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Stars align for Grace Debney in 1/ST Racing CSI2* Grand Prix

Monday, 12 February 2024
CSI5*/CSI2* Winter Equestrian Festival (W5) 2024

Photo © Sportfot Grace Debney and Jesprit H.S are presented as winners of the $62,500 1/ST Racing CSI2* Grand Prix by Aidan Butler, President, 1/ST. Photo © Sportfot.


Press release from Wellington International



A year of diligent work for 20-year-old British rider Grace Debney paid off in Sunday’s $62,500 1/ST Racing CSI2* Grand Prix with Jesprit H.S. The culmination of two-star competition during Week 5 at Wellington International’s Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) featured 44 qualified riders over courses designed by 2024 Olympic course builder Gregory Bodo (FRA).

Jesprit H.S joined Debney’s string a year ago, and the partnership has been growing ever since. “She's been a work in progress. She basically only jumps clear rounds, but it's taken a bit of work for me,” said Debney of the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Elforado vd Zeshoek x Carosso VDL) owned by Temple Equestrian. “This is honestly the first round I feel like I rode correctly. It feels good to finally be there with her. I think she's going to be a superstar, but she’s a true mare and that’s why I love her.”

Photo © Sportfot Nicky Galligan and VDL Nikita van de Leeuwerk placed second. Photo © Sportfot.

Debney characterized Jesprit’s purchase in Europe as a happy accident. “I actually went to the barn to try a different horse and they told me about an eight-year-old that may work for someone in my barn,” recalled Debney. “I sat on her, and I was like ‘this is the one.’ I just knew."

“I tried her as a really nice 1.45m horse, but she turned out to be way more,” continued Debney. “She jumped some three-stars and 1.55m classes over the summer, but two-stars here [at WEF] are like three-stars everywhere else and I don't want to over-face her."

From a ten-horse jump-off, Debney shaved a second off pace-setter Nicky Galligan (IRL) and VDL Nikita van de Leeuwerk, owned by Santa Rose Group. Debney’s winning time of 37.77 seconds bested Galligan’s 38.95 and fellow Irishman Darragh Kerins, who stopped the clock at 39.67 seconds for third on Eve Job’s Lissino. 

Photo © Sportfot. Darragh Kerins and Lissino finished third. Photo © Sportfot.

At the conclusion of the day, Debney and Jesprit H.S were presented as winners of the !/ST Racing CSI2* Grand Prix by Aidan Butler, President, 1/ST.

1/ST is North America’s preeminent Thoroughbred racing and pari-mutuel wagering company and includes the 1/ST RACING & GAMING, 1/ST CONTENT, 1/ST TECHNOLOGY and 1/ST EXPERIENCE businesses, while advocating for and driving the 1/ST HORSE CARE mission. 1/ST represents The Stronach Group's continued movement toward redefining Thoroughbred racing and the ecosystem that drives it.

“1/ST is proud to have been the title sponsor of the CSI2* week at the prestigious Wellington International during the 2024 Winter Equestrian Festival,” said Belinda Stronach, Chairwoman, Chief Executive Officer and President, 1/ST. “The connection between Thoroughbred racing and equestrian events reflects a shared commitment to excellence in sportsmanship and a passion for horses and riders. We look forward to building on this partnership and to connecting the worlds of Thoroughbred racing and equestrian sport in a way that has never been done before.”

While Debney’s regular trainers – Samantha Schaefer and Kate Conover – are on the road, Irish Olympian Shane Sweetnam stepped in to help her during the WEF 5 two-star. “Before I went in for the jump-off, Shane said, ‘just trust her.’ You've got to trust both your horse and yourself. If you don't trust each other then it's never really going to work, so I’m glad he said that because I kept thinking it during the whole course.

“When you win here it’s like you've won one of the bigger events across the country or even in the world,” concluded Debney about winning at WEF. “The courses are difficult; the numbers are big and the competition is top. I feel like basically everyone is here, so it always feels special to win [at WEF].”


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