North Salem, NY - It was a perfect day at Old Salem Farm as the 2015 American Gold Cup got underway with some of the world's top athletes competing on the Grand Prix Field. With record entries, the highlight event of the day, the $8,000 Douglas Elliman FEI Open Jumper speed class was separated into two sections. Abigail McArdle with Cosma 20 and Heather Caristo-Williams aboard Wistful each picked up victories after clocking in under the 56 second mark. Rounding out the day, Ireland's Shane Sweetnam took home the win in the $8,000 Danbury Porsche Audi Open Jumper event with a double clear effort on Beluga.
The team from Katie and Henri Prudent's Plain Bay Stables had a dominating effort in the second $8,000 Douglas Elliman FEI Open Jumper speed class, with athlete Abigail McArdle showing the way on her veteran partner Cosma 20, owned by David McArdle. The pair broke the beam at 55.93 seconds, leaving each rail in place to claim the top spot on the leader board.
"We had a great Hamptons, so we were coming off a field over there and came here and had a super confident ride, planned the winning track and sure enough won," smiled Abigail McArdle. "In these big fields, you've got to get the numbers but also get through the turns and really keep going; that's Cosma's specialty. She's so quick on the ends of the ring, so I thought into the last line I could really go for it."
After a very successful junior career, McArdle turned professional earlier this year and began riding the sales horses for the Prudents and Plain Bay Stables. "Katie's great at letting me prepare myself," she explained. "Now that I'm a professional, it's something that I'm trying to work on, and she really just gives me guidance on what she thinks the best plan is."
Coming in second was Henri Prudent's Si Bella, with son Adam Prudent at the reins. The pair completed the track in a clear 58.79 seconds for the second place honors, almost three seconds behind barnmate McArdle. With her second mount Cade, owned by Plain Bay Sales, McArdle thought she had the third place ribbon sewn up as the penultimate athlete to compete. They were clear over the course in 61.06 seconds, but the final athlete of the day was just fractions faster. Jonathan McCrea and Brugal VDL, owned by Candy Tribble and Windsor Show Stables, stopped the clock at a clear 61.03 seconds to take over third and relegate McArdle for fourth place. Kimberly Prince, who is also working with the Prudents this week, rounded out the top five on RMF Bella Baloubet, owned by Rushy Marsh Farm, LLC, with a faultless effort in 65.18 seconds.
The first $8,000 Douglas Elliman 1.40m FEI Open Jumper speed victory went to Heather Caristo-Williams on Glenview Stables' Wistful. Only the ninth competitor in the 38-horse event, Williams and Wistful quickly and easily navigated the welcoming track, stopping the clock at 55.92 seconds to set an unbeatable pace. Roberto Teran of Columbia and Ark Patrners' Farina were third on course, and with a target on their back, they tripped the timers with the first clear round in 57.20 seconds. Mario Deslauriers rounded out the top three, clearing the course in 57.34 seconds with Cherrypop, owned by Wishing Well Farm LLC.
"Wistful was wonderful," said Williams. "She loves this field, and I was so happy with how she went. She was fast, and she was careful; she was everything I could've asked for."
Williams added, "I love the Gold Cup, and I love the field. For me, the field is the best to ride on. It's so much fun and the jumps are beautiful. As long as the weather stays good, it's probably one of my favorite shows to compete at."
The day kicked off with the $8,000 Danbury Porsche Audi Open Jumpers, where athletes had to showcase their speed in a jump-off to take home the top honors. Midway through the 40-horse event, Laura Kraut and Cherry Knoll Farm's Constable set the pace to beat with a clear round in 32.59 seconds. Peter Lutz was able to top her effort though with Calvados, owned by Davenport Enterprises, crossing the finish line in a faultless 32.48 seconds. The final rider of the day would prove to be the best though as the only one to break the 32-second mark. Ireland's Shane Sweetnam took home the winning prize after leaving all the rails intact in 31.44 seconds with Spy Coast Farm's Beluga.
"Beluga felt really good," noted Sweetnam "Obviously being last to go I had a good idea of what to do in the jump-off, and I had gone around once already. She felt great, and she did everything I asked her."
Sweetnam continued, "I love the show here. The Morrissey's and the management staff do a great job. Longines is obviously a great sponsor here. They have a World Cup Qualifier, during which I hopefully can get some points, and there's great money for the grand prix obviously too."
The featured event, the coveted $215,000 Longines FEI World Cup™Jumping New York, will be held Sunday, September 13 at 2 p.m.