David Oberkircher and Upper Earn Second Consecutive Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series Victory

David Oberkircher and Upper. David Oberkircher and Upper. Photo by ©Sportfot

Wellington, FL – March 1, 2019 – For the second time in a row, David Oberkircher (USA) rode Upper to an Under 25 grand prix victory at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL, this time topping the $36,000 Hermès Under 25 Semi-Final Grand Prix CSI U25 on Friday, March 1, at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center (PBIEC). Earlier in the day, another repeat WEF winner, Kristen Vanderveen (USA), topped the $36,000 Douglas Elliman Real Estate 1.45m Classic CSIO4* riding Bull Run’s Divine Fortune.
The remainder of the eighth week of WEF, sponsored by Lugano Diamonds, will feature the $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO4* on Saturday, March 2, beginning at 7 p.m., and the $209,000 Grand Prix CSIO4* presented by Lugano Diamonds on Sunday, March 3, at 1 p.m.

David Oberkircher and Upper topped a field of 46 entries to win the $36,000 Hermès Under 25 Semi-Final Grand Prix CSI U25, marking the pair’s second consecutive Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series victory after having also won the $25,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix during week six of WEF.
On their way to the win, Oberkircher and the 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding owned by Southfields Farm, LLC, were one of six entries to qualify to jump off over the Steve Stephens-designed short course. As the second to return, Oberkircher set a time to beat of 35.10 seconds that would prove untouchable through the remainder of the class. Coming the closest for second place was Ireland’s Daniel Coyle, who stopped the clock in 36.19 seconds aboard his own CHS Krooze. Finishing in third with a time of 36.22 seconds was Ailish Cunniffe (USA) riding Baloucento 2, owned by Whipstick Farm Ltd.
“It’s been amazing!” said 23-year-old Oberkircher. “I did the series last year. I had some good results, but I was just looking to improve this year and maybe jump a few more clear rounds. To come out on top two weeks in a row has been amazing. My horse has been feeling great and jumping great, so I’m thrilled.
“I have a slower moving horse, but he’s got a massive stride, so I just basically had to do the least amount of strides possible everywhere [in the jump off],” said Oberkircher. “I ended up doing six home where most did seven, so that’s probably where I got them. But it was very close!”
With only a second separating Oberkircher and Coyle, Coyle was happy with his runner-up finish aboard his relatively new mount, CHS Krooze.
“These guys were brilliant,” said Coyle of Oberkircher and Cunniffe. “The horse I have tonight is one of my own horses; it’s a little new to me. I walked the course and thought ‘This is big,’ so I’m very happy. This is the first big step for [CHS Krooze], and she really came through so I’m excited for her.
“She’s not everybody’s cup of tea,” continued Coyle in speaking of the nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare. “She’s just special in lots of ways – like if a horse canters past her or somebody spooks her or even tractors or simple things. For me, when horses jump as good as she does though, the rest you put up with. When I’ve put pressure on to ask her to do a little more, she’s always done it so much better, which is always the sign of a good horse. Like I say, she’s not the simplest, but the jump is there. I’ll just take my time until I have something in the end!”
Cunniffe, who led the Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series standings coming into the night, was also happy with her Friday night performance aboard her partner of two years, Baloucento 2.
“I felt a little pressure coming into tonight for sure, but my horse jumped great,” said Cunniffe, 21. “He loves big atmospheres; he’s great on the field, great under the lights. He was really consistent last year, and he’s been even more consistent this year. I went for it in the jump-off, but I was a little wide in places; these boys got me beat!”
All three riders will look to contest the $50,000 Hermès Under 25 Grand Prix Series Final during WEF Week 11. For Oberkircher, who purchased Upper a year and a half ago, he will also be looking to step up into more CSI 2* and CSI 3* competition, while also juggling a full-time job as a financial analyst with Freddie Mack.
“He’s a very reliable horse,” said Oberkircher of Upper. “He’s so brave and solid. I can point him at any jump, any distance, and he’s going to go and try his hardest. As an amateur like myself, it’s a good horse to sit on.”

By Emily Riden and Summer Grace for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.