Ocala, FL – The 2023 WEC Premier Equitation Cup Championship powered by Gary Yeomans Ford was the highly anticipated event of week VI of the 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series. Over 100 of the nation’s best junior athletes competed in a traditional three-phase equitation format with jumping tracks built by nine-time Maclay Finals course designer Bobby Murphy of Lexington, Kentucky. Highly decorated junior rider, Kate Egan of Glen Gardner, New Jersey and Redfield Farm’s Ypaja Kashmir (Inshallah De Muze x Lasina) stayed on top during all three phases to leave the class with a brand-new Ford Explorer XLT SUV and the prestigious Premier Cup Champion title. Egan’s trainer Emil Spadone secured the lion share of the $100,000 Trainer Bonus, taking home a check for $40,000.
Course architect Bobby Murphy crafted the intricate tracks for the championship that showcased immaculately decorated fences including the special designed airy ‘WEC Eq’ fence. The first round required precision from athletes with complex bending lines and unrelated distances that tested each rider’s eye.
World Equestrian Center – Ocala’s Director of Operations, Vinnie Card expressed his excitement at hosting the Premier Equitation Cup Championship, “This class marks our halfway point through our 2023 Winter Spectacular Show Series. We look forward to the class every year and with over 100 entries in the Finals and over 125 qualified, we are delighted to see how much the class has grown year-after-year. As we move forward, we hope this Championship becomes a destination for junior riders starting the new show year.”
We would like to express our gratitude to our sponsor, Gary Yeomans Ford, our exhibitors, their trainers and families, Bobby Murphy our course designer, John Haime, the officials, grooms and support staff and of course the spectators, whose presence helped to create a great atmosphere for the Championship. We are already planning and looking forward to the 2024 WEC Premier Equitation Cup event!”
After Murphy revealed his first-round track for the class, riders and their trainers took to the course to walk. Murphy spoke about his designs for today’s championship, “I wanted to bring in a new phase to our Equitation Championship. McLain Ward recently challenged me to present equitation riders with a course that would help prepare them for the Olympics. That’s the goal of every talented young athlete, so we really worked on the outdoor course to present that Olympic feel and did our best to translate that concept into our indoor tracks.”
“The first round track was technical, but with over 100 athletes, we wanted the course to be fair across the board, so we added a few challenging elements. In the second round, we tightened things up. Jimmy Torano wanted to see a blind turn which we made outside with the triple bar, but when things shifted indoors, the combination held that element. It was incredible to see what the riders did with that turn, and the second round came up fast. The talent out here today showed us that they were up for the challenge,” said Murphy.
The judges’ eyes were on the 102 athletes navigating Murphy’s elaborate first round track and even though a large sum gave a stellar performance, the judges had to whittle down the field to 20 to be brought back for flat and second round jumping phase.
During the flat portion of the championship, the top 20 riders returned without irons to be tested on the flat by the judges. They were asked several questions, but the one that stood out was to hold the counter lead and execute a lead change in front of the judges.
Shortly after the flat phase, the top 20 riders were brought back to the arena for the second jumping round that showcased an even more complex track. From that group, four athletes stood out.
Carlee McCutcheon and Kennedy McCaulley’s Chacco Star (Chacco-Blue x Carieny Z) were sitting eighteenth after round one, but she wowed the judges during the flat phase and second round to get on the judge’s radar and move up the ranks.
Jordan Gibbs caught the attention of the judges during the flat and second round aboard Mountain King Ranch LLC’s Cent 15 (Carenzo x Sarafina). Gibbs and Cent 15 found a seamless track during the second round, to move up through the pack and ultimately secure a spot in the testing round.
Kate Egan returned for the second round aboard Ypaja Kashmir toward the end of the order. Egan was sitting third after the first round and stood out once again during the flat phase. Egan and Ypaja Kashmir found a foot perfect track in the second round to climb her way to the top.
Ellie Aronson and Wolfstone Stables & Sales Inc.’s Conthacco (Conthargos x Sacudira) were coming back to the flat and second round sitting on top. Aronson and Conthacoo continued to impress the judges with a stellar second round course that confirmed their spot in the top four.
After the second round, the judges asked their top four riders: Ellie Aronson, Carlee McCutcheon, Jordan Gibbs and Kate Egan to return for one final test; that asked riders to walk out of line, canter directly to the triple bar, halt, canter fence two, counter canter fence five, canter fence six, counter canter fence seven, halt, and return to your place in line at a walk with a loose rein.
While Aronson, Gibbs and McCutcheon all performed solid tests, none could best Kate Egan and Ypaja Kashmir. Despite the immense pressure, the pair were accurate and steady, laying down a brilliant round that earned Egan the prestigious Premier Cup title and a brand-new Ford Explorer XLT SUV!
“I had a blast today. Round one reminded me of the Washington Jumper Phase. My goal was to go in and have a good round. Ideally, I would have liked to fix one line, and melt the out a bit better, but I was extremely happy with third,” shared Egan. “I went into the flat phase hungry to move up, so I put in my best effort to stay third.”
“When I walked the second round, the technicality increased a good bit from the first, but I didn’t let it get to my head. I knew I was able to do it, so I made a set plan and came up with alternatives in case something happened. I don’t remember much of the round now, but I do remember feeling incredible. I think that was the best I’ve ever competed,” expressed Egan.
“The work-off was very hard, and I was with three other amazing riders, so I wanted to take everything into consideration before I made my plan. I watched the other girls go, and knew I had to produce a good round to stay on top.”
Egan took her new wheels out for a spin with Krissy Chalk, the Regional Marketing Director for Gary Yeomans Ford after the award ceremony, “I couldn’t stop talking about that new car smell. It drove around so smoothly. I didn’t go too fast because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but I did have a little fun with the horn around the ring,” laughed Egan. “I still can’t believe I just won a car!”
Egan’s trainer Emil Spadone shared his thoughts about the class, “I think all of the riders did an incredible job. I really feel like this class has developed into an important Championship like Harrisburg and Maclay. It is a class that we all look forward to and to have such a prize for the kids and the trainers – it’s incredibly generous. As trainers, we love what we do. We do our jobs for the sport, the ribbons and the kids, but it is certainly nice to get a financial reward as well. We really appreciate the Roberts family and all of the staff at World Equestrian Center – Ocala for making this all possible.”
2023 WEC Premier Equitation Cup Championship powered by Gary Yeomans Ford Results:
1 Kate Egan, Ypaja Kashmir
2 Carlee McCutcheon, Chacco Star
3 Jordan Gibbs, Cent 15
4 Ellie Aronson, Conthacco
5 Reese Merna, Trouvaille
6 Alexandra Ryden, Locadeur
7 Alexa Elle Lignelli, Lagerfeld
8 Christian Dominguez, Iwan
9 Josselyn Mersereau, Jeffery RW
10 Avery Glynn, Acer K
11 Ariana Marnell, Criminal Minds
12 Hannah Serfass, Quaxx 2
Photos courtesy of Andrew Ryback Photography.
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