There’s $20,000 on the line this week in the international U25 Division at Thunderbird Show Park. Plus, a $1,000 bonus to the Division Champion.

That unprecedented prize money is making for stiff competition.

With Round 1 on the books, Great Britain’s Emily Ward has seized the early lead aboard Evita with a convincing victory in Thursday’s $5,000 Canoe Financial 1.35m U25. But the championship title is still anyone’s game.

Here’s where things stand:

1. Emily Ward and Evita

Ward, who rides for Canadian Olympian Tiffany Foster, is the favorite heading into tonight’s $5,000 1.40m U25. She’s only been riding with the Kent Farrington owned mare for a few months, but with the pandemic putting the show season on hold, she’s been making the most of that time to work on her partnership with the feisty mare. The pair previously rode to a second place finish in the national $5,000 1.40m U25 at tbird in August.

2. Makayla Barta and Cohinoor 4

Also a member of Foster’s Little Creek Equestrian team, Makayla Barta set the time to beat in Round 1 by taking all the inside options. She ultimately finished second behind Ward, stopping the clock seven tenths of a second slower. She’ll be looking for redemption on Friday.

3. Carly Stevens and VIP des Majuros

A grade 12 student from Calgary, Carly Stevens is no stranger to studying a course. She posted double clear trips on both her mounts on Thursday. VIP des Majuros is a relatively new partnership for Stevens, imported last year, but they’ve wasted no time climbing the Young Rider ranks and represented Canada with a double clear in the Junior Nations Cup at tbird last year. Thursday was no exception. The pair squeaked into third by just five hundredths of a second!

4. Kassidy Keith and Havana

Kassidy Keith and Havana missed the top three by a blink and it had everything to do with the effort the spectacularly careful mare makes to avoid the rails. The eight-year-old mare had a foal last year and is new to the 1.40m division. But this pair shows every sign of being up for the challenge.

5. Jenna Lee Gottschlich and Evita P

Originally imported from Ireland, Jenna Lee Gottschlich’s mount, Evita P, has all the buttons to win—the turns, the stride, the will—and Gottschlich knows how to push them. They’ll be looking to move up the leaderboard this afternoon.

Tune in for Round 2 of the FEI U25 Division today at 3:00 pm PT (6:00pm ET) on HN LIVE!