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Francis Derwin claims overall BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series title

Monday, 18 March 2024
CSI4* Winter Equestrian Festival 2024 (W10)

Photo © Sportfot Ireland’s Francis Derwin rode away with the series title after consistent results all season on Elien. Photo © Sportfot.


Press release from Wellington International



Rising talent soaked up the spotlight on the Sunday afternoon, the final day of Horseware Ireland sponsored Week 10 at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL. The BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series concluded competition in the International Arena with the highly anticipated $50,000 BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series Final after four weeks of U25 competition.  

Nineteen-year-old Baylee McKeever (USA) and her own Formidable topped the field in the season finale, while Ireland’s Francis Derwin rode away with the series title after consistent results all season on Elien.

Only two fault-free efforts in the first round set the stage for a head-to-head duel between McKeever and Carlee McCutcheon (USA) riding Coco Mercedes. McKeever laid down a tough time to beat before McCutcheon pulled a rail in final draw to settle for second.

“My horse is always reliable and we’ve built a really strong partnership over the last two years,” said McKeever of the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Carambole x LBH Calvados) she rides under the tutelage of Mclain Ward. “She’ll forever be one of my favorites and she felt on top form today. Thankfully, I have a team behind me that is able to keep her prepared while I’m in school and had her perfect today.”

Photo © Sportfot Baylee McKeever and Formidable, winners of the $50,000 BrainJuice Under 25 Grand Prix Series Final. Photo © Sportfot.

McKeever is a communications major at Auburn University in Alabama where she also competes on the division 1 equestrian team.

“We have so much trust in each other,” concluded McKeever of Formidable, a horse found by Ward. “She underwent colic surgery several years ago and I brought her back from that which built our relationship.”

Ansgar Holtgers Jr. finished third aboard Good Morning B in the final, and second in the overall standings.

Derwin’s top-ten finish was enough to hold onto his lead in the series standings and take the overall title. A shake-up in the season standing came when Tom Wachman’s (IRL) sixth-place results in the irons of Obora’s Laura on Sunday moved him from fifth onto the podium in third overall.

Of the season he’s had, Derwin said, “It makes it easier to do well when you have an incredible horse. I started riding Elien when I arrived here [from Ireland] in November. She was clear in all the grand prix except for an unlucky rail today.”

Elien is a 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Carambole x Mermus R) owned by Darragh Kenny’s Oakland Ventures. Derwin came to Wellington last year to ride under Kenny and has returned this season for further experience in the American market.

Photo © Sportfot Francis Derwin, Ansgar Holtgers Jr. and Tom Wachman take season titles, presented by Lisa Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of BrainJuice. Photo © Sportfot.

“This is my third year in the Under 25 [division] and the competition is very good here. This is up there with some of the best wins of my career,” he concluded.

As the overall series winner, Derwin received a customized electric bike from BrainJuice and an invitation to compete in Europe with equine flight expenses covered by the Dutta Corp.

“We came in with high expectations and they blew them away. I love that we can be a part of the next generation of the best riders in the world,” said Lisa Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of BrainJuice. “You saw many of them build confidence over the season – these riders we saw in January are not the same as the ones we see now in almost April. It was also extremely competitive. The U25 sounds like a group of younger riders but it is really difficult and these are on two, three, four-star level. For our brand, we love being associated with riders that are focused. These young people are hyper focused on their careers and committed to the sport.”


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