Still riding the wave of her sweeping success at the Devon Horse Show (Pa.) three weeks earlier, Laura Chapot completely dominated the final day of the Beacon Hill Equestrian Grand Prix in Colts Neck, N.J. She started out by taking the $10,000 NAL Open Speed Derby, then crafted another victory in the featured $40,000 Beacon Hill Classic.
It just happened to be Father’s Day, and her dad, retired U.S. show jumping chef d’equipe, Frank Chapot, was understandably beaming about the results.
“This is the best present I could possibly even think of giving him,” said the winner. “Nothing means more to him than to have our horses go well.”
The June 17-19 CSI* at Stacia and Frank Madden’s farm was a single-ring affair held on the huge grass field that dominates the Beacon Hill landscape. The footing, well watered the evening before the big classes, was perfect for the tests devised by Richard Jeffery that utilized the broad expanse of the arena.
Chapot had her pair of galloping gray mares, Samantha and Sprite, entered in the speed competition, which drew 14 starters for the faults-converted-into-seconds format. Fourth to go with Samantha, Chapot blazed around the route that included a bank jump and a sunken road to finish in 91.20 seconds. Peter Leone came close to that mark with Emily Zand’s Timbuktu, but fell just short in 91.87 seconds.
Sprite, in the fortunate position of being last to go, was beating her stablemate’s time as she headed toward the timers. But a rail down at the last fence added 4 seconds to her clocking of 89.12 seconds, putting her third behind Timbuktu. The derby got Chapot primed for her second triumph of the day. “It always helps to go in and go well, even though it’s a different course and a different horse,” she said.
Chapot, of Neshanic Station, N.J., also has an affinity for riding on turf. “It’s a very natural footing for the horses and I really enjoy doing it. I don’t get to do it very often,” she said.
Jeffery faced a difficult task in the grand prix, because while the field of 26 included five Olympians, a group of amateurs also were trying their luck. It was the first grand prix for Sarah Segal of New York, who is coached by Chris Kappler, but she did herself proud on Go West. The black, Dutch-bred gelding was one of only four horses to qualify for the jump-off.
Carsten Jaeger, a German rider based in Millbrook, N.Y., achieved the first clear round on Winley Farm’s rangy gray mare, Classic H, who had been a reserve horse for the Swedish Olympic team. Jaeger, the son of former German international rider Wilfried Jaeger, was just the third entry to go, so it looked like there could be a large jump-off. But only the Virginia-based Argentine, Ramiro Quintana on Mary B. Schwab’s Carousel, Chapot on her Little Big Man and Segal joined Jaeger for the tie-breaker.
The first-round time allowed of 95 seconds was tight, catching Laurie Jakubauskas on LRJ Enterprises’ Mirage and Lisa Jacquin with Flintwoode Farm’s Sandro to finish fifth and sixth, respectively, with 1 time fault. Jeffery’s clever course offered several unrelated distances at the beginning that threw off seven riders–including Margie Engle on Hidden Creek’s Wapino–who had trouble at the third fence, an oxer of natural rails. From there, a pair of narrow white gates posed a challenge, as did a triple combination set on a diagonal down the middle of the arena.
In the jump-off, Jaeger set a good pace, even though he believes his horse’s strength is scope more than speed. But his excellent time of 41.29 seconds was negated when Classic H toppled a rail at the fourth fence, an oxer. Quintana had trouble from the get-go when Carousel stumbled after the first fence, but he recovered quickly to finish with a clear round in 41.55 seconds.
That left the door open for Chapot, the defending champion, who galloped around in 41.16 seconds. Her diminutive chestnut hit the next-to-last fence resoundingly, but it stayed up and was good enough for the win, as Segal, last to ride, had two rails down.
Quintana said the stumble finished his chances for victory. “You almost need to go all in when [Chapot’s] behind you,” said Quintana. “You make one mistake in the jump-off and Laura’s got you.”
Beacon Hill offered an impressive $20,000 purse in the junior/amateur jumper classic, but the 30 entries had to work for it. Only one jumped clean in the
first round, as Saly Glassman won without a jump-off on her ABC Cassius.
Jessica Springsteen, who lives next door to the Maddens, took the $2,500 children’s jumper classic on Eleanor Bright’s Presto and the Washington International Equitation Classic overall title. Jessica’s mother, Patti Scialfa, was on hand, but her father, Bruce Springsteen, was unable to attend because he was touring Europe with his band.
A European Flavor
Frank Madden is best known as a trainer of equitation riders, hunters and jumpers, but he’s gaining a reputation for running horse shows. Madden and his brother, John, started the successful fall indoor fixture, the Syracuse Sporthorse Invitational, and three years ago, Frank inaugurated the Beacon Hill Equestrian Grand Prix at his own Beacon Hill Show Stables in Colts Neck, N.J.
The all-jumper show has a very European flavor. There is only one arena, with a surface of lush grass, fronting Beacon Hill’s white barn. A VIP tent was set up along the side of the field, where patrons were treated to a lavish buffet and music. Between classes on grand prix day, Madden led a parade of antique motorcycles, and vaulters put on an exhibition to keep things lively.
After entering the arena for the awards ceremony in a carriage pulled by a Belgian, winners made a speech (a la Spruce Meadows) thanking the sponsors such as Viking Yachts. Breaks between the classes enable the crowds to wander down an avenue of shops set up behind the VIP tent, where they can purchase designer clothing, jewelry and equestrian-oriented items.
“This is a little bit like Europe,” said Frank Chapot, retired U.S. show jumping chef d’equipe. “It’s a huge open field, with bigger jumps. It appeals to the public, who can come and see show jumping the way Europeans see it.”
While the show has been wildly successful in its own right during its brief run, Madden has a higher vision for its purpose. “To me, in order for us to really develop international horses and riders, we have to develop international-style shows here in the U.S. This is my little contribution to that,” he said.
Oliver Kennedy runs the nuts and bolts of the Beacon Hill fixture, which gives Madden and his wife, Stacia, the freedom to serve as host and hostess. “We want this to be a unique event, like the shows we went to when we were kids that all had their own flavor,” said Kennedy.
He noted that keeping the action confined to one ring means riders don’t have to scramble around and can relax and enjoy themselves. The show, recognized for the first time this year, was a CSI*, but Kennedy thinks it could well become a two-star by next year.
“It’s a great weekend. It’s put together by people that have been exhibitors, trainers and riders, so they really know what it’s like from a riders’ point of view. That’s why it’s such a nice weekend for everybody,” said Ramiro Quintana, runner-up in the $40,000 Beacon Hill Classic Grand Prix.