Ocala, FL – The 2024 WEC Premier Equitation Cup Championship powered by Gary Yeomans Ford was the highly anticipated event of week VI during the 2024 Winter Spectacular Show Series. Sixty-two of the nation’s top junior athletes earned their spots to compete in the WEC Grand Arena to contest a traditional three-phase equitation format, featuring courses crafted by ten-time Maclay Finals course designer, Bobby Murphy, from Lexington, Kentucky.
Eleanor Rudnicki finished her junior career with an unforgettable victory aboard Favorite Edition Z (Favorit Ask x Sunny Girl), owned by The Luck Four Group. Hailing from Conroe, Texas, Rudnicki demonstrated her talent by maintaining the lead through all three phases of the championship, driving away with not only a brand-new Ford XLT SUV but also the prestigious Premier Cup Champion title. In addition, Rudnicki’s trainer, John Brennan, clinched the majority of the $100,000 Trainer Bonus, walking away with a well-deserved $40,000 check.
Bobby Murphy laid the jaw-dropping tracks for the championship that featured stunning obstacles such as the beautiful star topiary skinny vertical, the special designed ‘WEC Eq’ fence, and the pink Sakura flower Swedish oxer. Murphy shared his thoughts about Saturday night’s event, “It was a championship-level event. We aimed to showcase what World Equestrian Center has to offer. Highlighting these talented athletes under the lights in a unique atmosphere is the goal so they can carry forward this experience in the future when they represent their country at other major championships. The focus tonight was to build championship athletes, and I think that was presented tonight.”
The championship commenced on Saturday afternoon with an over fences phase featuring a challenging track, testing the athletes’ equitation and precision. Despite many stellar performances, only the top 20 could advance onto the flat phase and second round of jumping, held under the lights of the WEC Grand Arena.
In the flat phase, the top 20 riders were welcomed back to the WEC Grand Arena to demonstrate their position and technique.
Following the flat phase, the top 20 athletes returned in reverse order of rank for the second jumping round, which presented an even more technical course than the first. From this group, the judges selected four standout athletes to compete in a work-off to determine the ultimate champion.
Izzy Beisel, initially ranked sixteenth, delivered an impressive performance aboard Lorenzo 354 (Landprinz x Perle), a 16-year-old Warmblood gelding owned by Out of the Park Sport Horses, LLC, during the second round, climbing up the ranks.
Mae Mannis, riding Theodore Flash (Celestial x R-Quelle), an 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by Frank Madden, captivated the judges with a flawless round under the arena lights, securing her position among the top four.
Maddie Tosh impressed the judges aboard her equitation partner Daktari (Diacontinus x Escarla) in both the flat and second round but it was her stunning effort in the second round that put her in the runner-up position heading into the work-off.
Throughout the competition, Eleanor Rudnicki maintained her top rank with flawless performances, culminating in her victory. Rudnicki’s focus was clear: to execute solid rounds and maintain her lead. “In the first round, I just wanted to have a nice solid round that would be able to put me in the top 20. Going into the flat phase on top, I wanted to try to hold it together. For the second round, I just tried to keep it smooth and steady to hold my place.”
After the second round, the judges asked the riders to navigate a work-off that consisted of tidy turns and tricky bending lines, while asking for a counter canter to the first jump and the last. Beisel and Mannis both put in solid efforts aboard their mounts, but it became a test between Tosh and Rudnicki.
Tosh pulled out a tidy turn to fence one and landed the counter canter off the second to last fence aboard the skilled nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Betsee Parker, applying pressure on Rudnicki. Last to go in the work-off, Rudnicki knew she had to follow Tosh’s lead to stay on-top, “It was a really good test. It allowed for you to show off your horse, and your riding. Maddie really went for it, so I knew I had to do the same. It was really fun and I loved the competitiveness at the end.”
Rudnicki followed suite and laid down an impeccable test with the 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding to drive away with a brand-new Ford Explorer XLT SUV and the prestigious Premier Cup title.
Rudnicki celebrated her win with a test drive of her brand-new Ford Explorer XLT SUV, expressing her joy for her new wheels. “It’s pretty zippy! I wanted to test the gas pedal a bit. It feels pretty great to win a brand-new car! During the rounds today, I tried to focus on my horse and the rounds, I wasn’t trying to focus on the prize, but it’s nice to have,” laughed Rudnicki.
Rudnicki’s trainer, John Brennan of North Run, received the winning trainer bonus, accepted on his behalf by Assistant Trainer Maggie Gampfer, who emphasized the significance of bonuses for trainers, “I think for the trainers it is great. I think it shows sometimes how much the hard work goes into. We all want to come here; the place is beautiful. Some of us are down in Wellington and it is nice to take a break and come see the beautiful facility. I think the trainer bonus is an added bonus. We get nervous and we try just as hard when there isn’t one, but I have to say the added bonus is a nice appreciation for the work done behind-the-scenes.”
Krissy Chalk, Regional Marketing Director at Gary Yeomans Ford, expressed pride in partnering with World Equestrian Center – Ocala and sponsoring the championship, “We are proud to partner with World Equestrian Center, celebrating the brilliance and excellence embodied by these award-winning athletes. At Gary Yeomans Ford, we see parallels in their dedication and performance, which inspire us. Congratulations once again to these bright stars. We are honored to be a part of their journey and proud to stand as their partner.”
2024 WEC Premier Equitation Cup Championship powered by Gary Yeomans Ford Results:
1 Eleanor Rudnicki, Favorite Edition Z
2 Maddie Tosh, Daktari
3 Mae Mannis, Theodore Flash
4 Izzy Beisel, Lorenzo 354
5 Audrey Carmody, Aramis De B’neville
6 Kate Hagerty, Magic Moment
7 Cecelia Perry, Linford 9
8 Schuyler Dayner, Electric Avenue
9 Christian Dominguez, Iwan
10 Sydney Raidy, Mac One III
11 Lily Epstein, Greyson Ph
12 Rylynn Conway, First Vdl
Spectators are welcome! From now until March 24, 2024, experience the thrill of the 2024 Winter Spectacular Show Series at World Equestrian Center – Ocala. Explore the daily class schedule, orders of go, class counts, and final results on HorseShowing.com. For real-time scoring, check out Ryegate.Live.
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