Though the champion distinction had alluded high-profile names so far such as McLain Ward (USA), Margie Engle (USA), Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Daniel Bluman (ISR), each of whom were in the field and would be fighting for the title, eight previous winners of the prestigious American Gold Cup trophy were included in the starting list. That “who’s who” list featured reigning champion and three-time winner Beezie Madden, Kent Farrington (USA), Schuyler Riley (USA), two-time victor Peter Leone (USA), Mario Deslauriers (CAN), Richie Moloney (IRL), Devin Ryan (USA) and Molly Ashe Cawley (USA). For Sunday’s highlight event, the 50 qualified elite horse-and-rider partnerships were up against the skillfully-crafted track set by veteran course designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA), who fabricated a lofty 16-effort pattern of fences that proved to be the perfect tool to separate the top-tier performers from the rest of the pack.
The trailblazers for the day as the fifth pair to tackle the course, Katie Dinan (USA) and Brego R’n B logged the first clear ride of the day over the 1.60m obstacles, and Teddy Vlock (ISR) immediately followed suit aboard Volnay Du Boisdeville to force a jump-off. By the halfway point of the first round, Lillie Keenan (USA) and Fasther had added their names to the short list, and foot-perfect international contenders included Deslauriers on Cloud 39, Moloney aboard Rocksy Music and Paul O’Shea (IRL) riding Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu. The second portion of the field had better luck, with nine duos advancing into the jump-off, such as home nation representatives Kristen Vanderveen (USA) and Bull Run’s Prince of Peace, Brian Moggre (USA) on MTM Vivre Le Reve, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) aboard Akuna Mattata, Bliss Heers (USA) riding Antidote Mars, Margie Engle (USA) and Royce, Alison Robitaille (USA) with Ginger Pop and Farrington on Gazelle. Luiz Francisco De Azevedo (BRA) also turned in a fault-free effort with the reins on Comic, and Erynn Ballard (CAN) rounded out the roster of international partnerships in the saddle on Diableur.
Returning in the same order in which they qualified, Dinan set the standard on Brego R’n B with a quick and clear ride in 42.13 seconds, a lead that would stand for only two trips. Keenan and Fasther were faster after tripping the timers in 39.83 seconds, improving upon the earlier frontrunners’ time due to a hairpin turn following the second-to-last fence that led to a long gallop over the final oxer. Heers and Antidote De Mars gave the leading pair a run for their money, mimicking the seemingly impossible turn immediately upon landing off the penultimate vertical to set them up for a blazing jump-off time, which ultimately flashed as 39.89 seconds, just milliseconds too slow. Always formidable, Farrington and Gazelle were the final challengers with a shot at eclipsing Keenan and Fasther, and Farrington proved why he has consistently been one of the highest-ranked riders in the world as he maneuvered his lightning fast mare through two high-risk turns and a swift gallop that put them at the finish line in 39.06 seconds, good enough to capture victory as the 2020 champions of the $213,300 American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI4*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors.
The win is the second for Farrington and Gazelle, who were partnered together for the 2016 success at Old Salem Farm and have gone on to accumulate global accolades in upper-echelon competition. The next-fastest, Keenan earned the reserve honors aboard Chansonette Farm LLC’s Fasther, and Heers and Bridgeside Farms L.L.C’s Antidote De Mars jumped to third place to round out an all-American podium. Less than one second separated the top three contestants.
After 11 weeks of point-earning classes, Sunday was also the pinnacle of the CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus, which was awarded to the rider who accumulated the most points in competitions worth $25,000 or more in prize money throughout the Traverse City series. Over the course of the season, names such as Jonathan Corrigan (IRL), Vanderveen and Sweetnam each led the standings, but in the end it was Shane Sweetnam who came out on top to claim the additional prize after a hard-fought season of competition.
During the awards ceremony of the class, the M. Michael Meller Style Award was awarded to Farrington as a representative of the attributes of a true horseman and sportsman. The M. Michael Meller Style of of Riding Award was presented to the rider who best demonstrated the values of horsemanship, skill and presentation in the show ring. Meller presented the award in memory of his mother, Harriette Meller.
Sunday’s action wrapped up 11 weeks of riding to conclude the 2020 season in Traverse City, but Flintfields Horse Park will return in 2021 as the host of Traverse City Horse Shows.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Kent Farrington (USA) – $213,300 American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI4*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, winner
On his win:
“It was a great win today. It’s a crazy time in the world, but we still have great sport, and they have done an amazing job putting on the show and keeping this a special class. I am very proud to win today. We’ve been building for a big class and this is the biggest so far this year. I’m glad that the plan came together and the whole team was here supporting me today. Gazelle’s owner [Robin Parsky] came to watch today and we had some extra luck from all the fans here. Like I said, I am very proud to have my name back on the trophy again. The trophy is filled with some of the best riders in our sport and some of my heroes growing up from American riding and I’m a two-time winner because I have such an exceptional horse in Gazelle and she really delivered and showed her stuff today.”
On the class:
“I think it’s hard to know exactly what to expect in today’s class and how big it would be. The horses haven’t seen big courses like they normally would so I think the course was probably a touch softer than in years past which is why you had so many clear. But in our sport it’s very easy to knock a fence down and that can happen to the best of us so I thought there was still plenty clear even though some of the heavy favorites had an unfortunate fault.”
On the jump-off:
“I was trying to just beat the riders ahead of me and not beat myself. Gazelle is a very fast horse, she is a very experienced horse so you can really call on her. I thought she made an exceptional turn to the double and an incredible rollback to the last and that’s probably where we picked it up today. The first line is an option, it’s a nine stride or maybe an eight stride on a big mover. Gazelle can do both, so I opted for the bending nine strides so that it was a little bit less risk so I didn’t have her too flat early on with the next fence being a closed-face liverpool. So I bent to nine, a very short turn to set up the six, I knew I could really cut on the double there. She is a great combination jumper, she is very careful, so it was a big risk there. Then same to the vertical – I could run her down dead close and turn very short, and actually I could play it a little safe to the last so I knew I had my time in hand.”
Shane Sweetnam (IRL) – CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus winner
On his win of the CaptiveOne Riders Bonus:
“It has been fantastic, we had a great summer here! The horses have jumped great every week. I obviously would have liked to have had a piece of that [American Gold Cup] but that is show jumping. It was great that CaptiveOne Advisors put up the money again this year and next year also.”
On finding and keeping his lead for the CaptiveOne Rider Bonus:
“For these bonuses, you normally have to get a bunch of momentum with them. I was lucky – when I was here for a few weeks in July, I got a bit of momentum. Then when I came back two weeks ago the same thing happened. This week I had no momentum but I just hung on! Kristen Vanderveen had me sweating and then she was riding great and her horses were jumping great, but again, that’s the sport!”
On showing in Traverse City:
“It has been a great show jumping every week here. There are great horses, great riders, great competition and the equestrians and the locals have enjoyed it. In times like this it was great to have Traverse City!”
$213,300 American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI4*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors:
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / R2 Faults | R2 Time
1. Gazelle / Kent Farrington / USA / Robin Parsky & Kent Farrington / 0 | 72.520 / 0 | 39.060
2. Fasther / Lillie Keenan / USA / Chansonette Farm LLC / 0 / 72.280 / 0 | 39.830
3. Antidote De Mars / Bliss Heers / USA / Bridgeside Farms L.L.C. / 0 | 67.830 / 0 | 39.890
4. Cloud 39 / Mario Deslauriers / CAN / Wishing Well Farm LLC / 0 | 72.960 / 0 | 40.510
5. Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu / Paul O’Shea / IRL / Machu Picchu Partners LLC / 0 | 70.460 / 0 | 40.890
6. Brego R’n B / Katherine Dinan / USA / Grant Road Partners LLC / 0 | 70.450 / 0 | 42.130
7. Comic / Luiz Francisco De Azevedo / BRA / Santa Cecilia Stables LLC / 0 | 72.430 / 0 | 42.240
8. Rocksy Music / Richie Moloney / IRL / Equinimity LLC / 0 | 72.100 / 0 | 43.080
9. Volnay Du Boisdeville / Teddy Vlock / ISR / Vlock Show Stables LLC / 0 | 68.740 / 0 | 45.210
10. Bull Run’s Prince Of Peace / Kristen Vanderveen / USA / Kristen Vanderveen / 0 | 69.510 / 4 | 40.440
11. Ginger Pop / Alison Robitaille / USA / Mr & Mrs Bertram Firestone / 0 | 73.000 / 4 | 41.000
12. Royce / Margie Engle / USA / Gladewinds Partners LLC / 0 | 72.990 / 4 | 45.380