September 18, 2016 -- This was a long afternoon for Charlie Jacobs.
Eighth to go in the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping New York competing for the American Gold Cup, he produced a perfect round with his beloved Cassinja S, and fully expected there would be a good deal more such flawless trips to follow.
With McLain Ward, Beezie Madden and Kent Farrington—three-quarters of the Rio U.S. Olympic silver medal team—yet to come, along with last weekend's HITS $1 million winner, Jessica Springsteen, all Charlie could do was watch and wait.
One by one, however, top horses and riders failed the test set by world-renowned Irish course designer Alan Wade, who appropriately will be laying out the routes for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Omaha, Nebraska, next spring. The up-and-down terrain of the arena posed a challenge, as did a tight time-allowed.
Finally, Kent, who was 35th to go in a field of 40, put in a perfect round on the talented mare, Gazelle, and Charlie abandoned his post by the bleachers to get ready for the tie-breaker.
Having to go first against the currently ranked number two in the world was hardly an enviable position. Charlie needed to plan a fairly rapid trip, otherwise the odds were Kent would do his usual neat turns and get the best of him on the clock. Speed involved risk, however, as Charlie found out after he had a rail down when he sped up to get an impressive 48.69-second clocking. He graciously chalked it up to rider error.
While Kent couldn't exactly snooze, much of the pressure was off. All he had to do was go fault-free. That he did, in a leisurely 53.18 seconds, not too far off from the 57-second time allowed for the shortened course. He galloped through the timers and was ready to reward Gazelle with a pat for a job well done. The battle of the bay mares was over.
And then he went flying—without his horse. He thought she was going one way, she disagreed. Since it happened after the finish line was history and he bounced on the turf, there was no harm done. Kent even did a neat little bow for the fans. If it was a gymnastics competition, I think he could have gotten a “10.”
Click on the right-pointing arrow to watch a video with Kent's explanation about the mishap and his plans going forward. Like all of the top riders, he's hoping to get a ticket to Omaha.
Having his name engraved on the gleaming Gold Cup trophy has been one of Kent's ambitions.
“It was on my list of things to do,” he commented in his usual wry style.
Kent has won nearly every major class in the U.S., and now he's in the best of company with past winners Rodney Jenkins, Melanie Smith Taylor, Michael Matz and so many other legends who have earned the honor since 1970.
Explaining why the course was so tough, he noted that oxers going uphill are going to in effect be wider for a horse to jump, and a vertical downhill will draw horses a little closer and throw them off balance. With most grands prix being contested on all-weather footing in rings that are fairly flat, this class was “a set-up “we don't see every day,” Kent pointed out. Things didn't turn out badly for Charlie, though. He's in the lead for the Eastern sub-league of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League. Kent is tied for second overall with Jonathan McCrea, while Lauren Tisbo is fifth behind Canada's Keean White, with five more qualifiers to go.
Lauren, fifth in the jumping order today, had no penalties over fences on Coriandolo di Ribano, but incurred one time penalty. She wasn't sad about missing the jump-off, however, noting she and her 9-year-old stallion have had a relatively brief partnership.
“This was a big step up for him, so I was very happy with his round today,” she said.
Laura Kraut also jumped fault-free on Confu, but was a tad slower than Lauren to finish fourth with a single time penalty as her partner, Olympic individual gold medalist Nick Skelton watched from the sidelines and then came over for a post-ride consultation.
McLain was next in the ribbons, coming in fifth as the fastest 4-faulter with HH Carlos Z after dropping a rail at the skinny vertical that was the next-to-last fence. There were only three riders with four jumping faults and no time faults. Time was a factor for 20 competitors, or half the starting field, an unusually high percentage.
Like McLain and Beezie, Kent is a professional rider, as were most of the top contenders in the class. But Charlie is an amateur, serving as CEO of the Boston Bruins hockey team as well as working with his family's Delaware North Co.
He's got an incredibly busy schedule, yet somehow manages to continue doing well against full-time competitors.
Charlie and I chatted about that after the class. Click on the right-pointing arrow to see the video.
He noted that he felt more than two would make the jump-off, but he also recalled winning a class once without a jump-off.
“That was a long time ago,” he said with a smile.
Cassinja, who Charlie has had for three years, since she was seven, is very special to him. She's a mare with heart and style. I asked him to tell me a little more about her. Click on the right-pointing arrow to listen to his comments on this audio.
Be sure to check out more photos at facebook.com/practicalhorseman.
For more information and news on the FEI World Cup™ North American Jumping League visit http://www.feiworldcup.org/.
I'll be heading to the Central Park Horse Show later this week, so you can follow the action with us starting Thursday night.