Andrew Bourns leads Irish 1-2 in $216,000 NetJets Grand Prix at WEF

  • 30 January 2022, 10:01

Irish horses and riders dominated last night’s (Saturday) $216,000 four-star NetJets Grand Prix at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, where Galway’s Andrew Bourns and The Irish Sport Horse Sea Topblue claimed the top prize while Louth’s Mark McAuley finished second aboard Jasco VD Bisschop.

Andrew Bourns and Sea Topblue in their winning presentation with Jennifer Vance, Laura Southard, and Melissa Dombro of NetJets. (Photo:  Sportfot)

“To be honest when I initially walked the course, I didn’t think there would be as many clear rounds,” said Bourns. “I thought the course was big enough and reasonably technical and, in the end, it just shows the strength of the field and the amount of good horses and riders at WEF this time of year. I think we were all a bit surprised to have so many clear rounds.”

From the 44 starters, 14 jumped clear to make it into the second round. The early pacesetter was Olympian Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) and his own Moya VD Bisschop, who were the second to go in the jump-off and set the time to beat at 39.25 seconds which would eventually see them finish third, just ahead of Hector Florentino (DOM) in fourth with The Irish Sport Horse ABC Quantum Cruise.

Mark McAuley and Jasco vd Bisschop (Photo: Sportfot)

Nine horses after Philippaerts, WEF newcomer Mark McAuley and Jasco VD Bisschop, lowered the target time to 38.94.
McAuley noted that jumping at night outdoors under the lights is not common in Europe.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he noted. “My horse was a bit tense and spooky when he went into the ring, a little bit overwhelmed, but he manned up quite well. I was quite proud of him actually.”

McAuley has ridden Jasco vd Bisschop since the horse was seven years old, and it has become his top horse. The pair represented Ireland in the 2021 European Championships, and McAuley has this year’s World Championships “in the back of his mind.”

“He’s been my best horse for the last few years, and obviously I’ll be aiming him now for the five-star here in a fortnight’s time,” said McAuley.

As the final entry in the jump-off, Bourns was able to squeak by his countryman and cross the timers in 38.76 for a fantastic win.

“I had a plan made for the jump-off and went in a little bit the mindset that I have a lot I still want to do with this horse this year so if it was fast enough, great, but I had a plan and was going to stick to it,” said Bourns of his jump-off ride.

It was a special win for Bourns on this horse that means so much to his family. The 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Chacco-blue has been with the Bourns since Andrew’s mother, the late Deirdre Bourns, bought him as a foal at an auction in Cavan.

Andrew Bourns and Sea Topblue (Photo: Sportfot)

It has been a steady progression for the talented horse. Bourns explained, “The height of the jumps were never an issue for him, or scope, or ability, or even speed has never been a problem. It was really the rideability, and if the track got technical, that was almost the first thing to catch him out. I’ve worked very hard on him, and we’ve worked with a lot of different bits, but I have the rideability better now. I don’t have to ride him so defensively anymore. I can move forward a little bit and actually ride the course the way it should be ridden instead of trying to protect him or trying to avoid a fight with him. Now he’s much easier to ride and much more agreeable, and it makes him a much more effective horse.”

He added with a smile, “This is probably his biggest win to date and one of mine too, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Final Results: $216,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI4*

1.SEA TOPBLUE: 2011 ISH gelding by Chacco-blue
ANDREW BOURNS (IRL), Andrew Bourns: 0/0/38.76

2.JASCO VD BISSCHOP: 2009 BWP gelding by Dulf Van Den Bisschop x Krunch De Breve
MARK MCAULEY (IRL), SNC McAuley Equestrian: 0/0/38.94

3.MOYA VD BISSCHOP: 2012 BWP mare by Darco x Utrillo Van De Heffinck
NICOLA PHILIPPAERTS (BEL), Nicola Philippaerts: 0/0/39.25

4.ABC QUANTUM CRUISE: 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Obos Quality x Cruising
HECTOR FLORENTINO (DOM), Ronnie Beard & Wyndmont: 0/0/39.32

5.F ONE USA: 2010 KWPN stallion by Toulon x Beat Me
LORENZO DE LUCA (ITA), Poden Farms: 0/0/39.39

6.BERLINDA: 2008 ZfDP mare by Berlin x Gento
ALESSANDRA VOLPI (USA), Alessandra Volpi: 0/0/39.74



Sea Topblue (ISH) – 2011 gelding by Chacco Blue (MECKL) out of Sea Top Lady (ISH) by Lux Z (HANN). Breeders: James & John Meade, Co. Clare. Owner: Andrew Bourns. Rider: Andrew Bourns (IRL).

ABC Quantum Cruise (ISH) – 2009 gelding by OBOS Quality 004 (OLD) out of Ardnehue Diamond Cruiser (ISH), by Cruising (ISH). Breeder: Patrick Kehoe, Co. Carlow. Owner Ronnie Beard & Wyndmont