Edited Press Release
Ocala was filled with buzz Saturday night as spectators flocked to the stands to watch the $100,000 Ethel M Chocolates National Grand Prix. Thirty-five elite horse-and-rider combinations representing 10 different nations vied for victory, but it was Rowan Willis (AUS) and his remarkable partner Blue Movie (Chacco-blue x Showtime) that stole the show and wowed the crowd.
World-renowned course designer Peter Grant (CAN) shaped the tracks that tested riders throughout the course with a winding track that covered the entirety of the WEC Grand Arena. As the first round concluded, an even 14 representatives from six different countries prepared to battle it out over the short course.
Santiago Lambre (BRA) secured four of the 14 spots in the jump-off and found a clean jump-off on two.
Lambre and his own Pampero (Chacco-blue x Nekton) were the first pair down the ramp into the WEC Grand Arena to attempt Grant’s jump-off track. Lambre and the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding flew around the course finding every fence right out of stride to stop the clock at 39.938 seconds.
Five competitors followed, all giving the track their best effort, but none were able to snag Lambre and Pampero’s quick time, until Rowan Willis entered the arena aboard his lifelong partner Blue Movie.
Willis and the 16-year-old Anglo-European Sport Horse mare started on a powerful gallop at the sound of the tone. “I knew if I kept traveling and stayed tidy in my turns, I had a good chance. ‘Carrots’ has been jumping incredibly and she’s so naturally fast, I trusted her to take the risks,” Willis said.
The pair flew through the short course, slicing the World Equestrian Center vertical at an incredible angle to keep on stride and soar through the remainder of the track in an unbeatable 38.201 seconds.
“I have been traveling a lot lately, and my horses just made it back to Ocala this week. I got back at 4am this morning, but luckily, I have the best team behind me, and they had Carrots here waiting for me. Robert, my groom, has been with us since the very beginning and knows Carrots inside-and-out. I can’t thank my team enough,” expressed Willis. “It feels great to be back jumping in that arena. The atmosphere here is unlike anywhere else and I am looking forward to the winter circuit.”
Blue Movie is Willis’ tried and true mount. “I always knew Blue Movie was going to be special ever since she was a foal. It took me a very long time to figure her out, but my patience was paid, and she took me all around the world. She was a live changing horse for me,” said Willis.
Six other competitors tried to find Willis and Blue Movie’s quick time and only Santiago Lambre came close aboard his own The Diamant Rose Z (Toulon x Diamant Z). Lambre and the 11-year-old Zangersheide mare navigated a speedy jump-off in 40.328 seconds to slide into the third-place spot on the leaderboard.
An additional $5,000 was awarded to the fastest four-faulter of the $100,000 Ethel M Chocolates National Grand Prix. Aaron Vale and Thinkslikeahorse’s Cristo Beech snagged the award with a quick time of 77.814 seconds with one rail down.
Bryn Sadler received the ‘Luck of the Draw’ award.
$100,000 Ethel M Chocolates National Grand Prix Results:
1 Blue Movie, Rowan Willis (AUS), Rowan Willis: 0 | 0 | 38.201
2 Pampero, Santiago Lambre (BRA), Santiago Lambre: 0 | 0 | 39.938
3 The Diamant Rose Z, Santiago Lambre (BRA), Santiago Lambre: 0 | 0 | 43.328
4 Lomax, Armando Hassey (MEX), Armando Hassey: 0 | 0 | 41.017
5 Akuna Mattata, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA), Silver Raven Farms: 0 | 0 | 41.613
6 Chagolando PS, Megan Wexler (USA), April Miller: 0 | 0 | 41.782
7 Whoop De Doo, William Simpson (USA), Coxe Horses LLC: 0 | 0 | 42.820
8 Quirado RC, Richard Spooner (USA), Richard Spooner: 0 | 0 | 46.991
9 Mick Jagger, Sharn Wordley (NZL), Sharn Wordley: 0 | 0 | 47.220
10 Casey, Santiago Lambre (BRA), Santiago Lambre: 0 | 0 | 41.674
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.
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