The highlight event for Week 10 of the 2019 Winter Equestrian Festival was the $134,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI 3* on Saturday, March 16, and coming away with the victory was Amanda Derbyshire riding Roulette BH for Gochman Sport Horses LLC.
There were 45 entries, all competing over a course designed by Michel Vaillancourt of Canada. Of those entries, four found the path to a clear round and the jump-off.
In a fitting finish during Women’s History Month, four ladies were competing for the top spot. Returning first was Amy Millar riding Truman, a 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by Millar Brooke Farm Ltd. They set a nice pace with the all-important clear round in 45.65 seconds, which would hold up for second place.
“Everyone in the jump-off had the ability to go quickly,” said Millar, who was an Olympian for Canada in 2016. “I essentially had to go as fast as I felt comfortable and leave the jumps up. I must say, I did think I was going to do one less stride in both of those lines when I made my plan. Then it just wasn’t working out that way.”
Millar termed Truman as a “completely for Canada” horse. “It’s a pretty great story about this horse. I bought him from Eric Lamaze, and Tiffany [Foster] helped me find the horse when we were all in Europe getting ready for the Rio Olympics. They sold me the horse as a seven-year-old. Then, last year, I had a baby, so my dad, Ian Millar, trained the horse for me all last year, got him going around these 1.50m Grand Prix. I came back this season and have capitalized on everything that everyone has done to help me with the horse.”
Next in was a woman known for her incredible speed in jump-offs. Laura Chapot and Mary Chapot’s Chandon Blue have had a great run at WEF so far with six top-three finishes, including the two-star Grand Prix win at WEF Week 9. But it was not to be another victory for the pair as they pulled a rail for four faults in 43.07 seconds to finish in third place. “It’s hard to say,” said Chapot when asked about the rail that fell. “That was a difficult combination in the first round, and I think coming off a long gallop and then a short turn back to it, he just got over-steadied a little bit and slowed down.”
Vanessa Mannix and her own Valentino d’Elte were next in, but eight faults in 45.47 seconds relegated them to fourth place.
With the prime spot of last to go, Derbyshire and Roulette BH not only had to be quick, but a clear round was imperative. They were able to do just that, leaving all the jumps up in a time of 44.12 seconds for the victory.
“I did actually plan nine [strides from jumps] two to three in the jump-off and ended up doing eight,” Derbyshire recalled. “Then I just kept going. I was really lucky in the double at the end; I didn’t have much control by then. Luck was on my side. I had the advantage of watching all three go. I knew if Laura was clear, it’d be hard to beat her. It worked out!”
Derbyshire started riding Roulette BH, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding, in May 2018 and had to work with the “very, very strong” horse that had previously been ridden by a man.
“For literally the last nine months, we’ve been working on rideability, so in the jump-off I can actually let him go,” she said. “We took it pretty slow last summer, and we didn’t face him at all the big stuff. I think by doing that, we’ve trusted each other. He’s jumped, I think, three Grand Prix here, and he’s been clear every time. I had a time fault once. We haven’t tried to overshow him. We’ve got big plans for the future.”
Those big plans include the Nations Cups at Dublin and Hickstead, plus another big championship that is just around the corner. “The big aim is 2020 for him for sure,” she said of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
This was Derbyshire’s first Saturday Night Lights Grand Prix victory. “I’m absolutely ecstatic. I don’t think there’s a better feeling than being able to canter around there,” she said. “To win anything at WEF under the lights with so many people and such a big crowd is always so special. I’ve been in America nine years, and I spent the first seven years watching all of these night classes, so to be able to jump them and be able to win is a dream come true.”
Tom MacGuinness, CEO of sponsor Horseware Ireland was impressed by the riding ladies. “I’m glad that you ladies are here and that you did so well,” he said. “I can share the honor of being the oldest competitor in [the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games in] Normandy with Amy’s father, actually. I like what’s happening here. We’re proud to sponsor WEF.”