Lisa Wilcox Unveils New Olympic Contender at 2008

Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge I
Presented by Collecting Gaits Farm

West Palm Beach, Florida – Lisa Wilcox and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare Naomi made clear that they are serious contenders for a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Dressage Team after scoring a 71.80 percent in Saturday’s Grand Prix at the 2008 Wellington Classic Dressage Challenge I. It was a strong showing for the pair in their first outing since returning from Germany in December. The only pair ahead of them in Saturday’s Grand Prix competition was Danish rider Lars Petersen and Succes with a 73.542%. Petersen's win positions him for the $10,000 cash award if he wins all three Grand Prix tests in the Wellington Classic Winter Series.

The 16.2-hand mare, sired by Zeoliet and with some Thoroughbred blood from Bold Runner on her mother’s side, is owned by Janet Bell and Tom Benson, who are based at White Fences in Florida in the winter and in New Jersey during the summer. Wilcox has only had the mare since May of 2007. Naomi is truly a hidden gem. The mare spent much of her early life essentially as a “backyard horse in Holland and had a couple of foals,” Wilcox said. “When I got her she had been out of work for several months. She wasn’t really trained before that and had very little show experience.”

Saturday’s Grand Prix at the Wellington Classic was only the mare’s fifth Grand Prix. Before Wilcox began working with her last summer, the horse had only been out to about five shows in her life. “Nobody really knows her,” Wilcox said. By late last summer, it was clear to her that Naomi had something special and at that point she asked the mare’s owners, who have had the mare for two years, to fund a three-month training and showing trip to Europe with the aim of preparing Naomi for a chance to make the 2008 Olympics.

“I told Janet and Tom it’d be a shot in the dark, but if we want to have any chance of anything like the Olympics, we needed to do a trip to Germany. I asked them, ‘Are you guys in on it.’ And what great owners they are because they were willing to do it,” Wilcox said. So off the pair went to Germany to train with Ernst Hoyos and to compete. But before Wilcox and Naomi could show internationally in Europe, they had to qualify at the national level by earning two scores over 64 percent in two different competitions.

The pair competed at two shows held in Zierow and earned scores of 65 and 66 percent, allowing them to make their foray into the international arena. And once there this fall, they were consistently among the top 10 finishers at such competitive shows as the CDI-W in Odense, Denmark, where the pair were the top Americans in the Grand Prix competition, and at the Oldenburg CDI.