BY KRISTIN PITZER
Katy, Texas – April 10, 2021 – The stakes were high in the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show’s $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix, held April 10 at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas. Thirty-one horses were slated to compete, and from the start, it was a battle against the clock, with Rowan Willis ultimately emerging victorious.
The third horse in the order, Ashton Dakota, ridden by Willis, was the first to jump a clear round within the time allowed. From that point on, it took another 20 horses before another team managed to jump around the course without knocking a rail down or taking a time penalty. That pair, Abracadabra WKT and Daniel Bedoya, who won Thursday night’s $25,000 Walter Oil and Gas Pin Oak Grand Prix, were the sole other duo to make it back for the jump-off round.
As Willis, of Ocala, Florida, went in for round two, he knew Bedoya would be riding behind him to give it his all. Despite the added pressure, Willis navigated Ashton Dakota to a clear second round in 34.539 seconds, and as he left the arena, he felt like he and the gelding had put forth their best effort. Bedoya started off well, but after two rails down, Willis secured the win.
“I’m feeling great,” Willis said. “My horse was fabulous tonight. He really tried for me, and he covered the ground well. It’s my first time jumping in Texas, so what a great way to start. I’ll have to come back!”
Willis knew from walking the course that it was going to be difficult, as some of the distances were a little bit shorter and there was a tight time limit. He tried to just jump a clear round and make it a good experience for his horses.
“It wasn’t easy, but I thought it was a really good course,” Willis said of the track set by renowned course designer Michel Vaillancourt. “It’s $100,000, so we need to work for it.”
Willis and Ashton Dakota collected $30,000 for the win. The 2008 grey gelding has been owned in partnership by Willis and several of his owners since January.
“He’s relatively new, and he’s been getting better and better,” Willis said. “I’m really excited about him for the future. He just wants to jump, and he tries so hard. I really have some high hopes for him.”
In addition to Ashton Dakota, Willis had three other horses on the order of go. He landed in 16th with Ekita Eindeken Z with two rails down and took 24th with Wellington Grey Goose. The fourth horse was scratched.
With a time of 38.780 seconds, Bedoya and Abrakadabra WKT finished in second place, winning $22,000. The 2008 Holsteiner mare is owned by Monica Hanks. Taking third were Dollar Cash and Trapp O’Neal, whose one time fault kept them out of the jump-off. Placing fourth were Gatsby and Daisy Ford with two time penalties.
After his successful evening in Katy, Willis hopes to make the trip to Texas again in the future.
“It’s lovely to come to a show like this,” Willis said. “They put it on really well and looked after us. It was a great atmosphere, with a lovely, big arena. Thanks to the sponsors for putting it on. It was fun jumping tonight.”
The 75th annual Pin Oak Charity Horse Show wraps up on April 11. The event features three weeks of top hunter, jumper and American Saddlebred competition, benefitting the Texas Children’s Hospital.