Wellington, Fla. – Mar. 7, 2021 – The stakes were high in Sunday’s FEI $37,000 Hermes U25 Grand Prix Semi-Final. The penultimate class in the series was supposed to take place under the Saturday Night Lights but was pushed to Sunday morning following an inclement weather delay. After two classes on the derby field and one at the Global Dressage Festival International ring, 46 of the world’s top young riders were eager to take to the International Ring for the first time in the series. With only four weeks of competition remaining in the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) and one final push before the series finale, the competition was fierce. Just eight out of the starting field earned a spot in the jump-off, but it was Mimi Gochman (USA) and Celina BH who ultimately emerged victorious over the rest of the pack.
Third in the order of go, Brianne Link (USA) was the first rider to deliver a clear round over Steve Stephens (USA) and Nick Granat’s (USA) initial 16-effort 1.45m track which featured a double combination, triple combination and an open water. As the morning progressed, seven other duos managed to come out of the first round unscathed and ready to take to the jumpoff. Among them included Virginia Bonnie (USA), Zoe Conter (BEL), Hallie Grimes (USA), Zayna Rizvi (USA), Caitlyn Connors (USA), Ashley Vogel (USA) and Gochman.
USA’s Bonnie was the first to successfully pioneer the abridged technical track which featured long galloping tracks and a time allowed of 45 seconds. Riding the 12-year-old KWPN mare Efodea owned by Nina Bonnie, the pair set the pace for the rest of the pack by slicing fences across the course and clocking in with a time of 33.64 seconds. Her lead would be short-lived, however, as Conter entered the ring aboard Dawa de Greenbay Z. Conter and the Stephex Stables owned 9-year-old Zangersheide stallion came blazing into the arena and shaved a full second off of Bonnie’s previously leading time, taking the lead on a time of 32.67 seconds.
Several riders attempted to steal the top spot on the podium by taking tighter turns and gutsier gallops to the final fence but struggled to deliver clear rounds which would top Conter’s time. Second to last in the order was Gochman riding the Gochman Sport Horses LLC entry Celina BH. Gochman piloted the 11-year-old Holsteiner mare around the shortened track with ease, stopping the clocks at 31.87 seconds to snag the lead.
Coming off of a win in the previous installment of the series, Ashley Vogel and her own Bellissimo Z were the last entry to try their hand in the jump-off. Vogel hit the gas in hopes of securing yet another Hermes U25 victory but came up just short of Gochman’s winning time to take second on a time of 31.97 seconds. The only international rider in Sunday’s jump-off lineup, Conter would close out the day in third place.
The U25 series concludes with The Hermes U25 $50,000 Grand Prix Series Final during Week 10. Showjumping competition concludes on Sunday afternoon with the $214,000 FEI CSIO 4* Grand Prix Presented by JTWG, Inc at 1:30 pm EST.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Mimi Gochman– $25,000 Hermès U25 Grand Prix winner
On Celina BH:
“She is the most adjustable, trying, scopey horse I have ever sat on. It is a whole team effort with her. She loves everyone at the farm, she gets ridden by everyone. She is the happiest girl ever.”
On her first round:
“I thought it was very smooth, which was the goal to stay smooth, stay in the time, no big moves or changes. I think the plan was to jump clear, obviously. I had a light rub at the second jump and I think it made Celina and I pick up a little bit on the rest of the round. She is so confident at the water, which is really nice, I didn’t have to worry about that. And like I said, she is so adjustable so all of the lengthening and shortening stuff she can do so well.”
On her plans for the remainder of the season:
“Hopefully I will do the U25 final in Week 10. I have GiGi’s Girl as well and I want to see if I can do some 2* grand prix classes as well. I will continue to do the equitation and the junior jumpers, but my real goal with GiGi and Celina is to do some U25 grand prix and 2* grand prix classes, with my goal being a 3*. We have to see what happens!”
On her win in the semi-final today:
“I am so honored. There are so many great amazing riders. Ashley [Vogel] has been on top of this game for the whole entire time and then Zoe [Conter] I have watched my whole junior career. She is insane on all of her horses! There are so many competitive people in this class and I think winning was really the cherry on top for my week. I just wanted to try my best really and see what happened and it came out in my favor.”
$37,000 Hermès U25 Semi-Final Grand Prix:
Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / R1 Time | R1 Faults | R2 Time | R2 Faults
1. Celina BH / MiMi Gochman / Gochman Sport Horses LLC / USA / 0 | 73.26 / 0 | 31.87
2. Bellissimo Z / Ashley Vogel / Ashley Vogel / USA / 0 | 73.42 / 0 | 31.97
3. Dawa De Greenbay Z / Zoe Conter / Stephex Stables / BEL / 0 | 72.79 / 0 | 32.68
4. Efodea / Virginia Bonnie / Nina Bonnie / USA / 0 | 74.14 / 0 | 33.65
5. Nektarina B / Zayna Rizvi / Windsor Show Stables / USA / 0 | 74.09 / 4 | 34.67
6. Express Blue GP Du Bois Madame / Caitlyn Connors / Caitlyn Connors LLC / USA / 0 | 75.82 / 4 | 35.17
7. Dobalia / Brianne Link / Brianne Link / USA / 0 | 74.73 / 4 | 35.26
8. Ace / Hallie Grimes / Can We Keep It? LLC / USA / 0 | 73.22 / 4 | 36.81
9. Valmont de Vizy / Kelly Arani / Marigot Bay Farm, LLC / USA / 1 | 77.31
10. Essenar Crixus / Kelli Cruciotti Vanderveen / Elan Farm / GBR / 4 | 71.35
11. Lorielle 2 / Flo Norris / Cisca Norris / USA / 4 | 71.99
12. Dotcom D’Authit / Natalie Dean / Marigold Sporthorses, LLC / USA / 4 | 72.28