East Dorset, Vermont, USA – July 10, 2022 – Week I of competition has come to a close at the Vermont Summer Festival, with several of the country’s top horse and rider combinations gathering to compete during Sunday afternoon’s $40,000 Johnson Horse Transportation Grand Prix. After a technical first round, four pairs advanced to the tiebreaker, where Alexandra Worthington (USA) claimed the winning title aboard De L’Oiseliere as the only duo to produce another faultless effort.
“I love Vermont – I actually haven’t been here in probably seven years, but I did my first High Junior classic here when I was 15,” noted Worthington. “I really wanted to put it on the calendar this year – it’s such a nice horse show. I have my younger horse here too, and you can jump in a bunch of classes. The town is beautiful, the facility is beautiful and we just love it here – we love every HITS Horse Show! We will be going to Saugerties next.”
The grand prix track set by Puerto Rico’s Hector Loyola (PUR) asked many questions of the riders. In the first round, a technical pair of double combinations across the middle of the expansive grand prix ring caused errors for several in the original order. Four riders successfully cleared all 14 jumping efforts and qualified for the jump-off. The second round started with the same first line, but then allowed for riders to be as neat and tidy as they wanted for the rest of the rollbacks. Riders took full advantage of space to gallop, and all four opted to do one less stride racing towards home.
“I thought there were parts of it that were very careful, like the line in the middle proved to be quite challenging for most people, but [De L’Oiseliere] is a very, very careful horse and he can come back quickly and jump from a deep distance, so it really suited him well. He shined today,” smiled Worthington.
Megan McDermott (USA), winner of the 2021 $400,500 Hits Grand Prix CSI 5* at the Hits Championship, was the first to contest the jump-off, where efficiency was the name of her game. McDermott and Nintendo set a blistering pace and showed a timely track that cut through two flower boxes, but it came at the expense of 12 penalty-points along the way.
Diego Perez Bilboa (ESP) and Dialuna were next and followed nearly the same path. They beat McDermott’s time of 47.249 seconds, finishing in 46.785 seconds, but had the final rail down for a 4-penalty score. After watching the first two riders, Alexandra Worthington (USA) opted for a more conservative track, where she and her mount finished eight seconds behind Bilbao in 54.860 seconds.
However, that eventually gave Worthington the winning title by delivering the only double clear after Declan Egan (USA) with Trade Wind Farm’s Federal Justice Chavannais had the first rail down and ultimately ended right behind Bilbao with 8 penalty-points.
“I was definitely pretty controlled in the jump-off – I was probably 8 seconds slower than the fastest 4-falter,” noted Worthington. “I knew there were only four of us coming back, so I decided just to ride a smooth, clear round and he jumped phenomenally.”
Worthington began riding the Selle Francais gelding last summer and has been slowly stepping him up. “I wouldn’t say he’s the most experienced 9-year-old, so it’s been nice coming to a lot of these Hits shows and doing a lot of the national classes,” said Worthington. “He jumped some 1.25m in Florida and I think he’s really starting to come into himself and really shine. We are doing more of the national grand prix events right now and hoping to move up to some international classes next year.”
Final Results – $40,000 Johnson Horse Transportation Grand Prix
1) Alexandra Worthington (USA) & De L’Oiseliere – 0 / 0 – 54.860
2) Diego Perez Bilboa (ESP) and Dialuna – 0 / 4 – 46.785
3) Declan Egan (USA) & Federal Justice Chavannais – 0 / 8
Source: Press Release from Hits Shows
Photos: © Hits Shows / Rebecca Walton