March 21, 2021 – Wellington, Fla. – A total of 29 international show jumping rising talents took center stage Sunday in the International Ring for the $50,000 Hermès U25 Series Final Grand Prix during Week 10 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Vying for valuable points toward the series-end championship title and overall standings, the young athletes’ efforts throughout the popular Hermès U25 Series led to Sunday’s final. At the end of the two-round competition, Mimi Gochman and Gochman Sporthorses LLC’s Celina BH came out on top, while Ashley Vogel clinched the series overall winning title.
The 13-obstacle course set by Canadian course designer Michel Vaillancourt proved to be challenging for many, with a tight 78-second time allowed and an intimidating water jump set in the middle of the course. The water obstacle was set out of a long corner away from the in-gate, proving to be an issue for several, causing faults and eliminations. Athletes throughout the class saw issues coming into a triple combination off of a slow six strides,taking several riders out of contention for the jump-off.
After a challenging first round, just eight riders emerged fault-free to return for the second round shortened track Zoe Conter (BEL), Caitlyn Connors (USA), Natalie Dean (USA), Ioli Mytilineou (GRE), Kristen Berian (USA), Ashley Vogel (USA), Mimi Gochman (USA) and Grace Debney (GRB) took the arena aboard their respective mounts for their shot at top honors five were able to jump a clear jump-off.
As the pathfinder for the all-female jump-off round, Conter took the early lead after putting down a clear round with Dawa de Greenbay Z, finishing in 38.69 seconds. Connors immediately followed to meet Conter in the top spot with a tied jump-off time of 38.69 seconds riding Express Blue GP Du Bois. Their lead was quickly taken over by Dean riding the 8-year-old Selle Français mare Dotcom D’Authuit. The lead would not exchange hands again until Vogel entered the arena aboard Bellissimo Z, shaving one second off of Dean’s time to finish in 36.606 seconds to move into the first position.
As the sixth pair to return for the jump-off, Gochman piloted Celina BH, an 11-year-old Holsteiner mare, into the jump-off with confidence and speed. Coming into the combination on course, Gochman found the forward distance and rode down the line with more pace than her fellow competitors to take out a stride in the line, stopping the timers in 35.118 seconds to claim first place.
In the end, Gochman and her longtime partner, Celina BH, would ultimately finish on top. The pair came into the U25 Series Final with a win under their belts in the $37,000 Hermès U25 Semi-Final Grand Prix just a short two weeks before. Despite the course posing a challenge for many riders, Gochman had confidence in Celina BH, knowing the mare’s experience in international competition with grand prix rider and trainer Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) would help her secure solid rounds.
After a fantastic season in the U25 series, Vogel aboard her mount, Bellissimo Z, a 12-year-old Zangersheide mare she recently imported in the summer of 2020, came to a close second place. Thanks to consistent top-three finishes throughout the Hermès U25 series, Vogel also clinched the series championship. Though it was Vogel’s first year competing in the series, she was able to hold her own in each week’s challenging grand prix to come out on top.
Competition during Week 10 of the Winter Equestrian Festival concludes Sunday afternoon with the $137,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI3*. Week 11 of WEF will kick-off Wednesday, March 24, at 8am.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Mimi Gochman – $50,000 Hermès U25 Series Final winner
On the track:
“When I walked the course with Ken [Berkley], the plan was to go as smooth as possible, that was my immediate goalThen when we were walking the line, they put double verticals and he said to leave enough room so that [Celina BH] can jump it nicely. The last line seemed a little bit challenging with a shorter four-stride, so we wanted it to go smooth and really make it as smooth as possible and let her do her job. She knows her job, so I need to stay out of her way and let her do it.”
On the jump-off:
“I did plan to do six strides there. I watched Natalie [Dean] and Ashley [Vogel] go before me and I knew that the six strides was going to get easy, but the plan was never to fly into an in-and-out in five strides. The plan was six strides, but [Ken Berkley] said to make sure you get over there and I just saw it on the forward turn and the five strides kind of just came up and I stuck with it and it worked out! The plan was actually to do six strides in the line afterwards, that bending line of the arches to the vertical, but I didn’t get in good enough and it just depends on how you ride the ends of those lines.”
On the Hermès U25 Series:
“ I think it gives people the opportunity to ride some of the harder tracks at a higher jump and level. I think the field was always really fun, and gets us comfortable jumping the water that you don’t get to see in the junior jumper divisions. I think having Hermès sponsor is always good and they are a big brand, so it makes it very exciting.”
On her partnership with Celina BH:
“I have had Celina for three years and we imported her as a young 7-year-old. My trainer Amanda Derbyshire actually started out with her to get her some experience in the U.S. She is incredible. She is the most flexible, adjustable and talented little mare ever. I started her in the low junior jumper divisions and my goal was to do grand prix classes. I think that will be my plan for the future as well. I feel confident in the U25 classes now and she is obviously quite good at it. I am hoping to do some grand prix classes with her over the summer and throughout this next year.”
On schooling the water obstacle:
“[Celina BH] always jumps it very high. I would say she puts a good effort into it every time. Ken [Berkley] always says to just give it a good ride and don’t pull at it-really just have a forward gallop at it. He didn’t want me to make it a big deal out of it just so that she doesn’t think it is anything different or something to spook at.”
Ashley Vogel – second place
On the water obstacle:
“When I was walking the course, I said, ‘his is a little technical going away from the ingate,’ and then it was a steady line going into the two verticals. I knew that it was going to be technical. Bellissimo Z is a pretty experienced water jumper and she has jumped it enough times where she is very comfortable with it so we did not even feel the need to jump it in yesterday’s class. We did practice it at home but did not jump it yesterday.”
On the Hermès U25 Series:
“I think it is a really cool series. There are a lot of riders coming up and are ready to jump at the bigger level and want to get a lot of experience. It is a super competitive division and there are a lot of great riders and great horses, and to have the support of Hermès as the sponsor of the division makes it very special. It is definitely a very cool series to have where you have a lot of different places to compete at in the grass, under the lights and in a team competition. I think it is very exciting.”
On winning the Hermès U25 Series overall title:
“It is really exciting. This is my first U25 Series, so I did not really have high expectations but wanted to just have good rounds and gain some experience with Bellissimo Z who I got over the summer. She is a lovely horse. She has definitely shown me the ropes and has been competitive. She helped me get a top three finish in every U25 Welcome and U25 Grand Prix and that was a really incredible feeling. It was an honor and very exciting.”
Natalie Dean – third place
On the jump-off:
“I was on [Dotcom D’Aauthuit], an 8-year-old, and I think it was a really fair course today. I think for the jump-off I could have made some of the corners a little tighter.”
On the U25 Series:
“I think the series is really nice because it starts out a little bit smaller and it is nice to be able to build your horses up, especially if you have a younger horse. Even for experienced riders it really helps develop us as riders. Coming in today it was the top 30 and it was really fun to see everyone grow through the series.”
On schooling the water obstacle:
“My horse [Dotcom D’Authuit] is pretty young but she is really brave. She jumped a lot in Europe in the young horse classes so I just rode it and gave her a lot of confidence. She jumped it well yesterday but I made sure to ride across it today because some people were having issues with it.”
$50,000 Hermès U25 Series Final
Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / R1 Time | R1 Faults / R2 Time | R2 Faults
1. Celina BH / Mimi Gochman / Gochman Sporthorses LLC / USA / 77.61 | 0 / 35.11 | 0
2. Bellissimo Z / Ashley Vogel / Ashley Vogel / USA / 75.97 | 0 / 36.60 | 0
3. Dotcom D’Authuit / Natalie Dean / Marigold Sporthorses, LLC / USA / 74.78 | 0 / 37.67| 0
4. Dawa De Greenbay Z / Zoe Conter / Zoe Conter / BEL / 75.97 | 0 / 38.69 | 0
5. Express Blue GP Du Bois Madame / Caitlyn Connors / Caitlyn Connors LLC / USA / 76.40 | 0 / 38.696 | 0
6. Boheme De La Roque / Grace Debney / Temple Equestrian LLC / GBR / 75.07 | 0 / 35.664 | 4
7. Caiam D’Ivraie / Ioli Mytilineou / Elia Construction SA / GRE / 75.49 | 0 / 38.12 | 4
8. Fantast Van Het Vinckenhof / Kristen Berian / Coral C Stables LLC / USA / 74.44 | 0 / 40.573 | 8
9. Delia B / Dominic Gibbs / Mountain King Ranch LLC / USA / 73.88 | 4
10. Con Pleasure 5 / Flo Norris / Cisca Norris / GRB / 74.21 | 4
11. J’ Adore Flamenco / Maria Brugal / Maria Brugal / DOM / 75.81 | 4
12. Dundee / Marek Leufkens / Dundee Group / NED / 76.20 | 4