Aug 02, 2023

The Race to Le Lion Continues: The Leading Contenders

By Kate Lokey - USEA Staff
Chris Talley and Gina. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

The race to Le Lion continues, as the 2023 FEI WBFSH Eventing World Breeding Championships edge closer on Oct. 19-22. The USEA continuously tracks the horses in contention for the 7-year-old championship in Le Lion d’Angers, France, and this year includes several competitive horses vying for the Holekamp/Turner Grant, which provides significant funds to one eligible horse to represent the United States in France.

The USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) horse that has the highest score from the 2021 Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse 5-Year-Old Championship that is also fully qualified to compete in the 7-year-old Championship, will receive the USEA’s Holekamp/Turner Grant. If the highest-scoring 5-year-old does not qualify or is unable to attend Mondial du Lion, the grant will be awarded to the next-highest scorer who is qualified, able, and willing to go. The grant remains with the horse and must be ridden by a U.S. citizen. The Holekamp/Turner Grant is supported by Timothy and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm, and Christine and T.J. Turner of Indian Creek Farm. The intention of the grant is to further develop an upward pathway for U.S. team horses in the sport of eventing. Grant recipients that are North American-bred will be awarded the full cash grant of $17,500 and imported horses will be awarded $8,000.

The title sponsor of the USEA YEH Championships, The Dutta Corporation, will also generously provide one round trip flight to travel to France for the event. This prize will be awarded to the Holekamp/Turner Grant recipient.

To qualify for the 7-year-old CCI3*-L Championship at Mondial du Lion, a horse must complete the Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MER) for the level, which is one CCI2*-L and one CCI3*-S, both of which must be without any cross-country penalties and a maximum of four jump penalties in show jumping. Activating a maximum of one frangible device on cross-country will maintain the MER results.

The Horses In Contention

This spring, the USEA followed along with several horses who were on their way to earning qualifications for the event, with three already earning full qualifications. Since then, two more horses have earned partial qualifications, and the USEA has checked in with the teams behind the three horses with full qualifications.

The three horses who have already obtained full qualifications are: Gina (Gentleman x Ballerina), a Hanoverian mare owned by Corwin Sport Horses, LLC and ridden by Chris Talley; HSH Connor (Connor 48 x Galwaybay Merstona), an Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Luann McElduff and Sherrie Martin and ridden by Caroline Pamukcu, and Invictus, an American Warmblood gelding by Diarado owned by Karen O’Connor and ridden by Mia Farley.

This year’s fully qualified horses have created a unique situation, as this is the first year in the history of the Holekamp/Turner Grant where the top three placed horses from the 2021 Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse Championships are the same horses in top contention for the grant, already having earned their full qualifications. Gina topped the 2021 YEH leaderboard with an impressive 95.1, making her the leading contender for the grant, with HSH Connor on her heels with a 94.84, and Invictus on a 93.84, securing the top three overall national YEH leaderboard placings and standing as the top three contenders for this year’s grant and prize.

The team behind Gina has expressed that they intend to compete her in the 7-year-old CCI3*-L Championship in France, and rider Chris Talley is also working to get two of his other contenders, Rappahannock, and Loughtown Cici ZA fully qualified this summer. Talley expressed that he’d like to gear Gina toward going to compete in France with the support of the Holekamp/Turner Grant, and then possibly take one or both of his other contenders to compete as well, with his team’s support. Rappahannock (Rosenthal x Sunny Dey) is an Oldenburg gelding owned by Lynn Berry, who earned an 89.3 at the 2021 Dutta Corp. USEA YEH Championships, and Loughtown Cici ZA (CC Captain Clover x Castlelawn Diamond Clover) is an Irish Sport Horse mare owned by Talley, who earned an 87.69 at the 2021 Championships.

Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Connor. USEA/Meagan DeLisle photo

HSH Connor stands second in line for this year’s grant, but the Irish Sport Horse gelding has already upped the ante on his record, as Pamukcu competed Connor at La Mondial du Lion in 2022, leading the CCI2*-L 6-year-old Championship until the final day, where the pair had a rail down in show jumping, but still earned reserve championship of the 6-year-old division.

Pamukcu has expressed intent to the USEA that she plans to work with her team to bring HSH Connor back to La Mondial Lu Lion for the 7-year-old Championship this year as well. It’s also noteworthy to mention that Pamukcu’s horse HSH Blake was the 2022 recipient of the USEA’s Holekamp/Turner Grant and earned a top-10 placing in the 7-year-old Championship.

Mia Farley and Invictus. USEA/Leslie Mintz photo

Invictus is currently third in line for this year’s Holekamp/Turner Grant and has had a great eventing season with Farley in the irons. Owner Karen O'Connor rode Invictus' dam through the three-star level, and Invictus is a homebred she is very proud of. O'Connor noted that if they were to receive the grant, they would attend the championships in France.

The partially qualified horses from the 2021 Dutta Corp. USEA Young Event Horse Championships, as previously mentioned this spring, are:

Kung Fu Quality (Imothep x Rose and Crown), an Oldenburg/TB owned and bred by Sharon Church and ridden by Marley Stone Bourke; Rappahannock (Rosenthal x Sunny Dey), an Oldenburg gelding owned by Lynn Berry and ridden by Chris Talley; Crafty Don (Tolan R x Diamond Breaker), an Irish Sport Horse gelding owned by Julianne Guariglia and ridden by Tamra Smith; Loughtown Cici ZA (CC Captain Clover x Castlelawn Diamond Clover), an Irish Sport Horse mare owned and ridden by Chris Talley; Qualitini (Womanizer x Chill Lady), an Irish Sport Horse mare owned and ridden by Marley Stone Bourke; Gillou (Defining Gravity x Eowyn) a Holsteiner gelding owned and ridden by Devin Robel; and Briarhill Excel Star Take 2 (King’s Comet x Briarhill Cruise), an Irish Sport Horse mare owned by the BEST Group and ridden by Courtney Cooper.

Two more horses have also just recently earned partial qualifications at the CCI2-L, still needing their CCI3*-S MER: Ingress (Tatendrang x Isla Mujeres), a Trakehner gelding owned by The Ingress Syndicate and ridden by Shannon Riley; and Adagio’s Nobility (Adagio de Talma x Noble Lady), a Holsteiner gelding owned by Annie Eldridge and ridden by Ariel Grald.

Additionally, YEH graduate Lincoln’s Address (Union Rags x Sincerely) has obtained partial qualifications, but is a Thoroughbred, and the breed is not recognized in the WBFSH studbook. Therefore, the event does not deem them as eligible.

The USEA will continue to follow along with this year’s exciting contenders as they race toward Le Lion d’Angers. For any questions regarding the Holekamp/Turner Grant or the USEA Young Event Horse Program, contact Kate Lokey at [email protected].

About the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Program

The Young Event Horse (YEH) Program was first established in 2004 as an eventing talent search. Much like similar programs in Europe, the YEH program was designed to identify young horses aged four- and five-years-old, that possess the talent and disposition to, with proper training, excel at the uppermost levels of the sport. The ultimate goal of the program is to distinguish horses with the potential to compete at the four- and five-star levels, but many fine horses that excel at the lower levels are also showcased by the program.

The YEH program provides an opportunity for breeders and owners to exhibit the potential of their young horses while encouraging the breeding and development of top event horses for the future. The program rewards horses who are educated and prepared in a correct and progressive manner. At qualifying events, youngsters complete a dressage test and a jumping/galloping/general impression phase. At Championships, young horses are also evaluated on their conformation in addition to the dressage test and jumping/galloping/general impression phase. Click here to learn more about the Young Event Horse Program.

The USEA would like to thank Bates Saddles, SmartPak, Standlee, Parker Equine Insurance, Capital Square, Kerrits, HorseWeek, and The Jockey Club for sponsoring the Young Event Horse Program. Additionally, the USEA would like to thank The Dutta Corp., Title Sponsor of the Young Event Horse Championships.

About The Holekamp/Turner Grant

Founded in 2015 by Timothy and Cheryl Holekamp of New Spring Farm and Christine and T.J. Turner of Indian Creek Farm, the Holekamp/Turner Grant provides a USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) Championship competitor with the opportunity to represent the United States at the FEI Eventing World Breeding Championships in the 7-year-old CCIYH3*-L Championship at Mondial du Lion in Le Lion d’Angers, France. With the sole purpose of paving a clear pathway for U.S. team horses to progress in the sport of eventing, recipients who are North American-bred will be awarded the full cash grant of $17,500, while imported horses are awarded $8,000. Additionally, The Dutta Corp. offers a prize to the Holekamp/Turner Grant recipient, consisting of a round trip flight from the Eastern United States to Europe.

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