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Olympic eventer ditches ‘the day job’ to win WEC $20,000 Hunter Derby

Olympic eventer Will Coleman won his first hunter derby on Saturday, January 9, at the World Equestrian Center — Ocala Winter Spectacular aboard Jill Grant’s Tropics, just two weeks after competing in his very first hunter class.

The 37-year-old, who represented the United States at the 2012 Olympics, won the prestigious $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6” – 3’9” at this new venue with a pair of scores reaching into the 90s.

“I’m very new at this,” he said. “My day job is eventing, and my second day job is show jumping. It’s pretty new for both Tropics and me, but he was great. He’s a good boy and he wants to please.”

Stunning courses for all the day’s hunter derbies were designed by Thomas Hern, Jr. of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Each class featured two-stride lines, plenty of opportunities for handy turns and a pair of trot jumps angled next to one another that allowed entries to choose their own path through the course.

Coleman and Tropics took to the course for the evening’s $20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″ – 3’9″ early in the order, setting the bar high by laying down a flawless course and taking all four high options for a total score of 91. Coleman and the 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding were last to return in the handy round and held nothing back, taking inside turns to fences 1, 2, 4, and 6. With an option to turn right or left to a final line after fence 6, the pair chose to turn left, demonstrating a brilliant effort over the final fence for a score of 93, bringing their overall score to 184 for the win.

Coleman bought Tropics from France as a four-year-old.

“We thought that he might make a good event horse, but he just developed into a different horse,” he said. “He was always a good jumper. He did some small grands prix and even won a couple of them. The owner of this horse, Jill Grant, wanted him to do hunter derbies. She recently purchased him from us and I train her, and she wanted me to show him in some derbies. He’s a chameleon, he can blend in anywhere.”

Coleman is from Virginia but spends about half of the year in Ocala.

“We have some wonderful sponsors that purchased a beautiful farm on the other side of town for us to base out of and we absolutely adore Ocala,” he explained. “We are really lucky to be here. Now, with World Equestrian Center here, it’s like a dream come true. I don’t think there’s anything like it anywhere else in the world.”

Several other entries had impressive rounds including Melissa Donnelly and Elizabeth Becker’s Corlando 49 (Cartani x Olanda I). Donnelly piloted the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding through two beautiful courses for scores of 79 and 86 and a 2nd place finish. Just behind Donnelly were Carly Campbell-Cooper and John Jamieson’s Capriati (Glock’s London x Granette) who earned scores of 83 and 80 for the yellow ribbon.

$20,000 WEC Hunter Derby 3’6″ – 3’9″ Results

  1. Tropics, William Coleman – 91 | 93 | 184
  2. Corlando 49, Melissa Donnelly – 79 | 86 | 165
  3. Capriati, Carly Campbell-Cooper – 83 | 80 | 163
  4. Cypress, Morgan Ward – 70 | 92 | 162
  5. Clarity ES, Hanley Morrison – 77 | 80 | 157
  6. Ferndale, Mickie Sage – 69 | 87 | 156
  7. Chatham, Jake Parker Wymard – 67 | 85 | 152
  8. Emelia, Lauren Underhill – 68 | 72.5 | 140.5
  9. Checkpoint Charlie, Sam Berry – 60 | 78 | 138
  10. Chacco Ricco EGV, Sierra Smallwood – 49 | 76 | 125

Aaron Vale and Elusive in the $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m

Inaugural grand prix one-two for Aaron Vale

The World Equestrian Center — Ocala Winter Spectacular kicked off with a full week of hunter and jumper competition along with eight exciting feature classes. Exhibitors and visitors enjoyed delicious breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks at our four on-site restaurants. Live music filled the Grand Plaza both Friday and Saturday evenings, adding to the excitement of the show. Feature classes ranged from 2’6″ derbies to a 1.50m grand prix, offering fun classes with prize money for exhibitors of every level.

More than 50 entries took to the WEC Grand Arena for Sunday’s $75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m over tracks designed by Bobby Murphy of Lexington, Kentucky. Aaron Vale claimed the top two spots aboard Thinkslikeahorse’s Elusive (Rodrigoo x Alouette) and Sleepy P Ranch LLC’s Major (Carmargue x Pinot), while Christina Kelly and her own Kingdom (Lux Z) took the blue in the $7,500 Futures Prix 1.40m.

“The rides were very good,” said Vale. “There were a few very fast riders in the class. Elusive is very competitive and has won quite a few grands prix in the last year. My plan was to just go as fast as he could go, and same with Major. When the order came out yesterday and Elusive was first, I was a little disappointed because he is my best horse. In spite of that, it all worked out. Being a local to Ocala, I was thinking that it would be a little extra special for me to win the first grand prix at World Equestrian Center — Ocala. No matter the success I have in the future, I can always say that I won the first grand prix at World Equestrian Center — Ocala.”

Vale described both of his mounts: “Elusive is like a pet. My wife and I have both shown him. I bought him early in his six-year-old year, so we’ve had him for six years now. He’s won a bunch with both of us. I hope for my daughter to inherit him one day. He’s a special horse in our family. Major is a horse of Don Stewart’s and is for sale. I’ve had a lot of success on him over the past few years. He seems to like this arena, so I hope to ride him a bit longer.”

Vale is originally from Texas but has shown in Ocala for more than 30 years and has been a permanent resident there for 15 years.

“I can’t believe that this has been built here for us to show our horses,” he said. “I’m 52 years old and I’ve never dreamed about a horse show in my life, but every day that I go home from World Equestrian Center — Ocala, I dream about it all night. I smile all day when I’m at the show, too. It’s unbelievable; it has got to be the premier facility in the world.”

$75,000 WEC Grand Prix 1.50m

  1. Elusive, Aaron Vale – 0 | 0 | 40.570
  2. Major, Aaron Vale – 0 | 0 | 42.520
  3. Quincy Too, Fernando Cardenas – 0 | 0 | 42.642
  4. Tycoon Dargences, Jenna Friedman – 0 | 0 | 46.382
  5. Esmee, Sharn Wordley – 0 | 4 | 41.943
  6. Casper, Sharn Wordley – 0 | 4 | 43.239
  7. Dingeman, Santiago Lambre – 0 | 8 | 43.004
  8. Stonehenge, Kama Godek – 0 | 8 | 45.083
  9. Mick Jagger, Santiago Lambre – 4 | 79.623
  10. Cinven CR, Bryn Sadler – 4 | 80.285

Feature class action began on Thursday in the WEC Grand Arena with 26 entries in the $20,000 Welcome Prix 1.45m. Four entries managed double clear rounds, but it was Dorrie Douglas and MTM Farm’s MTM Chelsea 98 (Cristallo x Lacanau) that sped to the win. Douglas and the 11-year-old Westphalian mare took their time in the first round, jumping clear in 83.000 seconds, one second under the time allowed. The pair picked up the pace on the short course, mirroring Lambre’s inside track and blazing through the timers. They stopped the clock at 42.084 seconds, taking the win.

Susannah Morrell and Sunset’s Sparkle eared top honors in the $2,500 WEC Pony Hunter Derby.

The week also featured two additional derbies including the $2,500 WEC Pony Hunter Derby and the $2,500 Non Pro Hunter Derby 2’6″. Susannah Morrell and Sunset Ponies LLC’s Sunset’s Sparkle (Rocky Creek’s Wendy Adonis x Let It Be) stole the show in the $2,500 WEC Pony Hunter Derby. The pair had a fantastic week, also taking Champion in the Pony Equitation. Bradley Federico and Hope Farm LLC’s Zamundo (Zambesi) took home the blue ribbon in the $2,500 Non Pro Hunter Derby 2’6″ out of 23 entries. The duo laid down two beautiful rounds to top the class.

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