One-Two Finish for Rowan Willis in $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix at Equifest II

Wayne, Ill. – August 5, 2022 – Australia’s Rowan Willis was perfect on Friday during Equifest II at Lamplight Equestrian Center. The talented rider nabbed the top two spots in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, producing the lone clear round of the day aboard Ashton Dakota and the fastest 4-fault effort aboard Wellington Grey Goose to place first and second, respectively.

Rowan Willis and Ashton Dakota. Photo by Alison Hartwell

Florencio Hernandez’s exacting track featured 12 jumping efforts that included three double combinations, one of which was at the very end of the course on a bending line to the final oxer, testing both stamina and accuracy. Only Willis had all the answers, completing a faultless round with Ashton Dakota as only the third entry to attempt the course.

Rowan Willis and Wellington Grey Goose. Photo by Alison Hartwell

Willis went at the end of the order with his second mount, Wellington Grey Goose, and knew with only his first horse clear he should stay on the pace in case of a downed rail. They eventually lowered the height of a fence in the final combination, but their quick time of 79.787 seconds would be good enough for the red ribbon. Trapp O'Neal and Epic Debut were just half a second behind them to round out the top three for the day.

Trapp O'Neal and Epic Debut Photo by Alison Hartwell

It was an exciting victory for Willis with his two very different mounts. “Dakota is always very full of energy and raring to go,” he explained. “I spend all my time just trying to settle him down and get him to relax. [Wellington Grey Goose] is completely different. She's very relaxed, and I spend all my time really trying to rev her up and get her going. They are completely different, but they both try really hard for me, so that’s the main thing.”

This is Willis’ first time competing at Lamplight Equestrian Center, and he is enjoying the picturesque location that is so close to Chicago. “It's a lovely, lovely show,” he smiled. “It's a great facility and it's such a nice, peaceful, rural spot, that is very close to the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world. It's a great central location, and we've really enjoyed ourselves.”

Rowan Willis and Ashton Dakota. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

On Thursday, Sam Berry and Harmonie L claimed the $5,000 Vita Flex 1.35m Jumper Classic victory after producing a double clear effort in a very speedy 42.343 seconds. Holly Shepard and Warmachine had the only other fault-free jump-off, clocking in at 44.274 for second place. Shepard also placed third as the fastest 4-faulter in the jump-off with Manchester.

Sam Berry and Harmonie L. Photo by: Alison Hartwell

Berry and Harmonie L’s win streak kicked off Wednesday during the $2,500 Stal Hendrix Open Welcome as one of just two pairs to advance to the tiebreaker. Shepard and Manchester followed in second place, while Madison O’Meara and Campina 59 were the first 4-faulters during the first round to earn third place.

Equifest II will continue throughout the weekend at Lamplight Equestrian Center as part of the HITS Chicago Series. On Sunday, the Grand Prix Stadium will host the week’s highlight event, the $50,000 John Deere Grand Prix. Junior and amateur riders will also showcase their skills on Sunday during their respective jumper classics to close out the first week of the horse show.