ELLENVILLE, NY (August 29, 2001)-Ian Silitch, 41, of Sperryville, Virginia, aboard his mare Margo won the $10,000 Open Jumper Welcome Stake at HITS Catskills VI in Ellenville, New York, today, besting a field of 16 entries. Silitch has been partnered with the 16-year-old Trakehner mare off-and-on for 12 years, and purchased her three years ago. As owner/rider, Silitch took home $3,000. "Margo is one of those horses that never, ever doesn't try to win," said Silitch. "You always feel like you've got a shot. She might make a mistake or I might make a mistake but you've always got a shot. We've been in that position a lot in our 12 years together." Silitch also placed fourth with Set In Silver owned by Lynne Spangenburg. Michael Roy Curtis of Tucson, Arizona, designed the course.
The $10,000 Welcome Stake is conducted and scored under Table II.2.b, which requires riders to jump the Round One course, and if they are clear, immediately jump the Jump-Off course. For Round One, Curtis built a 10-jump track that included double combinations at Fence Nos. 3, 7, and 9, a liverpool at No. 6, and a water jump option at No. 8. Time Allowed was set at 90 seconds. For the Jump-Off, riders started with the oxer at No. 1, traveled straight to the Cosequin® vertical at No. 2, turned hard right to pick up the course at the No. 11 oxer, then curved left to the No. 12 oxer, made a short gallop left to a new vertical, No. 13, and finished with a long gallop home to the No. 7AB vertical-vertical double combination. The Jump-Off Time Allowed was set at 48 seconds.
Nine riders attempted the Round One course, but none could clear it, leaving the Jump-Off course untried. Tenth to go was Juliana Starbuck of Ridgefield, Connecticut, aboard Katmandu who posted the first clear Round One. Starbuck followed that round with a clear on the Jump-Off course in 41.444 seconds for the lead, but she ended up in third place, taking home $1,500 for Katmandu's owner, the Stepping Stone Farm.
Five more riders followed Starbuck, but all accumulated faults and did not qualify for the Jump-Off, leaving Starbuck's lead uncontested until the 15th rider on course, Laura Chapot went clean with Little Big Man. Chapot, 30, of Neshanic Station, New Jersey, had two horses in today's class, but was unable to qualify for the Jump-off with her first ride, Sundance Kid. On Little Big Man, Chapot posted the second double-clear of the day with a clean Jump-Off round and snatched the lead from Starbuck with her time of 40.077. In the final standings, Chapot had to settle for second place, and as owner/rider she took home a $2,200 paycheck.
Last to go was Silitch, who had four faults with his first ride, Set In Silver , and returned with his second horse, Margo. The duo was the fastest of the clears in Round One, and chalked up the fastest Jump-Off time, 39.613 seconds, which put Silitch and Margo in first place for the win.
"Set In Silver had a very silly four faults at the 2' water jump," said Silitch of his first ride in Round One. The duo jumped the water but not the fence, which toppled in front of them. "She jumped everything else perfectly but she backed up at the liverpool which is right next to it, and I felt I needed to ride her harder at it. I rode her harder at it and she didn't look at it. She just leapt and I thought I was going to go in the drink. But she's a very, very clever horse and she just found her feet, and we finished."
Silitch said that Margo had not jumped at all for almost a month, and in the schooling area before going in to compete she jumped three fences but stopped at the tall vertical. "I knew she'd be fine in the ring," said Silitch. The mare did have a very hard rub at Fence No. 4. "She got there a little deep and got hung up. She banged on that back rail. Then she knew how wide they were, so I knew that if it stayed up all I had to do was steer her. She wasn't going to touch the jumps."
Margo is by the stallion Laiken who stood in Vermont for many years and recently passed away. Though she is only 16-hands, Margo's presence matches the 6' 3" Silitch. Their long-term partnership was evident on course. After each jump, Margo flicked an ear back to Silitch, he communicated direction, then both her ears instantly pointed at the next obstacle.
In the Jump-Off round, Silitch said Margo's athletic abilities won the class, even overcoming a significant rider error. "I wasn't going very fast. She's just quick and she turns faster than any horse I've ever ridden, and I've ridden a lot of horses. It was funny--I got lost in the Jump-Off. I jumped No. 11 and I was on my way to the plank (No. 13) and I had to come back to get to No. 12. I probably could have done it in 35 seconds if I had just gone in a straight line to where I was going. I was on my way to somewhere else." Heading towards the wrong jump, Silitch unexpectedly swung his mare's head towards the correct jump, and she was able to clear it. "I was like, 'Oops', and then she jumped it."
Silitch competed at HITS Culpeper in Virginia last week, and left the grounds there at 3:00am to arrive at HITS Catskills this morning at 9:30am. "I'm a little tired. But this is a great way to end the day," he said. "It's the first time for the horses in the ring. It's an absolutely beautiful ring. Today's course was fair. It was wider than a lot of courses." Silitch is considering entering Margo in the $100,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix on Sunday, September 2. "We might just give her a go on Sunday. We'll see. If it gets huge, then no, because she's too important to me. She's got to keep winning-as long as she's winning, she's happy. We'll see what happens on Sunday."
Michael Curtis summarized his plan as course designer for the Grand Prix field this week. "For the $10,000 class today it was a 4' 6"/4' 8" look and I'm planning about the same for the Friday $15,000 Open Jumper Prix. We're building towards what we're going to see on the Sunday $100,000 Rio Vista Grand Prix." Curtis said he'd hoped for more clears today, but that some of the four-faulters just experienced an unlucky ride. "I think most of the riders would tell you that they were surprised that there were only three clear. I thought we'd get six or so. It's the first day. We've got a good group here and we're looking forward to working with our riders. We're going to get there on Sunday with a great class."
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$10,000 Open Jumper Welcome Stake, August 28, 2001 HITS Catskills VI, Ellenville, New York
Course Designer: Michael Roy Curtis
Pl#/Horse/Rider/Owner/Prize Money/Rd 1 Faults/J-O Faults & Time
1/Margo/Ian Silitch/Ian & Jacquelyn Silitch/$3,000/0/0/39.6143
2/Little Big Man/Laura Chapot/Laura Chapot/$2,200/0/040.077
3/Katmandu/Juliana Starbuck/Stepping Stone Farm/0/0/41.444
4/Set in Silver/Ian Silitch/Lynne Spangenburg/$1,000/4/NA
5/Aja/Cheryl Gaydas-Eng/Cheryl Gaydas-Eng/$800/4/NA
6/Si Jolie/Ken Whelihan/Richard Chilton/$600/4/NA
7/Manhattan/Amy Millar/Millar Brooke Ltd/$500/4/NA
8/Furistos Treasure/Tricia O'Connor/Cloverlea Farm Inc/$400/4/NA
Number of horses who competed in this class: 16
Class Prize Money: $10,000