Moreland Hills, Ohio - The Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic Grand Prix Weekend began with an exhilarating jump-off round in Friday night’s Welcome Stake and ended with an awe-inspiring performance in Sunday’s Cleveland Grand Prix. Along the way there were also canine exhibitions, carriage rides, family fun activities, Grand Prix festivities, the International Hunter Derby and many local champions in the multiple Hunter/Jumper divisions that competed from Wednesday, July 14 up through Sunday, July 18.
The $10,000 Welcome Stake, Friday, July 16, began with the usual excitement of talented riders racing over a course of 4’ jumps, but it was the jump-off round that had everyone out of their seats. In the final three courses of the jump-off the top placing changed three times! First went Michael Murphy aboard Katina 12, beating his trainer Debbie Stephens’ previous top score with All Star, then Debbie Stephens went aboard her second horse, Cleu, and beat Murphy. Finally, Chuck Waters, aboard his 13-year-old Selle Français 747, flew through the course to beat Stephens for top honors.
Chuck Waters has been coming to the Chagrin Valley Hunter Jumper Classic on-and-off since about 1972. He said that he keeps returning “because of the excellent skills of the people running the show, because the footing is incredible, because Cleveland is a beautiful city with great restaurants, and because there is more history to the Cleveland Grand Prix than there is to any other Grand Prix in this country.”
Saturday, July 17, was a fun-filled day for the whole family. Canine exhibitions, carriage rides, visits from Hunter the Horse, and face painting were just a few of the family fun activities on hand. At noon the Sarah Allison Steffee Sportsmanship Trophy was awarded to Katherine Newman of Upperville, Virginia. The day ended with the $10,000 International Hunter Derby. The course consisted of real log jumps, brush filled jumps and many 3 to 4’ wide jumps that reached up to 4’ high.
The first International Hunter Derby in the Chagrin Valley was held in 2008 and was won by Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy. Alfano and Jersey Boy repeated this win in 2009 and have now continued their winning streak into 2010. Not only did Alfano win with Jersey Boy, but she also took second with The Specialist and fourth with Extraordinary!
The Grand Prix festivities on Sunday, July 18, began with the introduction of two guests of honor, Eugene Mische and Billie Steffee, and went on to include a canine high-jump competition; a beautiful dressage demonstration by Charlotte Bayley, with her Friesian stallion Markus, and Lauren Angie, with her Grand Prix level gelding Robinson, both from Maple Star Farm in Chardon, which is owned by Charlotte Bayley; an appearance by the Chagrin Valley Hunt and their hounds; and finished up with the Cleveland Metroparks color guard and mounted posse displaying the American flag during the singing of the National Anthem.
Following these festivities was the 45th Cleveland Grand Prix. Many Olympic-caliber riders and a few amateur riders, including Jennifer Waxman of Chagrin Falls, competed over a very technical course of 5’ jumps. History was made as Margie Engle proceeded to win the Cleveland Grand Prix for a tenth time! Not only did she take top honors with Indigo, but she also took second with Hidden Creek’s Pamina L. Debbie Stephens took the third place spot with her 18-hand gelding All Star.
Margie Engle, of West Palm Beach, FL, rode in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2003 Pan Am Games, the 2006 World Equestrian Games, and has been named the AGA Rider of the Year an unprecedented ten times. During a press conference following the Grand Prix Engle seemed surprised that Indigo, originally from Australia, had beat Pamina L, about whom she said “the faster you go the higher she gets.” Engle enjoyed the field of riders in the class and liked the course because “it gave the riders who are new to this level a chance to try a Grand Prix without getting scared.”
Engle went on to say that “this show is one of my favorite stops, for many reasons. There is always a good crowd, the people who run the show and the people who live in the area are always very nice, and the footing is really nice as it doesn’t take anything out of the horses.”
Debbie Stephens, a two-time Pan Am Bronze medalist and winner of both the American Invitational and the American Gold Cup, said that she loves this show “for many reasons, the first being that my memory of winning the 1980 Cleveland Grand Prix, aboard Abdullah, is a very memorable career point. Also because Cleveland is a very educated audience, with people who really appreciate good show jumping and who are dedicated to the sport. And the state-of-the-art ring because Grand Prix level horses are hard to come by these days and it’s always important to do everything we can to protect them and prevent them from injury. I respect this show because it keeps to its traditions while also keeping up to date with state of the art footing, good jumps, and great course designers.”
Overall the Grand Prix weekend was a great success for all involved. Beautiful weather, extraordinary horses, talented riders, and a great crowd all made for an exciting weekend.