Competition during Week 4 of the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded on Sunday with back-to-back international events on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village. Sunday’s featured events saw Grace Debney (GBR) take the first win of the day aboard Zarina de Vidau in the morning’s $62,500 Griffis Residential CSI2* Grand Prix.
Forty-three combinations geared up to contest Anderson Lima’s (BRA) first round which ultimately advanced 11 pairings onward to the jump-off. The start list for the short track featured a truly international field with representatives from Great Britain, Ireland, United States, and more. Debney appeared midway through the returning order with her longtime partner and quickly threw down the gauntlet with a blazing fast jump-off time of 37.69 seconds.
“My horse is naturally super fast,” began the 20-year-old. “I walked a plan and talked about it with a few people but felt like I should stick with it. A couple of people had different ideas but I know my horse really well because I’ve had her for five years.”
With the challengers she still had behind her, Debney knew it would be a hard but doable challenge to guide Temple Equestrian LLC’s 13-year-old CDE mare (Diamant de Semilly x Coeur de Nuit) to another grand prix win.
“I was definitely worried about Tom [Wachman] and Mark Bluman,” Debney added. “Mark had my time so I was definitely sweating a little. She's so quick though, I never have to wear spurs on her because she's always just going and you can't really beat that footspeed. She actually won this grand prix two years ago and then she was out last WEF, so it's just really nice to have her back.”
Tom Wachman (IRL) closed in as the closest challenger but still fell almost two seconds shy of Debney’s time as he piloted Coolmore Show Jumping’s 15-year-old Italian Sport Horse gelding Lazzaro Delle Schiave (Acodetto 2 x Glueckgriff) across the finish line in 39.36 seconds. USA’s Jacqueline Ruyle rounded out the international lap of honor after securing the third place aboard her own 15-year-old Oldenburg gelding San Chano (Sandro Boy x Chacco Blue).
The day concluded with 41 entries for the $62,500 Hérmes CSI4* 1.50m Classic where Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam secured a victory aboard Irandole du Flot. Lima’s final course produced a consistent 14 clear in the first round and Sweetnam made his return halfway through the short track with Seabrook LLC’s 10-year-old Belgian Sport Horse mare (Vivaldi du Seigneur x Ogano Sitte), a newer mount for him.
“This horse has had a great week,” he stated. “She was first in her first class out, and then second on Friday, and now she’s won today. She’s really maturing and stepping up. She only did her first 1.50m class at the end of last year so to be this competitive already against this standard of horses shows how good she is.”
While Sweetnam has high hopes for his new mount, he felt the afternoon’s class was a perfect stepping stone up into the bigger leagues.
“It’s a great class because it's not a grand prix but it's a top class,” he added. “You can really judge where your horse is experienced and also where they need more education, whereas a grand prix like yesterday is a very tough class so if the horse is inexperienced they can get lost. They learn a lot in these 12 weeks of circuit and it's great to have options like the grass and the international ring throughout the season.”
Sweetnam’s fellow countryman Cian O’Connor followed suit with his own 10-year-old Selle Français mare Eve D’Ouilly (Qlassic Bois Margot x Poor Boy) clocking in just after Sweetnam’s time of 38.40 seconds with a time of 38.95. Katie Dinan (USA) earned the final podium position on the Grant Road Partners LLC’s 14-year-old Selle Français mare Atika des Hauts Vents (Rock’N Roll Semilly x Scherif D’Elle).
The 2024 Hermès 1.50m Championship Jumper Series will take place weekly throughout WEF, culminating during Week 11’s Saturday Night Lights with $150,000 in prize money. Riders who consistently compete in the series will accumulate points towards the series’ title, a $10,000 Hermès store credit and a bespoke Hermès horse rug.
Cameryn Kolinoski and Natural Mover Take Champion in the Vogel 15-17 Children’s Hunter
Week four of WEF hunter competition rounded out on Sunday across all Amateur, Junior, and Children divisions, including the Vogel 15-17 Children’s Hunters. Riders of the respected age group competed Saturday and Sunday across four over-fences classes and an under saddle to round out the division.
Championing the division was Cameryn Kolinski, of Palm City, FL, and her own Natural Mover. The pair claimed a blue, red, and yellow ribbon across the over-fences, their highest score standing at an 83.
The reserve tricolor went to Adler “Addie” Manson, of Dallas, TX, and her own Sinatra. The pair impressed with a high score of 86 for the weekend, winning two of the four over-fences.
Riders of a similar age group also competed this weekend in the Voltaire Design 3’6” 16-17 Large Junior Hunter, where one rider claimed both tricolors. Christian Dominguez, of Barrington, RI, claimed champion and reserve on two mounts.
Dominguez claimed the top tricolor atop Sorensen Stables’ Kingdom after placing no lower than the top three across the division. The pair earned a high score of 87 and won two of the four over fences.
Following his own lead, Dominguez claimed reserve with Flawless, owned by Elan Farm. With his second mount, Dominguez won the Handy and the Stake rounds of the division, coming home with a duplicate high score of 87.
Hunter competition will continue during Week 5 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), just one week away from the premiere hunter showcase during World Championship Hunter Rider (WCHR) Week. For all WEF schedules, please click HERE.