Rowan Willis Tackles Spruce Meadows’ Toughest Course to Capture the Win in the Sun Life Financial Derby for the Second Year in a Row


Rowan Willis and Everse W

Calgary, Alb. – July 7, 2019 – On the final Sunday of the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, riders brought their heartiest horses to the International Ring to contest the $210,000 Sun Life Financial ‘Reach for the Sun’ Derby CSI5*. Set over the same course every year, the track asks every question Spruce Meadows has to offer. For the second year in a row, it was Rowan Willis (AUS) and Everse W who walked away the winners after jumping two fault-free rounds.

Rowan Willis and Everse W

In its entire 35-year history, the derby has seen over 700 attempts and only 24 clear finshes. Designed by Pamela Carruthers (GBR), the course uses the table top, open water, bank, devils’ dyke, and double liverpools at the end of the course, when horses are usually tired after already jumping 20 of the 23 efforts.

Rowan Willis and Everse W head down the bank.

During Sunday’s edition of the derby, 35 combinations walked through the clock tower, and an astounding three went clear – something that has happened only once before. First, it was Jordan Coyle (IRL) aboard the Elan Farm-owned entry Eristov, followed 14 rounds later by Mexico’s Nicolas Pizarro and his own Ares, and then Willis, who put in the last clear of the first round on Dinah Posford’s Everse W to assure his chance at defending his title.

Jordan Coyle and Eristov

The jump-off introduced no new jumps and asked the horses to again jump the double liverpools. First to jump-off, Coyle laid down a neat, clean round in a time of 37.16 seconds. Pizarro had two rails, leaving the door open for Willis to take the win. Crossing the timers in a blazing time of 36.36 seconds, Willis and Everse W secured themselves the champion title for another year. Coyle would finish close behind in second place while Pizarro ultimately earned the third place award.

Nicolas Pizarro and Ares

The Spruce Meadows Summer Series came to a close Sunday, and will return to Alberta September 4 – 8 for the ‘Masters’ Tournament CSIO5*, featuring the $530,000 BMO Nations Cup CSIO5*.


Rowan Willis – $210,000 Sun Life Financial ‘Reach for the Sun’ Derby CSI5* winner

Rowan Willis in the presentation

On his win:
“I am so happy. He jumped fantastic today and I knew it was not going to be easy with these guys in the jump-off. I was lucky to be last to go and I just had to take a risk to beat Jordan [Coyle] and it paid off today. [This class] really suits [Everse W]’s style of jumping and I have aimed for this class for the week so luckily it has paid off.”

On the jump-off:
“He’s got a very big stride but Jordan did six [strides] to the last [fence] and I landed a little bit short after the double and I didn’t really want to risk it so I just hoped I had been quick enough up until then – I got a bit lucky.”

On jumping clear:
“It is very difficult to jump around [a derby course] so it’s an achievement to jump clear – it’s certainly not easy and it’s a big reward when you achieve that. It’s a good feeling and it’s nice to know your horse can be one of the few to do it.”

Jordan Coyle – Second place

On Eristov:
“For me, his is more of a grand prix horse, but also he has so much scope…plus he actually jumped this class last year which really helped.”

On his jump-off round:
“No matter how fast I go, I always feel like someone could be faster. I never come out of the ring thinking that was unbeatable because nothing is unbeatable. I hoped no one would beat me but I am glad Rowan won today.”

Nicolas Pizarro – Third place

On the class:
“For [Ares], it was his first derby so he’s not used to it. I know him really well and he’s a really brave horse. I knew at the beginning of the week that this week I wanted to put my other horse in the grand prix. He’s normally my grand prix horse and I wanted to use this one for the derby. Just before coming in the ring, they told there was a devil’s dyke. I know this horse and if he jumps it, he’s going to jump it clear. The first round for him was a little bit impressive so he tried too much. For the jump-off, he was tired. It was so nice to ride him, it felt like a training class. I really believe in him and I am really happy with him. I think he knew we needed this result.”


$210,000 Sun Life Financial ‘Reach for the Sun’ Derby CSI5*
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / R1 Faults | Time / JO Faults | Time
1. Everse W / Rowan Willis / AUS / 0 | 141.36 / 0 | 36.36
2. Eristov / Jordan Coyle / IRL / 0 | 146.02 / 0 | 37.16
3. Ares / Nicolas Pizarro / MEX / 0 | 141.78 / 8 | 39.26
4. Lux Lady / Rich Fellers / USA / 4 | 144.79
5. Cornet’s Dream / Arturo Parada Vallejo / MEX / 4 | 146.13
6. Loughnavatta Indigo / Jonathan Corrigan / IRL / 4 | 147.88
7. Gelvins Touch / Dermott Lennon / IRL / 5 | 148.40
8. Skara Glen’s Presence / James Chawke / IRL / 5 | 150.43
9. Union De La Nutria / Alberto Sanchez-Cozar / MEX / 9 | 149.69
10. Caillou / Luis Pedro Biraben / ARG / 11 | 158.41
11. Copain Z / Cormac Hanley / IRL / 12 | 139.70
12. CE CE Senior / Angel Karolyi / COL / 12 | 143.49

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