Danielle Torano of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Woodstock won the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix, presented by Hand Motor, on July 19 at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, Vt. Torano won the same event in 2011 riding Capitano.
Torano and Woodstock, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding by Wolfgang, were one of only two double-clear rounds on Saturday, with the other double clear being posted by Torano’s husband, Jimmy Torano. Jimmy finished second to his wife riding Bentley, while Ian Silitch came third after a refusal with Cordovo in the jump-off. Silitch battled his way into the top three despite having three broken ribs and a broken collarbone.
Danielle has only had the ride on Woodstock since June, and the uncertainty of a new horse was on her mind when she was making her plan for the jump-off. As the final rider to go in the tiebreaker, she decided to go for the win after some encouragement from the crowd.
“It felt good!” said Danielle with a laugh of finishing ahead of her husband. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to go fast. I always try to go a little bit fast, but it’s a brand-new horse for me. I’ve only shown him a handful of times. When I went in the ring and the announcer started (egging me on), I thought, ‘I’m going to try!’ I thought Jimmy was pretty fast though, so even when I landed after the last jump, I wasn’t sure if I had him or not.”
When she first tried Woodstock, Danielle was attracted to his straightforward attitude, which paid off when she found herself at several deep distances to the jumps in the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix.
“In the first round, I was underneath the triple bar, underneath the wall, underneath the last jump,” she said. “When you ride him, he feels like, ‘Oh, what’s the problem?’ He didn’t question or think, ‘Oh my God, we’re underneath it.’ He just goes, and that’s what I liked about him when I first rode him. Anybody can ride this horse.”
Danielle has still been trying to get to know the big chestnut gelding; after only showing him a handful of times, she remarked that he has felt like a different horse each time she’s gotten on him.
“For me, especially because he’s a little bit big, having a little bit of leverage just makes me feel like he’s not dragging me [around the course],” she explained. “I wasn’t comfortable with the bit I was using, and I thought I needed a different one. Jimmy said, ‘Try this bit,’ and I said, ‘In the grand prix?’ I hemmed and hawed, but I thought to myself, ‘What’s the worst case scenario?’ ”
The last-minute equipment change clearly paid off, bringing Danielle her first grand prix victory at the Vermont Summer Festival since 2011. Torano will give Woodstock a well-earned week off before returning to the competition ring during Week 5 of the Vermont Summer Festival.
Jimmy’s second-placed finish in the $30,000 Otter Creek Grand Prix put him into the top 10 in the Sir Ruly Open Jumper Award standings, which are presented in memory of his uncle, Raul “Ruly” Torano. Riders earn points towards the circuit-end awards in the open jumper division, with $10,000 being awarded to the top three open jumper riders of the circuit.
Amanda Flint is currently in first place with 189 points thanks to a hot streak during her first two weeks at the Vermont Summer Festival, while Jackie McQuade stands second with 72 points.