The winter circuits always bring out the biggest and the baddest of equestrian superstars, but we also see several up-and-coming hopefuls climb the ranks as well. One of my favorite classes to keep tabs on is the U25 classes, especially at WEF. There is no doubt that the faces we see contesting these classes will be ones that will pop up on the radar many more times in years to come. I took some time to investigate some of the lineup for this Sunday’s $25,000 Hermes U25 Grand Prix being hosted at WEF and give my best guess as to who we will see topping the winner’s podium.
As of Thursday morning, there are 41 horse-and-rider pairs signed up for this Sunday’s showdown, with USA’s Jennifer Gates having two entries. Gates is no stranger to the headlines of JN, having had several notable finishes in the past few years. She currently holds the 31st spot in the FEI U25 rankings, and her last FEI show was in November of last year. She will be galloping into the International Arena aboard two of her mounts, Capital Colnardo and Pumped Up Kicks. Capital Colnardo (formerly ridden by Harrie Smolders) has been in Gates’ string since January of 2018, and together they have garnered two FEI top-three finishes, most recently a 3rd place finish last summer at Spruce Meadows, and eight FEI top-ten finishes.
Jennifer Gates on Capital Colnardo. Photo by Stefano Grasso/LGCT
Pumped Up Kicks is one of Gates’ more recognizable mounts, having been paired together since 2015. Last year alone, the duo made an appearance in 18 FEI classes, where they had a 3rd place finish in the CSI5* six-bar class in New York and four top-ten FEI finishes. Of Gates’ two mounts, my money is on Pumped Up Kicks for a higher placing just based on last year’s records alone (also, I will admit that I am extremely biased towards this horse, he is just so darn cute!).
Then we have Irish rider Cormac Hanley and Copain Z. Hanley is currently tied with Gates for the 31st spot in the FEI U25 rankings and has been partnered with Copain Z since 2018. With Hanley in the irons, Copain Z has had multiple top-ten FEI finishes, including a 1st last year in Dublin. The pair’s last FEI outing was at WIHS, where they competed in the CSI4* classes.
2018 Maclay champion Sam Walker in entered with The Epic Group LLC’s Concorde. According to USEF and FEI records, this is a recent pairing and is their first time out together. Formerly ridden by Chris Pratt in the winter of last year, Concorde seems to have had a break from the show ring. Walker is a fantastic rider, having spent many years as a working student and catch rider, so who knows what to expect when these two enter the ring!
Daisy Farish has been a headliner on multiple occasions here at JN, and I am pumped to see she is entered with one of my all-time favorite U25 mounts, Great White. This pair has had top placing after top placing pretty consistently both in and out of the states. Definitely, one to watch.
Daisy Farish and Great White. Photo by The Book LLC
Rounding out the names that jumped right out at me are the superstar sisters MiMi and Sophie Gochman. The Gochman family are known for their winning ways in the show ring, and each sister is very well-mounted. MiMi will be riding GiGi’s Girl BH, and yes, that is McLain Ward’s former mount. With Ward in the irons, GiGi’s Girl BH garnered countless accolades, and MiMi has done a fair job of piloting the horse to some notable finishes both nationally and internationally. Sister Sophie is set to ride Andretti BH, and while they do not have an FEI record together, they have been showing together nationally since last fall with some top-ten finishes.
Several international riders will be trotting into the ring this Sunday, including Canadian rider Sabrina Lefebvre and her horse, Alaska. This partnership is still a fairly new one, with Lefebvre acquiring the ride on Alaska following Michel Hendrix (Netherlands). The newness of their partnership didn’t affect their placings, however. The duo claimed a 1st last year in the Nations Cup at Deerridge, but they haven’t shown in an FEI class since retiring from a CSI2* class in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Marek Leufkems hails from the Netherlands and does not have an established FEI record. He trains with USA’s Richard McGrath, who, along with Andy Kocher, appears to have had the rider on Leufkens’ mount, Dundee, in the past. A quick USEF search shows Leufkens as having dabbled in both the hunters and jumpers last year, and it appears he and Dundee had some success in the fall of 2019 with several top-ten finishes in the 1.30m and 1.40m classes. Leufkens might be a bit of a wildcard in my predictions, and I am eager to watch him ride and see what he brings to the ring!
El Berlin Bogibo will be ridden by owner Tatiana Andujar Iglesias of Puerto Rico. This pairing had a lot of early success in the FEI division at the beginning of their partnership in 2018, with a 1st place team finish in the CSI1* CAC Games and a 3rd in the individual competition. They spent some time doing the CSI2* classes in Tryon last summer, and are making their 2020 FEI debut this week in the Welcome and U25 Grand Prix.
Another international wildcard in my game of predictions is Tanimara Maria Macari representing Mexico with her own Clio S. This pairing has had quite a bit of success in the 2 and 3* classes in Mexico in the last two years, with a handful of top-five and top-ten finishes.
Names to Keep an Eye On
Then we have the USA rider Caitlyn Connors, and Bink A. Connors appears to have ridden Bink A to his FEI debut in 2015 and has had the ride on him ever since (minus a handful of rides in Traverse City where the gelding was ridden by Roberto Teran Tafur of Columbia). The pair showed in the CSI2, and 3* classes in 2019, where they had two top-ten FEI finishes together, including a 6th place finish in the CSI3* Grand Prix in Harrisburg.
Annabella Sanchez has made quite a name for herself in recent years with tons of top placings, and her pairing with Incitatus has definitely helped her climb to new heights. The pair had several FEI outings in 2019, but only one notable finish at Tryon. Nationally, however, they held their own against fierce competition, including a 6th place finish in the $60,000 Grand Prix at the Kentucky National last year.
Annabella Sanchez and Incitatus. Photo Courtesy of CHP / White Fence
Another rider I will be watching closely is young professional Mattie Hatcher with her entry Sebastian. The pair traveled quite a bit last year from Florida, Sweden, and France, where they had some top-ten finishes that pique my interest. Hatcher is listed as owner, trainer, and rider for this class, so I can’t help but root for a bit of a DIY’er.
Here is a list of the other entries I didn’t highlight, all of which are more than able to claim the jackpot this Sunday:
- Nicola Pohl, Walona 15
- Giavanna Rinaldi, Concuela
- David Oberkircher, Upper
- Emma Sargent, Beezie
- KC Van Aarem, Las Vegas
- Anna Beth Athey, Nat King Cole
- Sydney Shulman, Azilis Du Mesnil
- Alexandra Worthington, Carrow Indoctro
- Rachel McMullen, Deavantus
- Elli Yeager, Waliba VDL
- Raliegh Hiler, Alvarino 2 and Cassina 64
- Ransome Rombauer, Emorkus RE
- Riley Newsome, Luron S Z
- Maria Brugal, Aletta
- Samantha Rice, Ringwood Zebo
- Ty Simpson, Orage Z
- Flo Norris, Lorielle 2
- Maggie Mcalary, Con Pleasure 5
- Isabella Russekoff, Balou’s Fly High
- Jessica Mendoza, Dublin
- Kristen Berian, Important S
- Kirsten Ostling, HH Zipper
- Anna Ishiyama, Clint Eastwood 10
- Carlos Hank Guerreiro, H5 Quantador 3
- Briley Koerner, Dante
- Virginia Bonnie, Efodea
With all of this being said, it’s hard to pick a front-runner. My gutt leans towards Farish, Gates, and Walker, but I think it also possible to see an upset by one of the other riders. The U25 season is just getting started here in Wellington, and with horses it truly is anyone’s game! Who do you predict we will see topping the podium?
Good luck and Go Jumping!