Offering the greatest purse of the 2019 American Gold Cup, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, LLC, thus far, the $75,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier CSI4* was the main attraction Friday at Old Salem Farm. Fifty horse-and-athlete challengers contested the sweeping course designed by world-renowned course designer Alan Wade (IRL), with Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and longtime partner Chaqui Z ultimately producing the best efforts of the day with the quickest double-clean jump-off time to secure the day’s big victory and the lead spot in the lap of honor ahead of Sunday’s feature class of the week, the $210,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ – New York CSI4*-W.
For the first phase of riding, Wade presented exhibitors with a 16-effort track set at the 1.55m height. As the pack progressed throughout the afternoon, the original start list of 50 was whittled down to 17 duos who earned eligibility for the short course with fault-free first trips. Third in the ring, 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ team gold medalist Devin Ryan (USA) and LL Show Jumpers LLC’s Eddie Blue served as the trailblazers for clean rounds, and they were joined by Mario Deslauriers (CAN), Lacey Gilbertson (USA), Beat Mändli (SUI), Cormac Hanley (IRL), Karl Cook (USA), Sweetnam, Hilary McNerney (USA), Beezie Madden (USA), Daniel Bluman (ISR), Santiago Lambre (MEX), Catherine Tyree (USA), Brian Moggre (USA), Alex Granato (USA), Margie Engle (USA), Lucy Deslauriers (USA) and Ilan Bluman (COL) as the returning riders aboard their respective mounts. The home nation led the way with 10 qualifiers, while the remaining six nations were represented by only one or two contenders apiece.
Once again the pathfinders, Ryan and Eddie Blue set the pace in the jump-off with a penalty-free effort in 33.39 seconds, but were immediately overtaken by Deslauriers and Amsterdam who logged a clean time of 33.00 seconds flat. The first of two Irishmen, Hanley and VDL Cartello ensured that the lead changed hands once again, tripping the timers in 32.15 with all the fences still intact, but his fellow countryman Shane Sweetnam eclipsed him soon thereafter by leaving out a stride to the final fence riding Chaqui Z, co-owned by Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm LLC, with an efficient round in 31.67 seconds. The final ten partnerships each took their chances over the pattern, but none were able to catch Sweetnam and Chaqui Z’s swift time, solidifying them as the clear winners by more than a second.
Out of the original pack of jump-off challengers, ten turned in a second clear round, and only one partnership, Moggre and Major Wager LLC’s MTM Vivre le Reve, were able to best the victors’ time with a breakneck clock-stop in 31.31 seconds, but the team dropped the final rail. The second-fastest of the penalty-free pairs, Hanley added to his and the Irish’s success for the week with the reserve honors on Heathman Farm LLC’s VDL Cartello, and Cook nabbed third position after riding Caillou, owned by Signe Ostby, to a fast time of 32.20 seconds.
In addition to a substantial prize money check, Sweetnam was also awarded with a Top Jock Tack Box as the victor in the $75,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier CSI4*. With his top result Friday, the standings have been shaken up towards the CaptiveOne Advisors™ $15,000 Leading Rider Bonus, which will be awarded to the leading rider who accumulates the most points in competitions offering $25,000 or more in prize money throughout the course of the week. Only three more classes meeting the prize money criteria are on the schedule, meaning competitors need to take advantage of their final opportunities to work their way up the rankings.
Adding to the prestige of the day, the Hattie Banks Leading Lady Rider Award was presented to its newest recipient, Tyree, in recognition of her consistently strong performances throughout the American Gold Cup thus far. Tyree finished sixth in Friday’s class with the ride on BEC Lorenzo, owned by Joseph and Mary Tyree, as the highest-placed female finisher.
The American Gold Cup’s Grand Prix Field picks back up with competition on Saturday, Sept. 14, and features an array of jumper classics, including the $71,200 Fidelity Investments® Classic CSI4* and the $35,000 Hermès Sellier Cup. The week culminates with the $210,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ – New York CSI4*-W as athletes vie for the highly sought-after American Gold Cup on Sunday.
From the winner's circle:
On the first round course:
“Alan Wade built a very good and a very fair course. Today was just to qualify for Sunday, so I don’t think he was out there to try and kill anyone. He probably had more clear rounds than he wanted, but it is still early in the week and there is still a lot of rounds of jumping to do. I think it was fair. It turned into a good jump-off for the class, which is also great for the show.”
On the jump-off:
“I saw Cormac [Hanley] was two in front of me and he has a quick horse. Honestly, I was going to do the same numbers as him, but my horse isn’t as fast, so I knew that I had to do something, somewhere that he hadn’t done to catch him and then everyone else would have to catch me. The last line, my horse has a very big stride and it looked like [leaving a stride out] was there and I took a chance and it worked out.”
On Chaqui Z:
“Chaqui is 13 years old now and I have had him since he was 7 years old. He is a great horse and we have jumped everywhere together. This year he has jumped in Aachen and Dublin, the Hamptons and the World Equestrian Games last year in Tryon. We know each other very well. He is in great form at the moment and every show he has been really counting, so I am very happy with where he is at the moment.”
On who he will compete in the Grand Prix:
“The plan is that Chaqui will do the grand prix, but we will see. Last year I had a plan to do one horse in the grand prix and I ended up doing the other one, so we will have to wait and see. We still have a lot of jumping. We have New York [Global Champions Tour] in a couple of weeks and a lot of shows yet this year, so I am going to try and keep him in the best shape possible.”
On the CaptiveOne Advisors™ $15,000 Leading Rider Bonus:
“I know there is a leading rider bonus and that is great for them to do. It helps motivate the riders for each class and it is great for the sport.”
On the American Gold Cup:
“I have been ‘Gold Cupping’ since it was in Cleveland and it is a great show. [Morrissey Management Group] does a great job and puts in a massive effort. Sometimes the weather can be a bit hard here but we expect that, and I am Irish so I am used to that! This week it has been great sport and the horses have been jumping great.”