Friday the 13th proved to be a lucky day for Beezie Madden, who stormed to victory on her veteran mount Coral Reef Via Volo in the $100,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier, presented by Double H Farm & Windsor Show Stables, in North Salem, N.Y. Only eight of 55 entries qualified for the jump-off, where Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo sped past the other double clears, Brianne Goutal and Nice De Prissey in second, and Margie Engle and Royce in third.
Alan Wade of Ireland built a solid track for the feature event, which tested rides with a pole over an open water fence, a skinny vertical off a sharp turn, and three double combinations, as well as multiple fences off of hills and long gallops. Mid-way through the competition, a rain shower passed through, and despite eight horse and rider combinations going clear during the first half, none were faultless during the second half of the class.
The eight riders returning for the jump-off were all females, and for the short track they began over two new oxers to a single vertical. Then they showed over a vertical-oxer double combination to a single vertical, before rolling back over the skinny jump and galloping towards the gate for the final obstacles.
Birthday girl Brianne Goutal was the first to return for the short course riding Nice De Prissey for Remarkable Farms of Royal Palm Beach, Fla. The duo was quick and precise, making easy work of the fences and galloping through the timers in 41.51 seconds to set the pace, which would hold up for second place.
Margie Engle was next riding Royce for Elm Rock Partners LLC of Bronxville, N.Y. Despite an ankle injury, Engle proved that she had all of the answers, leaving all the rails intact and crossing the finish line in 42.48 seconds for third place.
Katie Dinan of New York, N.Y., was next in the ring with her first of two qualified mounts, Nougat Du Vallet. They had a single error for 4 faults in 40.40 seconds for fifth place, while Dinan’s second mount Glory Days had a single error in a faster time of 40.01 seconds for fourth place.
Tracy Fenney with MTM Timon, owned by MTM Farm of Flower Mound, Texas, and Molly Ashe Cawley on Carissimo, owned by Olivia Jack of Fairfield, Conn., also had a single rail each, finishing sixth and seventh respectively. Although Leslie Howard and Tic-Tac, owned by Jane F. Clark of New York, N.Y., were perfect in the first round, they had 12 faults in the jump-off for eighth place.
The final clear competitor in the jump-off proved to be the best, demonstrating why she is currently ranked second in the world. Beezie Madden opening up the Coral Reef Via Volo’s big stride to the first fences and easily galloped home through the last line. Coral Reef Via Volo, owned by the Coral Reef Ranch of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., blazed across the finish line in 41.09 seconds, beating Goutal by 1/2 of a second to lead the lap of honor.
“As far as turning on the footing for the jump-off it felt quite good, so I went to try and win,” noted Madden. “I thought I was pretty quick to the first two fences and the double, but we were on the same time at the skinny, so I must have been faster the last two fences. Even though she’s little, she has all of the scope to jump big fences. She’s been good at a lot of different venues and she is pretty comfortable here.”
Leading up to this event, Coral Reef Via Volo competed at Hickstead (England) and the Hampton Classic (N.Y.). “We try to split up the work load,” explained Madden, who won the American Gold Cup Grand Prix in 2010 with the 15-year-old mare. “She’s had a lot of experience in Europe and at Spruce Meadows, so we left those for the other two horses and thought she had a good chance here.”
Madden is based out of John Madden Sales in Cazenovia, N.Y., and she is thrilled to have the American Gold Cup in her home state. “This venue is so fantastic and the Gold Cup has a great history,” she stated. “There is a lot of prize money and we love the area. It’s close to home and we get to stay with my brother-in-law, Frank Madden.”
Earlier today, competitors showcased their speed in the to $3,000 High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper class, presented by Bedford Magazine. Alan Wade utilized different natural options through the course, including cantering down the bank, jumping through the grob, and jumping on and off of the table. Riders could choose the easier options that did not include the natural obstacles, but it would cost them on the clock.
The 8-year-old mare Itty Bitty and rider Kelly Soleau of Marlborough, Conn., picked up a quick gallop to the first obstacle and never held back, bravely navigating the natural obstacles and shaving off valuable seconds through each turn. They broke the beam at 66.25 seconds, jumping straight to the top of the leader board.
“I was so pleased with Itty Bitty,” smiled Soleau. “For some reason I stepped in the ring today and everything showed itself. I didn’t touch the reins and she jumped brilliantly. I just stayed as tight as I could every where and she is a pretty fast horse naturally, so when I let her do it she is very quick.
“We don’t get to do the natural obstacles very often, and she’s a brave horse, so when you have a brave horse it’s really fun,” Soleau continued. “This is my first time showing at the Gold Cup and they have done a fantastic job with the venue. We don’t often get to ride in a field like this. It’s so nice to do something different.”
Soleau trains with the Millar family, who bred Itty Bitty. “I started working with her when she was only 2 years old and I’ve done pretty much everything with her,” expressed Soleau. “I’ve had her since she was young, and I did her first jumps, her first walk, trot and canter, and it’s been a great time. Every year we ask a little bit more and she’s really come a long way; it’s been a fantastic journey.”
Ireland’s Darragh Kenny won the first event on the Grand Prix Field on Friday, the $3,000 Roberto Coin 1.35m Open Jumper Speed class, riding Top Gun IV, owned by Oakland Ventures of Ocala, Fla. On Thursday, McLain Ward won the $30,000 Don Little Memorial Welcome Stake aboard Cadence.
The American Gold Cup CSI4*-W will continue on Saturday with the $50,000 Hermès Classic and the Region 2 ASPCA/NHSAA Maclay Regional Championships. On Sunday, the qualifiers from Friday’s feature event will compete in the $200,000 American Gold Cup CSI-W, presented by Suncast, which gets underway at 2:00 p.m. on the Grand Prix Field.
Watch live-streaming of the event at the American Gold Cup website.