By Emily Randolph/Randolph PR
Las Vegas, NV – Rowan Willis did not have to step foot in a casino before making his inaugural trip to Las Vegas a winning one. The Australian rider and Blue Movie topped the $25,000 FEI 1.45m Las Vegas National Welcome Two-Phase Classic, presented by Charles Ancona, on Wednesday, November 17, at the Las Vegas National CSI4*-W at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa.
Thirty-one entries contested the one-round, two-phase class, and from the 12th competitor to the 30th, it was the USA’s Karl Cook who held the lead aboard Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet, owned by Signe Ostby.
It was not until Willis and his own Blue Movie entered the ring as the penultimate entry that Cook’s time of 24.67 seconds was overtaken. With experience on their side, Willis and his veteran mount made short work of the course devised by internationally renowned Olympic and World Cup course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil. The pair stopped the timers in 24.52 seconds to narrowly edge out Cook for the victory, while Cook’s time would hold up for the second-place honor. Finishing in third place with a time of 25.30 seconds was Canada’s Vanessa Mannix riding her own Catinka.
“[Blue Movie] was great today!” said Willis, who has had the 15-year-old Anglo-European Sport Horse since the mare was a foal. “She’s won for me all around the world. She’s never been too easy. I’d like to think by now that she’s 15, she’s starting to mellow a little bit, but not really!”
Willis continued, “It was a nice course today with a couple of places where you could turn back tight which, with the experience that she’s got, she was very good there today.”
While Willis has seen success around the globe, this week marks his first trip to Las Vegas.
“It’s good fun to be here! I maybe got led astray last night by a few people. I’m lucky this class wasn’t too early!” joked Willis, who explored the city and took in his first Vegas Golden Knights ice hockey game on Tuesday evening.