Wilmington, Ohio – Wilmington, Ohio – Competition for Winter Spring Forward concluded at World Equestrian Center – Wilmington on Sunday, March 12. Lani Hutchison (USA) stole the spotlight Saturday as she earned her first grand prix win in the $30,000 Shires Equestrian Products Grand Prix. In the R+L Arena, Melissa Donnelly (USA) impressed the judges to win the $15,000 USHJA National Open 3’ Hunter Derby.
Hutchison, training with Charlotte Clark of Kendalwood Farm in Sunbury, Ohio, was the second to last athlete to tackle the track designed by Michael Pegg (CAN) with her own Iconic ((Falaise De Muze x Dinadja) and simply needed a clear first round to earn a podium placing. The 19-year-old amateur rider made light work of the task at hand with her ten-year-old KWPN gelding and took the win with a fault free round in 69.325 seconds.
Hutchison commented on her longtime partner, “We imported Icon [Iconic] when he was six and he is turning ten this year. We just moved up to the prix at the end of last year, so this is huge for him! I started him in the baby two-foot jumpers and I wasn’t quite sure if he would make it up to this level. We have shown here quite a lot, and this is his place. This is his favorite ring. He has always been a super careful horse and when no one goes clear he is always surprising me when he can.”
Leann Kelly (USA) and Graf Joe (Graf Top x Aline) were unable to be caught in the $10,000 Futures Prix early Saturday evening. Kelly of Winlsow Farm in Valencia, New York, and the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding have proven a force to be reckoned with in the Sanctuary Arena, earning three wins in the prestigious class during the 2023 Winter in the Midwest Series. Executing their plan to perfection, the duo left the crowd on the edge of their seats with an unbeatable time of 32.865 seconds to take the win.
Kelly shared her thoughts about the jump-off, “I watched Sarah [Long] and I knew she was very fast on her first horse. I thought really in order to win I needed to do seven down the first line and just continue. There were not a lot of track options, the one inside turn to the butterfly to me wasn’t reasonable. So, it was just to make that seven and keep going. You can leave one out to the skinny verticals and always trust this horse to be careful!”
Donnelly, of Just A Folly Farm in Oxford, Michigan, piloted Elizabeth Becker’s Corlando 49 (Cartani x Olanda I) to the win in the $15,000 USHJA National Open 3’ Hunter Derby. The 17-year-old Holsteiner gelding wowed the judges over Joseph Carnicom’s (USA) tracks, earning two high scores of 90.5 and 96 for an overall score of 186.5 to gallop away with the blue ribbon.
Donnelly spoke on her handy round, “I wanted to be brilliant. As long as I felt like he was attentive, I wanted to try to out turn them all. That is where he really shines. I felt like he was focused enough today that all of those turns were there and that he would follow me right back around. The turn after the end jump is one his favorites, and he turns on the backside really smoothly.”
Lily Rupinski lead the way in the $15,000 USHJA National Non-Pro 3’ Hunter Derby aboard Bella Noche (Carrico x Quinta Real). Rupinski of Saint Louis, Missouri, piloted River Run Farm LLC’s eight-year-old Westphalian mare to scores of 90 and 89.5 for a two-round total of 179.5 to take the win.
“We imported Luna [Bella Noche] in the spring of 2021. It has definitely been a long journey; she was really green when we bought her. We have certainly come a long and she is such a good girl,” commented Rupinski on her mare. “We talk a lot about getting my pace from the beginning because I tend to start out slow. I just try to keep my focus and plan my turns. I make the handy turns but not too tight because she came from the jumper world, and she gets excited. I mainly work on staying as straight and consistent as I can.”
Sam Pegg (CAN) and new top mount, Gin Tonic 158 (Graf Top x Sanjador) came out on top once again in the $10,000 Kentucky Performance Products Welcome Stake Thursday evening. Pegg, of Ten Sixty Stables in Uxbridge, Ontario, set the quick pace for the group of starters as the first to jump a double clear effort and established a time to beat that was simply unattainable for the rest of the field. The ten-year-old Hanoverian gelding posted a jump-off time of 37.442 to earn the blue ribbon.
“Gin Tonic was a little fresh today actually. He was back to jumping around today, when the buzzer went off he jumped up in the air,” laughed Pegg. “He is naturally so fast. He hears the buzzer, and his feet are already going. In the jump-off, I did one less stride across the line in the middle and he landed and turned quite short so we were lucky to be quick enough.”
Make sure to visit the WEC Blog and follow us on social media @worldequestriancenter for full coverage on all feature classes!
Results can be found at wec.net.
All horse show images are provided by Winslow Photography and can be purchased onsite at WEC – Wilmington or online through their website.