Fierce competition was on display in the $37,000 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 1 CSI3* at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC), with Lillie Keenan (USA) and Agana Van Het Gerendal Z besting a field of 73 combinations on Thursday, January 14.
The scope of international attendance was well represented in the jump-off with riders from seven different nations contesting the shortened course set by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) and Andy Christiansen Jr. (ECU). Last to go, Keenan piloted the 11-year-old Zangersheide stallion owned by Chansonette Farm, LLC around the track flawlessly for a double clear effort in a time of 39.95 seconds.
“I had a different plan if no one had been clear,” she said. “I knew I could do six down to the combination where a lot of people opted to do seven. In the first round I did seven; my horse is ridiculously talented so really my job is to stay out of his way. So, in that kind of situation with the speed I would be going in a jump-off, the six was simpler, because I was going to do less. Obviously, Shane [Sweetnam] was not only fast but also clear, so what changed was that I not only had to go fast, I had to try to be faster than him and clear.”
Returning to the International Arena for the second round, Sweetnam (IRL), aboard Indra Van De Oude Heihoef for The Blue Buckle Group, was the first to execute the jump-off without fault, finishing the day in second place with a time of 40.51 seconds. Cassio Rivetti (BRA) guided Genesis for Neil Jones Equestrian Inc to a third-place finish in the class with a clear effort in 43.15 seconds.
Keenan has had the stallion since he was six years old, and their journey to today’s win has been anything but ordinary. If it weren’t for her mom, Pam Keenan, the successful pair would likely have never ended up together.
“Honestly, when I tried him, I didn’t want him,” said Keenan. “I knew that he was very talented. He has been winning since he was four years old with his previous riders, always a winner, but I felt that I didn’t necessarily suit him very well. My mom was the one that picked him and was like, ‘You are learning to ride this horse, and we are buying him.’ My mom rides him every single day for me. She was a very successful junior [rider], and then stopped riding for a long time. She’s actually a really tiny lady and awesome rider, and he’s the one horse in the barn I can always trust to put her on even if he’s had some easy days. She does an unbelievable job keeping him happy and keeping him fit, so my job in the ring is really easy.”
A native of New York City, NY, Keenan has now relocated to Wellington, FL, full-time as she continues to pursue a career in show jumping. With a farm nearby, Keenan is right around the corner from WEF making it easier to execute her plans for the show season.
“I’m very fortunate to have a few different horses, not only my own but for some other people that have chosen to support me, and I’m really lucky with that opportunity that I can kind of diversify my string and try to spread my horses out,” she said. “Right now, it’s full steam ahead and we’re really glad to be back in Wellington.”
Source: WEF Press Release