Upperville, Va.—June 10
Sometimes you just have to drown out the noise and focus on your plan—and that’s exactly what Ali Wolff did as she entered the ring for the jump-off at the $216,000 Upperville Jumper Classic CSI****.
She was just coming off a slick win in the $50,000 Jet Run Devon Welcome Stakes at the Devon Horse Show (Pennsylvania). But in Upperville, she had to return last in the eight-competitor jump-off, and that left her plenty of time to change tactics.
“Honestly, I just had to stick with my same plan,” said Wolff. “I watched a few go, and I watched some really fast rounds, and then I saw some 4-faulters, so I had to decide. I had to ride my best round. I can’t go anyone else’s speed but my own.”
Her gut decision worked out in her favor, as she and Casall took home the lion’s share of the prize money with a winning time of 41.50 seconds.
“We’ve had our partnership for about six years, and as well as we know each other we’re still figuring each other out, so I just have to go in and ride the horse that I feel at the time,” said Wolff. “In the first round I really wanted to set my pace early and keep on that pace. Everything came up nicely, and I felt he was really responsive to me. He felt really relaxed actually; that’s the key for us. [I think] he wanted it as badly as I did.”
But for Kevin Babington, who finished second, the results at Upperville seemed all too similar.
“Shorapur is a naturally fast mare, but she’s coming back off of an injury, and this is her first big show back,” said Babington. “She’s very careful, so I wanted to have a good shot at No. 2 and a good shot into the double, and then I could let it rip a little bit, but in this field that’s not enough. You have to be tight back on the second jump; you have to be tight back on the third jump. I lost my stirrup at the third to last jump, so I lost maybe a split second trying to get that back to the second to last, but it still feels like déjá vu. I was thinking we had this conversation two weeks ago at Devon [where I finished third]. It still wouldn’t have made a difference even if I didn’t lose my stirrup because she blew us away.”
In Sunday’s class, 32 combinations vied for top honors on the 13-obstacle track designed by Brazil’s Marina Azevedo. Eight advanced to the jump-off: Cormac Hanley, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson, McLain Ward, Brianne Goutal-Marteau, Marilyn Little, Christine McCrea, Wolff and Babington. An additional four pairs jumped clear over the fences but were plagued with a single time fault.
Hanley, who hails from Ireland, produced the first clear aboard the 11-year-old Holsteiner stallion VDL Cartello. In the jump-off they stopped the clocks at 43.09 seconds for eventual third.
“He’s very brave and scopey,” said Hanley. “I feel like we’re getting better all the time, and this is my best result with him. I’ve only started riding him since the start of the year, so I was very happy with him here today.”
The Irish riders wore black armbands in honor of Jack Dodd, an up-and-coming show jumper who died from injuries sustained in a car accident this week.
“I knew Jack very well; we grew up together,” said Hanley. “[He was] such a hardworking, dedicated guy for the sport. I got a little bit emotional after the first round. I jumped clear, and I heard the announcers [comment] about the black armbands all the Irish riders were wearing. He was such a good guy, and he was taken way too early from the sport.”