The USA’s Lillie Keenan kicked off CSIO5* competition at the San Juan Capistrano International with victory in the CHF68,000 Welcome Speed, presented by South Coast Plaza, on Thursday, May 11, in San Juan Capistrano, CA.
Keenan and her longtime partner, Agana van het Gerendal Z, were one of 27 entries in Thursday afternoon’s featured event at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park. When the 26-year-old entered the ring, the time to beat had been set at 62.75 seconds by fellow U.S. teammate Laura Kraut aboard Calgary Tame.
As the third to last to contest the track set by renowned Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios, Keenan and Agana van het Gerendal Z blazed through the finish in a winning 58.96 seconds. Kraut and Calgary Tame, owned by Eugenie Angot and Stars and Stripes, finished in second, and Matt Archer and Luigi vd Bisschop took third to sweep the podium positions for the U.S. team.
“There were a few places that I felt like I should have done one less stride, but it worked out!” said Keenan of her round. “I had an advantage because I went later in the class. I took every shot I could. I got to watch Laura [Kraut], and I thought she was really quick. She’s always super competitive. It’s hard to beat Laura when she’s at the top of the leaderboard.”
In addition to the advantage of going toward the end of the class, Keenan also had her longtime relationship with her 12-year-old Zangersheide stallion, “Aggie,” on her side.
“We really grew up together,” explained Keenan, who purchased the stallion six years ago. “I bought him as a young horse, and we’ve gone through every stage. I jumped him in all the youngster finals, and now I’m jumping him in grand prix. He’s really been a heart horse and a family horse. Our partnership has become really strong because of the people around us – my head groom Cory Tual and my mom, who has been the biggest believer in Aggie from the beginning. He’s a horse that every time that you go to a show, you have a chance to win any class you put him in.”