Sydney Shulman (ISR) held onto her spot at the top of the Hermès Under 25 leaderboard by winning the $37,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series Semi-Final CSIO4* aboard Azilis du Mesnil under the lights in the International Arena during week eight on Friday, February 28, at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL.
Fifty-five horses challenged courses set by USA’s Ken Krome with less than a half a second separating the top four in a 12-horse jump-off. Israel’s Shulman and Azilis du Mesnil did just enough to top the standings in the end with a time of 31.59 seconds for owner Jill Shulman.
“I love this series because it’s a great stepping stone for horses and riders,” said Shulman, 25, who is making the most of her final year in the Under 25 ranks. “I did it for my first year when I was 16. You get to jump on the grass, under the lights, and as a team, so it’s a great system that they have set up.”
Shulman celebrated a reunion with Azilis du Mesnil after jumping the 10-year-old Selle Français mare (Tinka’s boy x Jarnac) in her first-ever night class in the same event just one year ago. “She has progressed nicely, so it’s nice to see her come back now and win,” said Shulman of the mare she calls “Ginger” in the barn. “She’s super game. She definitely has a mind of her own, but if you go with her and let her do her thing, she usually fights with you, not against you.”
Shulman’s good luck charm for the night was the Lebourgeois family, who bred Azilis du Mesnil and made the trip from France to watch their horse compete.
Sydney Shulman and Azilis du Mesnil in their winning presentation with members of the Lebourgeois family who bred the mount, Leah Rogers Meierfeld and Aurelie Ferrut with Hermès, and ringmaster Steve Rector. Photo by Sportfot.
Of her jump-off, Shulman said, “I planned to do five, which is the leave out, from jumps two to three. I did not get it done as well as I would have liked, but I was really grateful for Ginger in that moment because she really took the wheel. It was a little bit of a blind run to the double, but she was very careful and got out of the way. These are all great riders in this class, and the top three are really competitive, so it just worked in our favor today.”
Less than three-tenths of a second stood between Shulman and Tanimara Macari (MEX), who was last to go in the tie-breaking round riding Feminka for owner Jorge Macari. She and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Verdi TN x Numero Uno) came up just shy of the victory in 31.84 seconds.
“This time it was all or nothing; my trainer said, ‘we have to go for it this time!’,” said Macari. “It worked out. Not as much as we thought it would, but second is great. [Feminka and I] have been growing together since she was seven. Every time that we’re in there, she fights for me to her fullest. We’re really partners.
“This is my first year doing the complete [Under 25] season, and I think it’s a great opportunity to prepare yourself for the bigger classes,” continued Macari of her history in the division.
Rounding out the podium, 23-year-old Jessica Mendoza (GBR) piloted her own Diamants Aurora to third in a time of 31.89 seconds.
“Sydney had a very quick round. and I didn’t think I could beat it, but I thought I’d give it a go,” said Mendoza, who has been competing in Under 25 classes for three years. “This is actually my mare’s third jump-off with me, so I thought this time I’d really try and give her a quick ride, and she was amazing.”
Also posting a double clear, Flo Norris (GBR) took fourth in 31.96 seconds riding Con Pleasure 4, owned by Cisca Norris. Capping the top five, Sophie Gochman (USA) and Carola BH stopped the clock at 33.70 seconds for owner Gochman Sport Horses LLC.