Upperville, Va.—June 8
When Ireland’s Paul O’Shea headed into the jump-off of the $75,000 Jumper Classic at the Upperville Horse Show with Skara Glen’s Sienna, his strategy wasn’t about speed.
As the last to go, the pair had some cushion since O’Shea’s first entry, River Dance Semilly, and Candice King on Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve, were his only competition out of 28 starters to face Marina Azevedo’s second track.
“River” proved he was still hot from his Welcome Stakes win two days prior by setting a blazing pace to lead the first round, which he kept through the jump-off, but at the expense of one rail. So when King picked up 4 jumping faults at fence 3, O’Shea, already a winner by less than a second, took his time warming Sienna up.
He was shooting for a slow, clear round, and though green at the level, the Dutch Warmblood didn’t disappoint. “I’m just delighted,” he said. “The last couple of weeks have been great. This mare is only 8, and I think this is her third grand prix. I’ve been riding her since she was 5, and it’s a really, really special horse. She just has all the qualities that you would need in a modern show jumper.”
Sienna, owned by Skara Glen Stables, splits her time between Wellington, Fla., and Whipstick Farm in South Salem, N.Y., while in training with O’Shea, who rides for Ira Gumberg and also catch rides several of Georgina Bloomberg’s top horses as of late.
At the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) Sienna gained mileage in the 8-year-old jumpers and finished in the middle of the pack at the Old Salem Farm Grand Prix (N.Y.), making the win at Upperville a career high.
“When she goes in the ring all she wants to do is go clear; all I have to do is point her at the jumps," said O'Shea, 37.
“She’s her own character; you can ask her to do something, [but] she tells me what’s going to happen,” he joked. “She’s got a lot of personality. This was quite a step up for her, but the ground here was perfect, as close to perfect as you can get I think, so the jumps didn’t feel big, and they definitely didn’t feel big on both the horses.”
O’Shea described both of his rides as very straightforward. And while he’s still getting to know River, the two have already formed a solid partnership. “Last week he was fifth at Devon,” said O’Shea. “He was double clear on Thursday, so he’s kind of moved up to the next level, and he’s also a fantastic horse.”
King Settles Into A Groove
Candice King was the busiest rider in the jumper classic with four horses in the first round. She returned with Louisburg Farm’s Pjotter van de Zonnehoeve for the jump-off, placing behind O’Shea’s two rides.
King took over the ride on the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood from McLain Ward late last year and showed him for the first three weeks at WEF before breaking her back and neck in a schooling accident with another horse.
The chestnut gelding stayed in work while King recovered but stayed out of the show ring until she was ready. “He knows his job well,” said King, 43. “It was more just keeping him in shape until I got back. We were really just starting a partnership, and he hadn’t done anything big yet. The Louisburg team kept him backed and ready to go. I’m really fortunate to have some great owners behind me. ”
The first time the pair returned to the show ring was at Old Salem Farm May, where King stuck to the smaller classes while the pair got reacquainted. They then headed to Devon (Pa.), where an unfortunate rail at the last fence took them out of the running.
“PJ” came into the jumper classic fresh, as it was his only class of the weekend. The pair rode second in the jump-off, but after a rail at the third fence, they had to settle for third.
“The horse is a winner,” she said. “It’s me. I’m still getting my strength and my stamina back and getting to know him. I think that’s why I had the fault there. It was just getting to know him; it’s me trying to stay out of his way.”
Overall King was pleased with how the course rode and didn’t find anything in particular to be concerned about.
“Marina does a great job,” King said. “She puts a lot of thought into it. She keeps a very technical and careful [course], but she doesn’t put anything that’s a trap. It builds very true, but she makes it just difficult enough to jump it clean.
“It was unfortunate with [Kismet 50],” she continued. “She jumped a great round. I had the time in my head the whole way around. There were a couple of places to set her up, and I thought I was going to be just under. It was really unfortunate that I was just over. There were quite a few riders with time faults; it was definitely a tight time, and you had to ride it as a table A.”
Despite the single time fault, King and Kismet 50, owned by Bellissimo, LLC, took fourth. King also took home the Leading Lady Open Jumper Rider Award for her efforts.
• Hillary Simpson piloted the only Thoroughbred in the class, her own Arkansas.
• Chloe Reid and Hayley Waters were the two youngest riders to compete in the class. Both are 17.
• Anne Kursinski was the only former winner of the Upperville Jumper Classic this year. She won the class back in 1998 aboard Indeed.