The $50,000 Welcome Stake was held as a “winning round” format, where the top 16 riders, regardless of how many faults they had in the afternoon’s first round, were invited back for the second round, which was held in the evening session. Verlooy came back for the second round as the 14th in the order and set the pace. For the victory, he accepted the Ben O’Meara Memorial Challenge Trophy.
1. Jos Verlooy - Varoune
2. Alex Granato - Carlchen W
3. Darragh Kenny - Classic Dream
“It’s always nice to start the week with a win,” said Verlooy. “It gives you confidence for the rest of the show. My main goal this week is the [$136,300 Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping Washington, presented by Events DC for the President’s Cup], but my horse is fine with going fast in the first class. Some horses get a bit worried by that, but he doesn’t.”
Verlooy has been riding Varoune, an 11-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Verdi—Landgirl) owned by Eurohorse BVBA, for just four months. “He’s fast because he’s just so careful,” he said. “I’m getting to know him more and more. In the jump-offs, I’m starting to learn where I can make the time up. I must say, he’s getting faster and faster. He’s the kind of horse that I can really gallop up to the fences. I think he’s the kind of horse that will only get faster and faster.”
Verlooy is just 23, but already is a veteran of Belgian championship teams and earned individual bronze and helped the Belgian team win team gold at the 2019 FEI European Championships in August. While Verlooy last competed at WIHS in 2015, when he placed in the top five of every class in the international open jumper division, he decided early this year to include the show in his 2019 schedule. “I made the plan at the beginning of this year that I’d really like to come,” he said. “It’s a very special show, in the middle of the city. The show has so many traditions. I enjoy seeing my American friends. It’s nice to do something different.”