Edited Press Release
Wayne, Ill. – August 5, 2022 – Australia’s Rowan Willis was perfect on Friday during Equifest II at Lamplight Equestrian Center. The talented rider nabbed the top two spots in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, producing the lone clear round of the day aboard Ashton Dakota and the fastest 4-fault effort aboard Wellington Grey Goose to place first and second, respectively.
Florencio Hernandez’s exacting track featured 12 jumping efforts that included three double combinations, one of which was at the very end of the course on a bending line to the final oxer, testing both stamina and accuracy. Only Willis had all the answers, completing a faultless round with Ashton Dakota as only the third entry to attempt the course.
Willis went at the end of the order with his second mount, Wellington Grey Goose, and knew with only his first horse clear he should stay on the pace in case of a downed rail. They eventually lowered the height of a fence in the final combination, but their quick time of 79.787 seconds would be good enough for the red ribbon. Trapp O’Neal and Epic Debut were just half a second behind them to round out the top three for the day.
It was an exciting victory for Willis with his two very different mounts. “Dakota is always very full of energy and raring to go,” he explained. “I spend all my time just trying to settle him down and get him to relax. [Wellington Grey Goose] is completely different. She’s very relaxed, and I spend all my time really trying to rev her up and get her going. They are completely different, but they both try really hard for me, so that’s the main thing.”
This is Willis’ first time competing at Lamplight Equestrian Center, and he is enjoying the picturesque location that is so close to Chicago. “It’s a lovely, lovely show,” he smiled. “It’s a great facility and it’s such a nice, peaceful, rural spot, that is very close to the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. It’s a great central location, and we’ve really enjoyed ourselves.”