A Special Mare Paves The Way For Willis In $265,000 Longines Grand Prix

Feb 16, 2018 - 6:15 PM

Ocala, Fla.—Feb. 16

When Rowan Willis first decided to ship his horses Stateside for the winter, the timing of his return  to his base in England was a little uncertain. After today, it’s even more so, as he’s enjoyed winning the  $265,000 Longines Grand Prix, so much, he wants a chance at a bigger prize.

“I wouldn’t mind have a shot at the $1 million [grand prix classes],” he said with a pointed look at HITS president and CEO Tom Struzzieri . “Maybe one or two of those and enjoy her. We’ll see what happens, stay a little longer now and try to win a few more classes and enjoy it.”

Willis had a lot riding on today’s class. When a change in circumstances mean Australia wouldn’t be able to field a team for the Nations Cup on Sunday, he had just one chance to take the top prize for his home country.

Rowan Willis has been wanting to bring Blue Movie to the United States for the past 18 months, and she made it well worth his while with a win in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

He came to win, and he and Blue Movie were the first pair to jump around Marina Azevedo’s first track, after the time proved to be an important factor on course (five riders finished with a single time penalty and another seven ended on a score of five). It’d be another 15 horses before Laura Kraut and Confu ensured there would be a jump off. Brazilian Rodrigo Lambre aboard Velini and American Devin Ryan aboard Eddie Blue brought the final count to four.

“I thought it was a good course obviously to me,” said Willis, who is based in England. [The course designer] asked a lot of questions, and we all had to be on the ball right from Fence 1, and it was lucky I had a great horse to help me out.”

With a clear jump-off time of 47.46 seconds, Rowan Willis and Blue Movie were the big winners in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

That great horse is Blue Movie, a 12-year-old Anglo European Warmblood (Chacco Blue—Showtime, Pilot). Willis broke the mare himself, and they began competing in international grand prix classes in early 2015.

“She’s always been quite feisty,” said Willis. “I jumped her right from the beginning, and I’ve always believed in her, and she had a great year last year. I’ve been planning to come here for 18 months or so, and it worked out.”

Long partnerships ruled the day as second-placed Ryan has ridden his mount, a 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood (VDL Zirocco Blue—Silvana, Marlon) since the gelding was 5 years old. The pair had a standout year in 2017, and this year Ryan is hoping to make the trip to Paris to compete in the Longines FEI World Cup Final.

Devin Ryan and his longtime partner Eddie Blue took home second place in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix with a jump-off time of 47.17 seconds. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

“It’s always a great feeling to be able to bring a horse up from that level,” said Ryan. “Once I brought him over to the states here, I knew that he was a special horse. I told his owner Lori Larrabee; I said ‘Mrs. Lararbee, that’s a freak of nature.’

“So what’s in store? Obviously I want to keep him happy, healthy, not ruin it. Hopefully I can keep it together and do great things with him in the future and give him a happy retirement one day.”

Lambre rounded out the top three with a double clear performance aboard Velini, who he just started riding in December.

“I was lucky to be in the end, so I could look where to get time,” he said. “I think when you’re first and you have this course you can get caught, and I had the pleasure to ride this amazing horse, and I am very happy.”

Rodrigo Lambre and Velini took home third in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix for Brazil. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
Rodrigo Lambre couldn’t contain his excitement upon jumping clear with Velini in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix to finish third. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
Laura Kraut and Confu sliced their way through the jump off in the $265,000 Longines Grand Prix, but a rail meant they finished fourth. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
Laura Kraut was thrilled with Confu’s jumping efforts. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
Just one time penalty kept Alison Robitaille and Ace out of the jump off. They finished fifth. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
Cian O’Connor’s new star Clenur finished sixth with a single time penalty. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
Germany’s Markus Beerbaum rode Cool Hand Luke 4 to seventh with one time fault. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.
Australia’s Scott Keach and Fedor were the pathfinders in today’s class, but a time fault kept them out of the jump off. They finished eighth. Photo by Kimberly Loushin.

Want more HITS Ocala? Read all of our coverage here. Results from the grand prix are here, and you can find full results from the FEI classes here.

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