Traverse City, Mich.—July 13
“I changed my plan a little bit after I saw the last few go," Michael Dorman said after the $40,000 Grand Traverse Bay Grand Prix. “I figured I was going to have to pick a place or two where I was going to have to challenge myself a little extra.”
That little extra turned out to be more than enough at Horse Shows by the Bay II, as he and Zephyr galloped and jumped to the fastest clear round, stopping the clock more than a second ahead of second-placed Cara Cheska with Imprimis. With the second- through fifth-placed riders within .17 seconds, Dorman’s was a remarkable performance.
“I’m a little surprised today, I’ll tell you,” said Dorman grinning. “I didn't think I was that fast!”
Michael Dorman had that envious position in the 14-horse jump-off, and he used it to his advantage aboard Zephyr, the same horse he rode to top honors during the $40,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City on July 16 during Horse Shows by the Bay I, making Dorman two for two in the grand prix classes there.
Watch Dorman and Zephyr’s jump-off round….
Wilhelm Genn and his flashy chestnut Bugatti were the first to jump off clear, posting a time of 38.36 seconds. But because David Jennings and Sweetheart had earlier stopped the clock in 31.95 seconds with a rail down, most everyone knew the door remained open.
Cara Cheska and Imprimis then took over the top spot with an incredible performance. After jumping the first two fences clear and fast, the pair rolled back to the two-stride Cherry in-and-out.
“My plan was to go wide in the seven [strides] and roll back wide to the cherries, and I caught it going forward,” she said. “He landed so far in, he almost did one stride, and chipped in two strides. Somehow, he missed it, and I screamed ‘Oh my God!’ And then I was so disheveled I did one [stride] too many to the [next fence], and then I just took off after that.
“But he was so good to not stop or punch it out,” continued Cheska. “He’s the kindest and sweetest horse, and the faster you go the better he jumps and the harder he tries. So, it was very, very exciting.”
After seven contenders completed their rounds without nudging Cheska from the lead, Dorman and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Landor S--Tobelia), owned by Wyndmont, entered the Grand Prix Ring.
In the jump-off, Dorman said he was most concerned with the left-hand inside turn after the in-and-out. He had already negotiated the jump-off track with Valinski S, with a rail down, so that experience came into play.
“[Zephyr] cuts to the left, and I was afraid he might get there almost too crooked,” said Dorman. “But it kind of worked out, and running for him is easy. He has a huge stride, and he's willing to slow right down off the ground. I felt pretty comfortable after that to take a shot and flat-out run because he has a lot of scope.”
After they sailed over the final fence and the timers read 31.81 seconds, the crowd roared their approval.
“Two [grand prix] wins in two weeks...you can’t be happier than that,” said Dorman, who visited Horse Shows by the Bay for the first time from his home base of Wellington, Fla., with trainer Ronnie Beard.
When asked about his goals with Zephyr, Dorman smiled. “He’s still young, but we’re going to start out doing the World Cup qualifiers in the fall and see where that leads us,” he said. “He’ll let us know if he’s ready or not. I think in the end he'll be an international horse; we’ll have to see. It’s been quite a while since I did the World Cup Final, the early 1990s, so, it would be nice to get back there one more time before I put my stirrups up for good.”
For Cheska, of Waukesha, Wisc., this was her best performance with the 10-year-old Belgian Warmblod (Rodrigo VDL--Gwen), whom she began showing in April. And it was their first grand prix jump-off.
“I was really excited to be among the 14 clear, and I know he’s fast, but honestly, I have no experience in the jump-offs with him at the grand prix level,” she said. “So, I just wanted to be in the top 10, so I’m so ecstatic to be second.”
Imprimis, owned by Windswept Farm of Sylvania, Ohio, is an American-bred, and his roots run deep in the Cheska family.
“Mrs. Bullard [of Windswept Farm] owns the horse. She owned the mare [Gwen], who she got from my brother-in-law Richard Cheska. And the stallion [Rodrigo VDL] was our horse. Her daughter showed the mare throughout her career, and she bred the mare to our stallion. Mrs. Bullard was there the day Imprimis was born and has kept him,” said Cheska.
Bullard was on-hand at Horse Shows by Bay to watch her horse compete, and she gave Cheska some advice before she went into the ring. “I told her to just trust him and let him run, and she did,” said Bullard.
Cheska took over the ride on Imprimis after he’d had successful partnerships with Darragh Kenny, Donald Cheska and Hayley Barnhill through the young horse and grand prix levels.
“There aren’t many people like Mrs. Bullard who take the time and care for the animal and try to do the right things for him and let him progress on his own,” said Cheska. “She has, and now she gets to see the results because of it. And it’s special that way, too.”
$40,000 Grand Traverse Bay Grand Prix Results
- Zephyr/Michael Dorman/0-0/31.81
- Imprimis/Cara Cheska/0-0/33.39
- Ammeretto/David Beisel/0-0/33.41
- As Di Chupito/Erin Haas/0-0/33.46
- Shiver/Liza Finsness/0-0/33.56
- Attack II/Amanda Derbyshire/0-0/35.36
- Viggo/Beth Underhill/0-0/35.84
- Rolls/Javier Berganza Anderhub/0-0/37.24
- Bugatti/Wilhelm Genn/0-0/38.36
- Sweetheart/David Jennings/0-4/31.95