Philip McGuane and Orphea HQ, winners of the $62,500 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 6

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Ireland’s Philip McGuane piloted the Evergate Stables-owned Orphea HQ to a career-best victory for the mare in Friday’s $62,500 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 6. The qualifying event for Saturday’s $140,000 KASK CSI3* Grand Prix took place on the grass derby field at Equestrian Village during Week 6 of the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF).

The field was made up of 67 horse jumping courses designed by Anna Catalina “Catsy” Cruz of Mexico. McGuane claimed the win in a nine-horse jump-off by just under one second over Canada’s Susan Horn riding Kirlo Van Den Bosrand. Horn’s time of 39.27 over the short track was just off the pace from McGuane in 38.62 second, and she took second for owner Kingsfield Farm. Alexandra Worthington (USA) rounded out the podium on De l’Oiseliere, owned by Turn a Blind Eye LLC, in a time of 39.51 seconds.

Susan Horn & Kirlo Van Den Bosrand. Photo © Sportfot

The win was a career-best for Orphea HQ, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare (Emerald x Epleaser van’t Heike). After starting the season with a top-five finish in the WEF 1 three-star grand prix, Orphea has been knocking on the door of a blue ribbon.

Alexandra Worthington & De l’Oiseliere. Photo © Sportfot

“Phillip has developed a really strong partnership with her. It’s been really cool to see him really come into his element, get more competitive, and dig in for these kinds of classes because we always knew he was capable of it,” said owner Nayel Nassar of Evergate Stables about McGuane’s partnership with the mare that has been part of the Evergate string since her seven-year-old year. “The way she warmed up today, I knew that this was very winnable for her. She’s continued to impress us and keeps improving. It’s a very proud moment for team Evergate and we’re proud of Phillip too.”

McGuane joined the Evergate Stables team to develop their younger stock after riding for Switzerland’s Beat Mändli and U.S. rider Katie Dinan. During that time he has developed an undeniable connection with Orphea HQ.

Philip McGuane & Orphea HQ presented as winners of the $62,500 Adequan® WEF Challenge Cup Round 6 by Valerie Arcuri, Key Accounts Manager – Southeast. Photo © Sportfot

“She’s not very big herself, but she has a big heart,” said McGuane of the mare that bears a striking resemblance to her sire, Emerald. “She knows where the jumps are, and as long as I don’t make a mistake she’s always there. I just need to get her anywhere near the jumps to be honest.”

McGuane first came to Wellington in 2019 and now calls it home. “I’m super happy and very lucky,” he concluded. 

After Friday’s win, McGuane and Orphea HQ secured the last-to-go spot in Saturday afternoon’s $140,000 KASK CSI3* Grand Prix on the derby field. 

Caroline Signorino and Gerardus Shine Bright in the $5,000 WCHR 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic 

Hunters shined under the lights during Friday night’s $5,000 WCHR 3’3” Amateur Owner Hunter Classic, part of WCHR week in the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF). Forty-seven amateur hunters took the opportunity to compete with their own mounts in the International Arena with the class held in a traditional hunter derby format, designed by course designer Andy Christiansen (ECU).

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Caroline Signorino & Gerardus, winners of the $5,000 WCHR 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic. Photo © Sportfot

Each rider completed the classic round of competition, giving them a single score determining their position for the handy round. The top-12 scoring riders from round one returned for the test of the handy round. Of those 12 returning riders, it was Caroline Signorino of Basking Ridge, NJ, and Gerardus who took home the win. 

The pair came in on top from the start. Going second in the order during the opening round, Signorino set the top score of 87 and couldn’t be beat. Returning in reverse order, Signorino and the 13-year-old gelding were last to challenge the handy round, laying down another 87 for a total of 174 to secure the win.

This might be Signorino’s first season as an amateur, but her partnership with Gerardus has been well-established throughout her junior career. Before pulling double duty in the hunter ring, Gerardus was Signorino’s equitation mount. “Last year we started doing him in the junior hunters as well as the equitation classes,” noted Signorino. “I’ve had him for a while and he means a lot to me. He’s been a trooper and always by my side. I’m so thankful for him.” 

The pair’s resume is long across the equitation and hunter arenas. Training with the Hesslink Williams team, in 2023 they claimed champion at Old Salem Farm in the 3’6 Performance Hunters, top-three at the Saratoga Springs International Derby, and top-10 out of 100 in the USHJA Gladstone Equitation Classic during USEF Junior Hunter National Championships to name a few. 

WCHR week at WEF is the pinnacle for hunter riders to bring out their best, and that is no exception for A-O riders. “Being here means a lot to me. It’s definitely a high-pressure week here in Wellington,” said Signorino. “I always just try and think it’s a regular week and not try and think about the added pressure. I showed my other horse Drumroll today and he was great as well; I think that gave me a boost of confidence going into tonight.”

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Caroline Signorino & Gerardus are presented as winners of the $5,000 WCHR 3’3” Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic during WCHR Week at WEF. Photo © Sportfot

Signorino returned to the handy doing her best to trust the ride. “Just have fun and stick to what you know,” said Signorino’s trainer, Geoffrey Hesslink, as she returned under the bridge. 

“I think his scopeyness and way that he covers the ground is really appealing when people look at him. He’s so stridey and athletic,” said Signorino of Gerardus. “I think he’s capable of just about anything. It was a little bit of pressure coming back last, but I thought I would be happy if I had a consistent round.” 

As winner of the class, Caroline Signorino was honored with the Legacy Trophy, donated by the WCHR Task Force, in memory of Jeff Wirthman, presented by Louise Serio of the WCHR Task Force Chair and Carl Weeden, WCHR Task Force Vice Chair. 

WCHR week comes to a peak during ‘Saturday Night Lights’ with the $100,000 WCHR Peter Wetherill Palm Beach Hunter Spectacular at 7pm. 

Press release WEF | Photos © Sportfot

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