North Salem, NY−September 12, 2012-The first day of The American Gold Cup FEI CSI 4* dawned clear and cool with a cloudless sky in North Salem, NY. The magnificent Old Salem Farm is the new home of the 2012 show after an off-and-on hiatus and it's back and better than ever. The American Gold Cup is one of the world's most prestigious show jumping events, now celebrating its forty-second year.
The highlight of Wednesday's action was the $7,500 Hallway Feed & KER Sport Horse Nutrition Open Jumpers held in the meticulously groomed grass Grand Prix field. McLain Ward came away with the win aboard Esplanade 7.
"Esplanade is a nice seasoned horse, has a lot of experience on grass fields like this," he said. "I went pretty early in the order but I knew what my plan was and I was lucky enough she performed great and then held up for the whole afternoon." Ward said he has been riding the 14-year-old chestnut mare for the owners, Louisburg Farm, off and on for about two years. "I don't show her too often because she's a Iittle bit in her sunset years but when she comes out, she's normally in the prizes."
Ward, who is from the North Salem area, said he's glad to be back in his hometown. "We're very excited," he explained. "A lot of people have been really behind getting The Gold Cup to this venue because we believed what's been done here at Old Salem has been pretty phenomenal."
Ward said the course was welcoming and the field beautiful and credited course designer Steve Stephens with a spectacular, yet solid and fair course. "You know, Steve doesn't dummy down the size ever and I think you know that coming in," Ward said.
Ward also credited Stadium Jumping, Inc., with putting on an excellent horse show. "I think Stadium Jumping has always been synonymous with a quality event and a real show and it's something that we as the riders really want-you know-great sport," Ward explained. "It was a great start and you really can't ask for it to be any better.
Michael Morrissey, the president of Stadium Jumping and the show manager, is pleased with the new venue "It's a great farm," he said. "It's a great place to set up a horseshow, that's for sure. It's got a lot of natural beauty and you can enhance that." Morrissey said he is happy with the turn out with about 500 jumpers entered in the numerous classes offered throughout the week. ''This is a great fresh start," he continued. "The show didn't happen last year. Participation, sponsorships−it's been a win-win situation."
Other classes got underway today for the five-day event and Peter Leone came away with the blue ribbon in the $1,500 Fairfield Equine 1.30m Jumper class aboard Tiffany owned by Monica Carrera. The chestnut mare was fast and handy.
"For the level of sport she does, she's one of the nicest, winningest horses I've ever ridden in my life, " Leone said. "She's fast. She's careful. She's honest. She's a winner. And she's Monica Carrera's Number One horse. She'll be showing it in the amateur jumpers later this week and that was Tiffany's tune-up ride."
Leone was also impressed with the beautiful Old Salem Farm. "It's actually a bigger and better venue than before," he said, and added that although the previous site for The American Gold Cup in Devon, PA, was traditionally and historically important, the new home is outstanding. "And the work that's been done on this Grand Prix field makes it arguably, if not the best for sure tied for the best, grass jumping arenas in our country-in North America. And the footing that's been put into these sand rings, the all-weather footing, again brings this to a five-star facility. So, I'm thrilled it's here."
Also in the ribbons on Day One in the $7,500 Hallway Feeds and KER Sport Horse Nutrition 1.40m class were Shane Sweetnam riding Esquina Van Klapscheut who snared a second, and Todd Minikus riding Zilox T who came home with the third.
Placing second in the $1500 Fairfield Equine 1.30m class was Stephanie McComiskey riding Maestro de Shalimar and Molly Ashe-Cawley claimed third riding Valdez.
The other big class of the day, the $2,500 Samshield 1.35m, netted a blue for Todd Minikus riding Sally 17 owned by Matt Dagrande, a red for Shane Sweetnam riding Eregast Van't Kielsehof owned by Spy Coast Farm, and a yellow for Jennifer Griffiths riding Chellando Z owned by Katherine Strauss.
The show runs through Sept. 16, with the famed $200,000 American Gold Cup CSI4*-W FEI World Cup Qualifying Competition as the highlight event on Sunday. Other exciting classes include the $10,000 Danbury Porsche 1.45m Speed class on Thursday, the $50,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier on Friday and the $35,000 Double H Farm American Gold Cup Jumper Classic on Saturday.
AMERICAN GOLD CUP FAST FACTS
What: The $200,000 American Gold Cup
When: September 12 - 16, 2012
Where: Old Salem Farm, 190 June Road, North Salem, NY
Hours: 8am - 5pm daily
Facility: Old Salem Farm is New York state's Westchester County's premier equestrian facility, offering 26 annual competitions, boarding, training and sales. At Old Salem you will find state-of-the-art facilities, top-level training, all surrounded by 120 gorgeous acres for riding.
Old Salem annually holds 26 USEF A, B & C rated competitions. The venue holds at least one competition a month. The most prominent are May 8-13, 2012 AA rated with a Grand Prix and May 15 - 20, 2012 with Grand Prix. The American Gold Cup will provide the elite high performance competition to Old Salem's calendar. In 2010 the Old Salem Spring Show was voted one of the Top 25 Horse Shows in America by NARG. The owners have spent over $30 million in renovations to make this a world class facility.
Photos: McLain Ward and Esplanade sail away with the win in the Hallmark Feeds 1.40m; Peter Leone aboard Tiffany takes first in the Fairfield Equine 1.30m; Shane Sweetnam and Esquina Van Klapscheut snare a second in the Hallway Feeds 1.40m; Todd Minikus and Sally 17 ride away with the win in the Samshield 1.35m. All photos by Parker/Russell-The Book LLC