Saugerties, N.Y.—Sept. 8
This time last year, Margie Engle was sitting in the press conference of the $500,000 Saugerties Grand Prix as the second-place finisher. Jonathan McCrea, the winner of the class, put the pressure on Engle and the now 15-year-old Oldenburg stallion Royce in the jump-off, and the pair came up short with an unfortunate dropped rail.
But in preparation of this year’s event, Engle had flashbacks of what went wrong and committed to not making the same mistake twice.
“Last year I kind of overdid and went too fast and had one [rail], so I tried to stay a little bit contained, which is difficult,” said Engle, who won the grand prix against Amanda Derbyshire and the 11-year-old Holsteiner stallion Cornwall BH.
“Amanda went great; she rode a very smart round, very tidy and neat everywhere,” added Engle. “She put enough pressure on me to have to take a bit of a shot, and I thought I almost [overdid] again coming into the double. I saw flashbacks of last year but [Royce] helped me out.”
Engle spent the summer competing in Europe and came back to the States specifically to compete in the grand prix.
“[HITS President Tom Struzzieri] has put on one of the first big-money classes in our country and I’ve tried to keep coming back to this show each year,” said Engle. “It’s nice to have a five-star in our country, and I think it’s important for us to support the horse shows in our country.”
There were only two clears in Round 1, with Derbyshire being the first to show the crowd that it was possible to beat Marina Azevedo’s track.
“My horse is a great horse; he’s very careful, so I knew if I rode it well the first round, he always tries to leave the jumps up,” said Derbyshire. “He can be a little tricky with some of the turns. Regarding the jump-off, that’s when he can get a little tricky, so I had to play it a little smart. I knew Margie would be faster than me so I just went for a medium clear and then you can only hope for the best then.”
Brian Moggre and the 10-year-old Westphalian gelding MTM Vivre le Reve secured a third-place finish as the fastest of the 4-faulters.
“It’s a great thing that my horse is naturally quick, and I tend to be a pretty fast rider which can help me at times or it can hurt me, but today it seemed to help me,” said Moggre.
“My horse is 10, so it’s [our] first time jumping at this level, so it’s really a great feeling to go in with such great company and to do so well,” Moggre added. “I’m very pleased with him.”
Jennifer Jones Maintains The Lead To Win $250,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix
Jennifer Jones and Virgo DC led the first two rounds of the $250,000 Diamond Mills Hunter Prix, but Jones still felt sick before the start of the Rounds 3 and 4 on Sunday.
“I’ve been really nervous; probably since the end of the last class, and then finally, Missy Clark just told me to stop watching and go away because I was bothering her so much,” joked Jones, who topped Rounds 3 and 4 to win the class. “I’m glad that it’s over. I mean, it’s exciting when you get to the end, and you want to do well. Any little thing can happen in the hunters, so I was just hoping that if I could do the right thing, my horse—I knew he was going to be good. But I’m glad it’s over.”
The Diamond Mills Hunter Prix was one of Jones’ two feature classes that she wanted to do this year. And after a mishap saw her and Virgo DC unable to compete at the Platinum Performance USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals in August, she hoped for a top-placed finish in Saugerties.
“We had a little miscommunication about when you had to be [at derby finals],” said Jones. “Peter Lane called us on Wednesday, and we were planning on getting there Thursday morning, but you had to be there Wednesday before the jog, the night before. So, we weren’t able to do that. So sort of all of my expectations were on this one, so we just kept the horse fresh and happy. He’s an awesome horse.”
Like many of the riders who pinned during Sunday’s feature classes, Jones donated 10 percent of her prize money to Kevin Babington, who was injured at the Hampton Classic Horse Show (New York) on Aug. 30.
“It’s a really tragic situation with Kevin and his family, and our horse community has really gotten together and done some amazing things,” said Jones. “It’s a tragic situation but everybody coming together to support him, I would definitely always want to be a part of that. I think it was a really good idea that [Tom Struzzieri] put that together and we’re able to give back a little bit.”
Laena Romond and Uptown finished second, with Cassandra Kahle and Garsino closing out the top three.
Knapic Controls Her Nerves To Win $100,000 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix
Meghan Knapic wasn’t where she wanted to be at the close of Round 2 in the $100,000 Platinum Performance Hunter Prix, held on Saturday at the HITS Saugerties Championship. While she topped the Round 1 leaderboard with the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Encore on Friday, they ended up placing third during Round 2.
And with two rounds remaining, she knew she had to put her best foot forward while simultaneously keeping her nerves at bay. At the end of the class, Encore left the arena with the winning tricolored sash around his neck. And Knapic, a $30,000 check.
“I was so stressed out,” said Knapic. “I was trying to get my mind off off it all day, but I’m so happy it worked out; it means so much. It’s my last show on him, so it means even more.”
Knapic got the ride on Encore at the beginning of the summer. After riding him to success in a spontaneous outing, her trainer Jenna Weinfurt let her ride him throughout the summer.
“We came here three times for the Platinum Performance and he was perfect, so when I went to school [at Auburn University], Jenna called me and was like, ‘Do you want to come back to do the Championship?’ ”
“[Encore is] amazing; he’s like a big pony, so you just kind of pick up a gallop and he just canters up to all the jumps and he’s always game,” Knapic added. “I always can rely on him for everything.”
A Double-Clear Win For Murphy In $100,000 Black Barn Junior/Amateur-Owner/Amateur Jumper Prix
After leading Round 1 of the $100,000 Black Barn Jr/A-O/Am Jumper Prix on Saturday, Canada’s Dannie Murphy and the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare Isabeau de Laubry returned for Sunday’s final and won the class against two other combinations in the jump-off.
Murphy paired with Isabeau in March and first competed her at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Florida). Since then they’ve competed at shows like the Longines Masters of New York and the Adequan FEI North American Youth Championships (New York).
“She’s a unicorn,” said Murphy. “She’s everything that I like in a horse, and she’s perfect.”