A year of diligent work for 20-year-old British rider Grace Debney paid off in Sunday’s $62,500 1/ST Racing CSI2* Grand Prix with Jesprit H.S. The culmination of two-star competition during Week 5 at Wellington International’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) featured 44 qualified riders over courses designed by 2024 Olympic course builder Gregory Bodo (FRA).
Jesprit H.S joined Debney’s string a year ago, and the partnership has been growing ever since. “She’s been a work in progress. She basically only jumps clear rounds, but it’s taken a bit of work for me,” said Debney of the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Elforado vd Zeshoek x Carosso VDL) owned by Temple Equestrian. “This is honestly the first round I feel like I rode correctly. It feels good to finally be there with her. I think she’s going to be a superstar, but she’s a true mare and that’s why I love her.”
Debney characterized Jesprit’s purchase in Europe as a happy accident. “I actually went to the barn to try a different horse and they told me about an eight-year-old that may work for someone in my barn,” recalled Debney. “I sat on her, and I was like ‘this is the one.’ I just knew.”
Ben Maher and Point Break Garner Top Honors in $62,500 Hermès CSI5* 1.50m
Five-star competition rounded out on Sunday with the $62,500 Hermès CSI5* 1.50m Classic. The Hermès 1.50m series returned for a fifth week in the International Arena, this time with fifty-two riders challenging the track designed by Gregory Bodo (FRA).
Keeping it in the family, Hermès sponsored rider and FEI World No. 2, Ben Maher (GBR), and Point Break, owned by Maher, Pamela Wright, and Charlotte Rossetter, took home the win. The pair beat out 10 other competitors in the jump-off, achieving a winning time of 38.12 seconds.
“Point Break is ten now. We got him when he was six years old,” said Maher of the stallion. “His first time here was when he was seven in the young jumpers. We’ve developed him the last few years, he’s jumped a couple of five-star grand prixs at the end of last year and then we gave him a break. He just arrived here a few weeks ago and we’re getting him going for the season.”