Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Bellefleur Win $25,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Semi-Final

RELEASE: March 8, 2014
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Lauren Fisher for Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.

Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Bellefleur (Sportfot)
Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Bellefleur (Sportfot)
Wellington, Fla.
- The $25,000 Artisan Farms Young Rider Grand Prix Series Semi-Final was held on Friday night, presented by the Dutta Corporation in association with Guido Klatte. Fifty young riders under the age of 25 competed under the lights in the International Arena, with seven clear rounds to jump-off, and a win for 20-year-old Nicole Bellissimo of Wellington, FL.

Riding Bellissimo LLC's VDL Bellefleur, an eight-year-old KWPN mare by Cardento x Emilion, Bellissimo jumped the only double clear round in the jump-off to take top honors in 51.64 seconds. Twenty-four-year-old Jordan MacPherson of Toronto, Ontario, finished second aboard JEM Stables' Piccobello du val de Geer with the fastest four-fault round in 45.39 seconds. Twenty-year-old Adrienne Sternlicht of Greenwich, CT, jumped into third with four faults in 47.24 seconds aboard Starlight Farms' Oreade de Dames.

The young rider series was developed thanks to Artisan Farms as a stepping stone for up-and-coming riders as they gain experience competing at the grand prix level. In addition to great experience for the riders, it can also be a stepping stone for young horses. In the case of Nicole Bellissimo and VDL Bellefleur, the series serves as an amazing opportunity for both horse and rider.

"She is actually a very special horse for me," Bellissimo stated after her win. "I have had her for about a year-and-a-half. She is only eight, so I got her when she was turning seven, and I am the only one that has shown her. I did her throughout her seven-year-old year and I brought her to Spruce Meadows last summer, so she has done a lot as a young horse. We moved her up this year and this is the biggest class that she has ever done, so it is really exciting for me that she went out and did so well. She is just stepping up to doing this level."   

Bellissimo showed in the young rider series two years ago in 2012, but explained that she did not have a horse to compete with last year. "This year is the first year that I have done all of the classes," she noted. "It is fantastic for bringing up young horses that aren't quite ready to go in the WEFs (Challenge Cup) or the grand prix classes, but maybe you want to step them up from the High Amateurs or the High Juniors. It is also great for riders such as myself who are stepping up to the WEFs, but maybe aren't as competitive in that, and want another stepping stone. I want to thank Artisan Farms for sponsoring the series because it is really great for the young horses and riders such as myself that are moving up to the next level."

In her freshman year at Harvard University in Boston, Bellissimo commutes back and forth from Wellington each week to compete between a full schedule of classes. This week was especially busy, but the extra traveling paid off in the end.

"This week was a little bit hectic because I had a midterm," Bellissimo detailed. "I go to school in Boston, and I actually had an exam yesterday. I usually fly in Wednesday nights so I can show my horse on Thursdays. I am the only one that shows her, so we didn't want to change anything and have my trainer (Candice King) show her, but I was a bit panicked because I couldn't fly in to show yesterday. She just had to walk into the class tonight and I was really scared going in, but she really took care of me. She ended up being fantastic."

Going second to last in the jump-off with everyone before her having rails, Bellissimo's main goal was a clear round. "I just wanted to go in and do a nice clear and hope that it was nice enough to be quick enough if the last person went clear, but at the same time if the last person had a rail also," she said.

This is the biggest win of the young rider's career, and a very exciting accomplishment on home turf. "It is my biggest win so far and it is extra special with a horse that I have kind of brought along myself," Bellissimo acknowledged. "She means a lot to me, and she is always fighting for me so much every time she goes in the ring. She has never done anything wrong. It was just really exciting that other people can see how great she is."

A student in her fourth year at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, Jordan MacPherson has had success in the young rider series before and was very happy with her rounds aboard Piccobello du val de Geer, a 15-year-old Swedish Warmblood mare (Kannan x Skippy II).

"It was exciting," MacPherson smiled after the class. "I have had her for about four years now, and I have done two other years with her in this series. She came out here like a pro tonight and was amazing. She gave me her heart, so I couldn't be happier."

Adrienne Sternlicht, a sophomore at Brown University, also had a great experience with her mount Oreade des Dames, a 12-year-old Selle Francais mare by Kannan x Hurlevent. "I have had her for three years, and she was really my horse that we intended for these classes," Sterlicht explained. "I bought her as a nine-year-old for these young rider classes, and she has ended up doing some more. She jumped the 'WEF' yesterday. I think it is nice for her to be challenged with a bigger class every once in awhile and then we bring her in this level and 1.45m/1.50m is really her comfort zone and she is quite a fast horse. I was really just trying to be a medium double clear and that didn't work out, but she was fantastic tonight and I am thrilled with the way she went."

Sternlicht first jumped in the young rider series two years ago and then was out last winter with an injury. "This year for me has been the first year that I really feel competitive at this level, and I am starting to be competitive at a bigger level," Sternlicht acknowledged. "For me, I was more nervous for today than I was for the WEF (Challenge Cup) because I kind of put pressure on myself in these classes to really perform. I think it is a fantastic series, and it is a really neat experience."