Great Britain’s Nation Cup team alternate, 18-year-old Grace Debney rode to victory at the Winter Equestrian Festival today in the FEI $37,000 Douglas Elliman 1.45m sporting a field of 49 riders including one of her advisors, McLain Ward.
“It was very good,” McLain said of Grace’s winning jump off round on Zarina De Vidau. “She was actually very unlucky not to win the WEF [Challenge Round] yesterday – a very unlucky four faults at the end of the course. She’s really doing great. She is young, but she’s got a great brain and a lot of talent to go with it and a great team behind her in Sam Schaefer and her stable Shadow Ridge. With support and guidance from our experience – it’s a great combination.”
Grace, who has also a two-star grand prix win and an under 25 grand prix win this season, is well aware that she is now competing against riders like McLain, whom she admired growing up. “It’s a little intimidating for sure,” she said. “But it makes me hungry for it. It kind of fuels us. I know my horse so well, I have a lot of confidence in her and she has a lot of confidence in herself. That relationship really helps me get it all done.”
Britain’s chef d’equipe Di Lampard selected Grace – whose family hails from Buckinghamshire, England – as first alternate for Saturday’s Nations Cup team at the Winter Equestrian Festival. “It was a great performance,” Di said, having been there to witness the victory today. “She’s just so confident. She rode in the ring as though she owned it.”
“This is definitely one of the biggest steps up for me this weekend,” said Grace. “To be an alternate for the Nations Cup is an unbelievable experience. I’m so glad that I’m able to be a part of it all and then to have this ranking class win, really just tops it off.”
Grace’s bravado early in the jump off could have sealed the win as her time of 56.1 was shadowed closely by Mexico’s Tanimara Maria Macari Currillo, who finished on 56.76.
“I was really proud of my turn from one to two. I think that’s where I won the class,”she said.
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