David Oberkircher & Upper Rise to the Top of WEF’s $25K Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix

The sixth week of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) concluded on Sunday, February 17, with jumper competition on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC) in Wellington, FL. David Oberkircher (USA) and Upper, owned by Southfields Farm LLC, rose to the top of the $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix.

David Oberkircher and Upper. Photo © Sportfot.

Riding out on the beautiful grass derby field in the morning, some of the best up-and-coming show jumpers in the world competed for top grand prix honors. There were 43 entries in the class, with 13 of those going clear to advance to the jump-off.

The early pace-setter going third in the jump-off was 22-year-old Jennifer Gates (USA) on Oaks Redwood, owned by Evergate Stable LLC. They were efficient around the course, setting the time to beat at 37.72 seconds, which would hold up for third place.

Gates has only ridden Oaks Redwood for a month, and this was their first jump-off together. When trainer Harrie Smolders wanted Gates to move up to the 1.45m this week at WEF, Gates said, “We thought it would be a good opportunity to test him out and see how he rode, and he was absolutely excellent so I’m really happy with him.”

Jennifer Gates on Oaks Redwood. Photo © Sportfot.

Three horses later, lowering the time down to 35.86 seconds was 24-year-old Abigail McArdle (USA) riding Victorio Equine Group LLC’s Victorio 5. McArdle trains with Katie Prudent and works for Adam Prudent’s Plain Bay Sales.

“I felt like I was on it,” McArdle admitted. “The one place where I took time was where David actually did one less [stride]. I think he did nine, and I did ten back on that. I wanted to be real sure on that. I think that’s where I lost it, but it was really close, and I think it was good competition.”

Abigail McArdle and Victorio 5. Photo © Sportfot.

Five horses later, the winner entered the ring. With a neat turn back halfway through the course, Oberkircher and Upper sped through the finish timers in 35.70 seconds.

“[Upper] is a bit of a slow mover, so I knew I had to do all the leave outs in the jump-off,” said Oberkircher of his jump-off ride. “Just be as tight as possible. I knew Abby and Jen were both pretty fast, so I knew I couldn’t take my foot off the gas the whole way around. I think maybe in my turn back to 14, that black vertical, I really sliced it and he handled it well. But it was very close; I mean, milliseconds.”

Oberkircher, who has ridden Upper for a year and a half, moved the horse into the Under 25 series at the 2018 WEF. “He’s been great, and it’s been a great partnership. He’s a super brave horse,” he said.

It was the first FEI win ever for the 23-year-old Oberkircher, who is also in his second year competing in the Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series.

“I have a great team around me that’s supporting me, and I fly back and forth between Washington, D.C. and Florida to work during the week,” said Oberkircher, who is a financial analyst at Freddie Mack and trains with John Roche. “So to come down here and have all the hard work pay off is really great.”

David Oberkircher and Upper in their winning presentation with James Sardelli, Hermès Senior Equestrian Account Executive, and ringmaster Steve Rector. Photo © Sportfot.

Final Results: $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix

1 UPPER: 2008 Selle Francais gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Nadir de San Patrignano
DAVID OBERKIRCHER (USA), Southfields Farm LLC: 0/0/35.70

2 VICTORIO 5: 2006 Hanoverian stallion by Uccello x Graf Top
ABIGAIL MCARDLE (USA), Victorio Equine Group LLC: 0/0/35.86

3 OAKS REDWOOD: 2005 Warmblood gelding by ASB Conquistador x Verdi
JENNIFER GATES (USA), Evergate Stable LLC: 0/0/37.70

4 HH BEST BUY: 2007 Holsteiner mare by Baloubet du Rouet x San Patrignano Cassini
CLARA HALLUNDBAEK (DEN), Clara Hallundbaek: 0/0/37.72

5 BUKATO: 2006 KWPN by Ukato x Jasper
JACOB POPE (USA), Treesdale Farms: 0/0/37.81

6 DYNAMO: 2003 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Skippy II x Lys de Darmen
CLAIRE SCHREDER (USA), Ceahorse LLC: 0/0/38.01

7 ALETTA: 2005 KWPN mare by Sydney x Guidam
MARIA BRUGAL (DOM), Maria Brugal: 0/0/38.84

8 CHAPLIN W: 2007 KWPN gelding by Vermont x Indorado
YASMIN RIZVI (USA), Peacock Ridge LLC: 0/0/38.94

9 CHS KROOZE: 2010 Irish Sport Horse mare by Kroongraaf
DANIEL COYLE (IRL), Daniel Coyle: 0/4/34.48

10 H5 JEMOUSIN: 2009 BWP gelding by Vivaldi du Seigneur x Lipton
CARLOS HANK GUERREIRO (MEX), H5 Stables: 0/4/38.04

11 EL BERLIN: 2009 KWPN stallion by Berlin x Carambo
TATIANA ANDUJAR IGLESIAS (PUR), Tatiana Andujar Iglesias: 0/4/41.06

12 BALOUCENTO 2: 2005 Oldenburg gelding by Baloubet du Rouet x Cento
AILISH CUNNIFFE (USA), Whipstick Farm Ltd: 0/10/53.16