Show jumping action continued on Thursday, September 3, at the 20th Annual Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic. Located in beautiful seacoast town of Hampton Falls, NH, the Jumper Classic has become known as New England's Premiere equestrian event. This elite level competition caters to top level riders with a chance to compete for over $200,000 prize money. The Jumper Classic offers over 40 classes and divisions designed to attract competitors of all ages and levels. As temperatures rose at the Silver Oak Equestrian Center in Hampton Falls, NH, so did the competition on the field.
In the featured class, the $750 1.30m Class, Johnathan McCrea rode Primo for Windsor Show Stables of Westport, CT, into the winner's circle. Over 40 riders competed on the course designed by Linda Allen. Allen gave riders an option that integrated several of the natural derby style elements on the Coldwell Banker Previews Grand Prix Field expected to be used in the $12,000 Mohegan Sun Derby this upcoming Saturday. Several riders took the option to warm their horses up to the derby obstacles in the class, which included the bank and the grob.
Allen who hails from Fillmore, CA, mentioned that she is pleased with the conditions of the field and the selection of obstacles she has to work with. She hopes to challenge both horse and rider in order to test their skill sets, keeping safety in mind, all while creating a fun and exciting atmosphere for both competitors and spectators alike.
Thursday marked the kick-off of the equitation divisions that were added to the class roster of the Jumper Classic in order to open up competition to the local riders who are pursuing points to qualify for their regional medal finals in their respective divisions. Alexandra Cherubini, President and CEO of EquiFit, Inc., and board member of the Jumper Classic, took top honors aboard her horse, Equifit Pozitano in the NEHC Adult Medal Class. EquiFit, Inc., sponsored the warm-up rings at the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic.
This year the weather gods have been good to the Jumper Classic, but that has not always been case. Past years have been incredibly challenging, especially last year when Hurricane Hannah galloped on top of the east coast of New England trampling heavy rains and high winds onto the grounds of the Silver Oak Equestrian Center. Groundskeeper Ray Brunet, who has been with the Jumper Classic since its inception in 1989, responded lightning fast and had his crew working all throughout the night to manicure the grounds. His primary focus was to keep the footing of the courses safe for riders and horses alike.
"Amazingly we have never had to cancel the Jumper Classic, though back in 2007 the weather certainly presented us with a significant challenge, and miraculously we pulled it off," said Brunette, grounds-keeper for the Jumper Classic. "Managing equestrian grounds in New England definitely keeps you on your toes."
In 2007, the Jumper Classic was impacted by the notorious fluctuation of New England weather when it went from a blistery 96 degrees on Saturday, to a major Nor'easter on Saturday night, cooling temperatures to 62 degrees for Sunday's grand prix.
Luckily the weather is better than was hoped for and the competition is abundant. There were 10 competitive horse jumping classes on Wednesday, 18 on Thursday and approximately 45 classes occurred on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the day of the much anticipated $75,000 Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic Grand Prix.
On Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. the Jumper Classic hosted a "Special Meet and Greet" in the Elite Equine Shaving Rider's Tent of the 75-acre Silver Oak Equestrian Center. The event itself is sponsored by Miele Professional who manufacturers specialty equine laundry equipment. The Jumper Classic welcomed numerous children who have an opportunity to meet some of their equestrian heroes. The panel included Peter Leone, U.S. Olympic Team Silver Medalist in 1996 and winner of the 2008 Mohegan Sun Derby at the Jumper Classic; Victoria Birdsall, an up-and-coming rider and grand prix competitor; Darren Graziano, winner of the 2005 and 2008 Herb Chamber's Speed Stake at the Jumper Classic; Kevin Babbington, Irish Team Olympian and fourth individually in the Recent Athens Olympics; Linda Allen, world renowned equestrian course designer; and Jeff Papows, Chairman of the Jumper Classic and fellow rider. The energy and excitement in the room was something to experience in-person.
A Repeat Performance for Johnathan McCrea in the $10,000 Welcome Stake
An impressive field of 47 top horse-and-rider combinations showed up to conquer the Linda Allen-designed course in the $10,000 Welcome Stake at the 20th Annual Jumper Classic on Friday.
This impressive field of athletes did not intimidate Johnathan McCrea and his horse Promised Land who tackled the course with confidence. McCrea had good reason to be confident walking onto the Coldwell Banker Previews Grand Prix Field after a big win on Thursday on Primo in the 1.30 meter class. The course was a true test of endurance for both horse and rider with 11 large obstacles followed by the back-to-back jump-off format. Jeffery Welles and Armani were the first horse-and-rider combination to jump a double clear and set the pace with a time of 31.71. Several other riders would jump the first round clear, but were unable to keep all the rails up to catch Welles until McCrea entered the ring. McCrea proceeded to jump a double-clear round while shaving seconds off Welles' time to take over the lead with a time of 29.66. McCrea left the ring hopeful his time would hold up over the next 30 competitors.
The next person to challenge his time would ironically be his wife Christine McCrea on Vegas. In her attempt to catch her husband and take over the lead, she proceeded to jump a double clear, but was not quite fast enough to bump him from the top spot. Several other riders would give it their best shot, but Johnathan's time stood strong and he emerged victorious.
"The course rode really well," said McCrea. "It was pretty simple for me thanks to Promised Land. He's a great horse who knows his job really well. I have my wife to thank for letting me have the ride," he added with a smile. "Linda Allen does a great job increasing the course difficulty leading up to the grand prix. I think that this course today was great preparation for the athletes and horses for what's yet to come."
The $2000 Junior Amateur/Owner High Class sponsored by Oliynyk Show Stables continued to test the capabilities of both horse and rider. The win went to Emily Zildjian-Bickford and her horse Casey Jones.
"I love this show and look forward to it each year," said David Oliynyk, the class sponsor. "I think it's a great venue for horses and spectators, and I'm happy to do what I can to support it," he added. Oliynyk Show Stable is locally based out of Plainville, MA, in the spring/summer season and Wellington, FL, in the winter season. They specialize in training hunter and jumper riders looking to gain the competitive advantage in the show ring.
In Friday's $750 Six-Year-Old Class Timothy Hooker confidently piloted Sovereign Mystery to earn the blue. There was a two-way tie for the division champion between Paris ridden by Leslie Burr Howard and Viktor VDL, ridden by Johnathan McCrea. The Six-Year-Old Division is sponsored by DG Ventures, Inc. DG Ventures, Inc., is a training and sales barn owned by Darren Graziano that focuses on teaching, training and inspiring young riders and horses to harness their hidden talents and reach for their ultimate potential.
In the $1,200 Seven- and Eight-Year-Old Young Jumpers, sponsored by Wolfstone Stables, Candice King on Skara Glen's Volton H rose to the challenge. Out of the field of 15 entries, only three would advance to the jump-off. King had the last ride in the order to challenge the top spot and rode right into the Hermes Winner's Circle. There was a three-way tie for champion in the division between Darren Graziano on Syrah, Mario Deslauriers on Quatro and DJ Volandre on Waterloo.
Wolfstone Stable and Sales is owned and operated by Schuyler Riley. Riley has been a long time supporter of the Jumper Classic and experienced numerous wins in both the Young Jumper classes in addition to winning the grand prix in past years. Wolfstone Stables is known as a premiere sales and training facility with locations in Wellington, FL, and Stockton, NJ, where she focuses on producing world-class show jumping horses.
In the $1,000 Master's Classic sponsored by Merial, a field of 15 would rise to the challenge. Merial is a world-leading animal health company with a proven track record of producing pharmaceutical products and vaccines for livestock, pets and wildlife. The win would go to Lucy-Innes Mitchell and her horse Prego. Donald Little, the original founder of The Jumper Classic was the champion of the division on his horse Mr. Nightime.
USEF Equitation Classes Showcase Up and Coming Young Riders
Equitation classes at the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic were held on Friday, September 4, 2009, in Ring 2 under sunny September skies in a freshly groomed ring. Sisters Chloe and Catherine Schmidt both took home blue ribbons, a Miele Professional beach bag and a tin of specialty horse cookies from Withers & Withers. Victoria Birdsall, currently in the top place for the USEF Show Jumping Hall of Fame award and last year's winner as well, claimed a blue in the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Equitation Qualifying Class-Hunter Phase, and Elizabeth Kenny won the 15-17 Equitation over Fences class.
The afternoon's four classes began with New Hampshire's Granite State Medal class. Six horses and riders demonstrated their partnership over 3' jumps, with 14-year-old Chloe Schmidt taking the blue.
This was the third ride of the weekend for Chloe, and her first-ever entry in a Granite State medal qualifying class. Chloe won the class aboard Leo, the horse her sister Catherine had ridden until this summer.
"I'm so proud of him," Catherine said after watching Leo, her partner of the past three years. "When we got him he was a bit spooky but he's grown up a lot." Chloe and Catherine Schmidt train with Darren Graziano of DG Ventures, Inc., in Holmes, NY.
After watching her sister's successful ride, Catherine Schmidt was first to go in the USEF Hunt Seat Medal qualifying class and her own performance aboard Selectra won first place. Catherine had already qualified for the USEF finals earlier in the year, after winning the USEF Medal class the first week of the Winter Equestrian Festival and the second week of Old Salem riding Heritage Farm horses.
Catherine, 16, has also competed successfully in jumpers with the mare Selectra, who is now being trained for Equitation by Graziano.
"She's a little bit speedy, but she's a bit of a stylish jumper so it helps a lot in equitation," said Catherine of the nine-year-old mare who had come from Mexico three years ago and was getting additional exposure in the equitation ring.
Another pair of sisters riding in the equitation classes throughout the early days of the show enjoyed the afternoon and celebrated wins as well. Elizabeth Kenny of Wellesley, MA, won the 15-17 Equitation over Fences class on Friday riding Soul Patrol. Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth and her sister, 13-year-old Catherine, were having fun riding at the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic where some of the nation's top equestrians were competing at the same time in the Coldwell Banker Grand Prix field. The sisters both attend Dana Hall School and ride with Greg Prince and Cookie Desimone of Woodridge Farm in Massachusetts. It was Elizabeth's first year competing in junior classes and Catherine's first year out of the ponies, riding Shakespeare in the 12-14 Equitation classes. Catherine won reserve champion.
USEF Hall of Fame's current top competitor Victoria Birdsall, 16, rode Baheera, a 12-year-old Oldenburg owned by Liberty Farms to win the last equitation class of the day. She won the WIHS Equitation Qualifying Class with a score of 86 riding on her home turf at Silver Oaks Equestrian Center. Birdsall was enjoying the third day of competition and looking forward to riding in the bigger classes to come. This is the second year the show has been held at the Birdsall family's farm. Birdsall was one of several top riders at the show who participated in the "Meet and Greet" press conference to familiarize spectators and fans with the sport.
Kent Farrington and Samar Capture Another Win in the $12,000 Mohegan Sun Derby
It was another spectacular New England day for the $12,000 Mohegan Sun Derby on Saturday, September 5. A field of 33 horse-and-rider combinations went to the post in an attempt to conquer the Allen-designed course. Allen utilized derby elements of the bank, grob and open water jump to create a challenging course designed to test the stamina as well as technical skills of both horse and rider.
The first three entries left the ring with no score as the spectators waited with anticipation for the first horse-and-rider to complete the course after multiple refusals. Crowds cheered as Candice King kept all the rails up, however unexpectedly suffered one time fault. Mario Deslauriers tackled the course next and was the first to jump a clear round. It would take several other entries before Charlie Jacobs and Pia secured a jump-off. Sixteen-year-old Birdsall and Jerremy would add her name to the list along with only six other riders, including last year's $75,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix winner and two-time Gold medalist McLain Ward on Sylvester.
The win however, would go to another past grand prix champion, Kent Farrington on Samar for RCG Farms. Farrington won the $75,000 Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic in both 2006 and 2007.
"My horse was excellent, said Farrington. The course was really good; I think that for the number of horses we had in the derby the course was a good length and a good challenge. The jump-off was really exciting. I was up against a lot of amazing riders. It made for a really competitive and really fun class, " he added.
Mohegan Sun is a world at play and a world to its own. It was founded in 1996 by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut and is an amazing destination with some of New England's finest dining, hotel accommodations, retail shopping, live entertainment and sporting events. It is also host to the fabulous Kids Quest/Cyber Quest family entertainment facility, a luxurious day spa, convention center and meeting facility, as well as two major entertainment venues with seating from 300 to 10,000. People from across the globe come to see live concerts with some of today's top headliners, along with major sporting events, including Mohegan Sun's very own WNBA team, the Connecticut Sun.
In the $1,500 Children's Classic, sponsored by Gloucester Graphics, the blue ribbon went to Saks ridden by Anne Lufkin. Out of a field of 20 riders, Lufkin was the only one that jumped a clear round. Lufkin said, "The course rode great and my horse was wonderful. He's a really well-seasoned horse, especially on grass, so I was really happy with him." Lufkin however, was "pretty surprised" that she was the only one to go clear in the jump-off.
Norma Gibney of Gloucester Graphics presented the award to Lufkin. Gloucester Graphics is a diversified screen printing company specializing in high-quality, close-tolerance printing, die cutting and finishing. Gloucester Graphics has been a longtime supporter of The Jumper Classic and is the provider of all the Jumper Classic signage.
Fenway and his owner Ahmed Alali emerged victorious in the $1,500 Adult Amateur Classic presented by Taylor Harris Insurance Services. It was a repeat performance for Alali and Fenway who have been past winners at the 2008 Jumper Classic. "My horse was excellent. He loves this field; maybe it's because his name is Fenway, and he just feels right at home here on the grass and near Boston," said Alali with a smile.
Michael Taylor of Taylor Harris Insurance Services, based out of Middleburg, VA, presented the award. Taylor Harris Insurance Services provides specialized insurance for all types of equine risks. The company covers show hunters, jumpers, event and dressage horses, racehorses and breeding operations. They also offer farm packages, control insurance and liability insurance for equine operations. As horse people themselves, the directors, staff and agents offer a wealth of experience in all facets of the horse industry.
In the $3,000 Junior/Amateur Owner Low Classic sponsored by Deerridge Farm Lisa Silverman Deslauriers and her horse Flubber Cucoy would earn the top in a field of more than 30 to capture the blue. "My horse was great in this class. He's coming off of an injury and a lot of time off, so he was really excited to be back on grass; he loves the footing. He's also really comfortable with this height, so he was a happy camper today," said Deslauries.
Deeridge Farms is owned by Charlie Jacobs. While most people know Charlie as the owner of the Boston Bruins, his passion for his horses and the sport of riding runs just as deep and has become a family affair.
"Riding has always been a great way for me to unwind and reconnect with my family," said Jacobs. " I have three children on ponies and my wife Kim shows in the Adult Amateurs. I am happy to support the Jumper Classic in any way I can; it's a great venue and its located right here in my back yard," he added.
Kate Levy Takes the Top Spot Early in the $15,000 Equine Insurance Services Speed Stake
Sunday's top show jumping classes at the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic began with the hotly contested $15,000 Equine Insurance Services Speed Stake presented by Great American. Among the 33 horse-and-rider combinations competing, sponsor Randy Levesque, who has supported the show for several years, was thrilled to ride in a speed stake and a Sunday class for the first time. Levesque, who trains at Oliynik Show Stables, purchased his eight-year-old mare Lyla two years ago while at the Jumper Classic. They were up to the challenge of the fast-paced class but had one rail down. "Linda (Allen) made a very inviting course and kept me safe," he said of the course designer, describing his experience as "wonderful."
Right from the start, however, two jumps near the end of the course unseated a couple of seasoned speed stake exhibitors. It was the third exhibitor to enter the ring, Kate Levy, who set the winning time of 65.303 that couldn't be beat. Riding the 10-year-old Westfalian mare Gralli, Levy was all smiles as she dismounted after the presentation in the Hermes Winner's Circle and victory gallop, saying "My horse was so good!" The course was not too big but had a lot of long turns, she said, but Gralli was "careful and fast." Kate Levy, LLC, is located in South Salem, NY, and Wellington, FL.
Other riders poured on the speed, including 1996 Olympic Silver medalist Peter Leone, who won both a second and fourth place aboard Nerval de la Batia and Tuvalu owned by Alison Finger. Darren Graziano and Allure—both regular competitors and a winning team at the Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic—took third place.
It's a Triple Play for Kent Farrington in the $75,000 Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic
Under the sunny New England skies, Kent Farrington would accomplish something that few riders have done, become a three-time winner of the $75,000 Fidelity Investments Jumper Classic Grand Prix.
Farrington has won the $75,000 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix three out of the last four years. In 2006, he won on his American Grand Prix Association (AGA) Horse of the Year, Madison. In 2007, the win would belong to the horse that Farrington would pilot right into the Hermes Winner's Circle on Sunday, Up Chiqui.
A field of close to 40 riders would tackle the course. Allen set a long course on the Coldwell Bankers Previews Field designed to test both the endurance and skill of some of the most competitive athletes in the sport.
Entries included riders of all ages, including last year's winner and two-time Gold medalist McLain Ward and Goldika 559, all the way to 16-year-old Victoria Birdsall. Farrington, who began riding at the age of eight, was the same age as Birdsall when he rode in his first grand prix
Over a dozen riders would advance to the jump-off. Ward and Goldika 559 were the first to jump a clear round and stopped the clock with a reference time of 34.06. Nineteen-year-old Clementine Goutal was determined to give Ward a run for his money. She successfully jumped a clear round, but was not quite fast enough to take over the lead. Farrington was next to jump clear and took the lead with a time of 33.052. Mario Deslauriers really put the pedal to the medal on Vicomte D, however was just seconds shy of the winning time. A half a dozen riders would give it their best effort, but Farrington's lightening fast time could not be caught.
In the competitive horse show world where it often takes years to find the winning partnership of both horse and rider, it appears that Farrington has found a match with Up Chiqui. Needless to say, since the two paired up, the duo certainly have not been strangers to the winner's circle. In 2009 alone, he won the $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, the $25,000 Green Cove Springs CSI Welcome Classic and tied for first at the Grand Prix of Tampa. He has ridden the 12-year-old chestnut BWP stallion that he owns with Alex Boone and Craig Dobbs to a second-place spot in the AGA standings in 2007 right behind Ward and Sapphire, the 2008 Olympic mount ridden in Beijing. Up Chiqui was named USEF Show Jumping Horse of the Year with over $300,000 in winnings. This incredible honor led to Farrigton and Up Chiqui representing the United States at the 30th Rolex FEI World Cup in Sweden in 2008.
"At first I was surprised by the number of horses that jumped clear in the first round," said Farrington. "I was a bit nervous because I knew that there were a lot of super-fast horses with really fast riders for the jump-off. I knew McLain and Mario were super-competitive teams to beat. This is a superstar horse, a real professional that really knows his job and he knows how to keep the rails up and still be fast. He's built a bit like Seabiscuit. When it comes to his personality he can be a bit of a prankster, but I think that is what makes him such a great competitor," he added.
This is Allen's second year as the official course designer with The Jumper Classic. When asked to comment about her experience she commented, "This absolutely qualifies as one of, if not, the most lovely and best-run horse shows I have ever worked at. The management here has been so easy to work with and really runs a top-notch event with a European flair. It has been a privilege and a ton on fun to meet all of them."
Farrington agreed with Allen's comment. "I've come to this show for the last five years, and I love it. I never go into the ring thinking I'll win. I just want to go in there and be competitive. This is a hard sport and I think you need to go in there and just be consistent. It's a beautiful venue here in New England and great to be on the grass. It's run really well, and I am glad to be here and support The Jumper Classic."
The Jumper Classic is the only AGA-sanctioned grand prix and has become New England's premiere equestrian event. Now in its 21st year, The Jumper Classic will return to Silver Oak Equestrian Center in 2010. This elite-level competition caters exclusively to riders of all levels from amateur to professional. The event offers a chance to compete for over $200,000 prize money, which includes the $15,000 Mohegan Sun Derby, the $15,000 Equine Insurance Services and commences with the $75,000 Fidelity Investments AGA Grand Prix presented by Porsche.
For more information and to see the complete listing of results, visit the website at www.jumperclassic.com or call (978) 283-7708.