September 12, 2013--The 2013 American Gold Cup CSI4*-W returned to the picturesque Old Salem Farm Wednesday to kick-off the week-long international jumping competition featuring the world's top athletes. Thanks to phenomenal reviews from 2012, a large number of entries created a section split for the day's main event on the Grand Prix Field: the $8,000 Danbury Porsche Audi 1.40m Open Jumper class. During the first section, it was Ireland's Shane Sweetnam and Solerina who bested Todd Minikus and Uraguay by three seconds at the end of the class with a quick and clear jump-off. Allison Robatille made a splash in Section B, competing in her first jump-off class since November with her veteran mount Cover Girl, who was just returning from injury, beating Meagan Nusz and Elias by a full second in the tiebreaker.
Ireland's Alan Wade designed two tracks for the day's feature class, each winding throughout the large field and including multiple bending lines as well a vertical-oxer double combination, and an oxer-vertical double combination. With over 40 competitors in each class, it came down to speed and accuracy in the jump-off. Fifteen horses showed over the short course in the first section, which began at the far end of the field and used the oxer-vertical double combination, as well as multiple places to slice fences and finished over an oxer towards the gate.
Todd Minikus was only the fourth athlete to compete aboard Uraguay, owned by Legacy Stables of Princeton, NJ, but he set the target early in the class. After a faultless round, they managed to mimic the clear effort during the jump-off, making inside turns and breaking the beam at 32.773 seconds.
Ten rounds later, Sarah Segal made a bid for the win with Ubris, owned by Chartwell of Flemington, NJ. Although they managed to leave all the fences in tact and leave a stride out to the last fence, their time of 34.273 fell just shy of the leader and they took home fourth place. Meagan Nusz of Houston, TX, was right on Segal's heels, piloting Waomi to a clear time of 34.763 for the fifth place honors.
Roberto Teran missed Minikus' time by just 2/10ths of a second riding Woklahoma for the Ark Partners of Wellington, FL. They also posted a clear round, but crossed the finish in line in 32.992 seconds for the third place award.
Shane Sweetnam was one of the final competitors to show in the first section, but his experienced mount Solerina was ready to win. They had a strong gallop to the first three fences, only steadying for the double combination before slicing the final vertical and leaving a stride out to the last oxer. The duo blazed across the finish line in 29.770 seconds, jumping straight to the top of the leader board and leading the victory gallop.
"I think I was quick enough from one, two and three and then I took a little time to the double," explained Sweetnam. "Then I just let go and went across to the second to last and I knew if I got a good shot there, that I'd have a chance to do the one less to the last. She's got quite a big stride and she doesn't spend too much time in the air. In the second round I know she can be quick enough to be lucky enough to keep all the jumps up."
Owned by Spy Coast Farm and Sweet Oak Farm, Solerina is a 14-year-old Irish Sporthorse mare by Cruising that Sweetnam began riding last year. After winning the $50,000 Kentucky Summer Grand Prix, Solerina used a month of working at home to come out fresh and ready for a victory.
"I think since I've had her she nearly picks up a win in every class, so her results are phenomenal," smiled Sweetnam. "She's got a little bit of character, but her results make up for it. She'll do two of the four indoors next. Last year she had a good indoors and I know her better this year, so I think she'll have a good one again this year."
Sweetnam was happy to return to the 2013 American Gold Cup CSI4*-W noting, "Michael Morrissey and the staff do a great job here. It gets better every year. It's great money and the footing looks to be so much better this year. They're trying to upgrade it and make it a really good four-star show. I appreciate it and all the other riders appreciate it."
In the second section of the $8,000 Danbury Porsche Audi 1.40m Open Jumper, fourteen horses advanced to the short course. This time the jump-off was held opposite of the in-gate, beginning with a sharp rollback from a single vertical to a single oxer, and finishing with a double combination to a final wide-oxer.
Only five athletes posted double clear efforts, the first coming from Lauren Tisbo of Wellington, FL, and Darconscheefkasteel Z. The pair stopped the timers at 31.227, which would be good enough for fourth place. Judy Garaofalo Torres of Wellington, FL, and Quattro Queen were the slowest of the double clears for fifth place.
Megan Nusz scored another top placing for Amalaya Investments, this time piloting Elias to a clear round in 31.084 seconds, which captured the second place honors. Hillary Simpson was just a fraction away from Nusz's time with Chinwies BZ, owned by Palmyra Partners LLC of Southern Pines, NC. Their faultless round clocked in at 31.149 seconds for third place.
Allison Robatille and Cover Girl produced the fast clear jump-off. Despite Wednesday's class marking Cover Girl's first jump-off after sustaining an injury in November, the mare proved that she was in top form. Utalizing her mare's large stride, Robatille picked up a quick pace to first fence, slicing the rollback, and then quickly making it towards the next two fences.
"Cover Girl is an amazing horse," expressed Robatille. "She got injured last November after winning the Nations Cup in Buenos Aires. I've been slowly bringing her back. I showed her at Spruce Meadows and she did 1.10m and 1.20m, and did her first 1.45m class at the Hampton Classic. This was the first time I felt like she was ready to do two rounds in a row."
Robatille continued, "Now that she is back jumping, I have needed to make myself put the injury behind us and just ride her like I normally would, so I am not being too cautious and too careful. I love her so much, so it's hard."
This is Robatille's first return to Old Salem Farm since her days in the Junior Hunters, but after hearing rave reviews from last year's event she was excited to show at the international jumping competition. "It's beautiful," she commented. "I heard great things last year and I am really impressed."
In the $2,500 1.35m Open Jumpers held in the Jumper Ring, winning honors were presented to Roberto Teran and ADC Chef, owned by Richview Farm of Nobleton, Ontario. The duo completed a clear short course in 34.156 seconds, while Charlie Jayne and Speedy Chicolina, owned by Anna Murphy of De Pere, WI, clocked in at 35425 seconds for the second place award. Candice King and VDL Dogan picked up the third place honors, leaving all the fences intact and breaking the bream at 36,499 seconds for owner Bellissimo LLC of Wellington, FL.
The first class of the day was the $2,000 1.30m Open Jumpers with 69 entries. Kent Farrington came out on top, piloting Monopoly to the winning honors for Salamander Farms of The Plains, VA. The pair's clear effort broke the beam at 32.439 seconds, while Guillermo Williams' time of 33.322 seconds with Marbella, owned by El Milagro of Dallas, TX, was good enough for second. Paul Halpern and Royal Flush, owned by Kathleen Kamine of Oldwick, NJ, rounded out the top three, completing a spotless jump-off in 34.523 seconds.