclain Ward
Section B: Luca Endzweig & Wildwynn Ace Boon, owned by GC Ponies

Lilly Ward & Celebration. Photo © Sportfot
Luca Endzweig & Wildwynn Ace Boon. Photo © Sportfot

Always Faithful Farm/Flagler Insurance Low Adult Amateur Hunter 
Section A: Hannah Weiss & Providence Place, owned by Keri Kampsen and Lexy Reed
Section B: Danielle Baran & Chopard

Haylee Jerkins & Fortunately. Photo © Sportfot

Baxter Miami 2’9” Adult Amateur Hunter
Section A: Haylee Jerkins & Fortunately 
Section B: Barbara Goldberg & Inescapable 

Barbara Goldberg & Inescapable. Photo © Sportfot

Children’s Hunter 14 & Under
Section A: Ashley McCaslin & Sweet Caroline, owned by Kimberly McCaslin
Section B: Serena Theodoracopulos & Permission, owned by Cathy Sacher

Ashley McCaslin & Sweet Caroline. Photo © Sportfot

Children’s Hunter 15-17
Adler “Addie” Manson & Sinatra