Ocala, Fla.—March 26
Walking out of the ring following the jump-off for the $300,000 Great American Grand Prix, held at HITS Ocala, Lisa Goldman-Smolen remarked that she believed she’d used up all her luck for the year. She’d just put in a double-clear performance with Ivaro N, and only had Andre Thieme and Candid 14 standing in her way of taking home the top check.
While Thieme pushed the envelope when it came to footspeed, he had a refusal heading into the double combination and elected to retire. With that Goldman-Smolen earned one of the biggest wins of her career.
“It was a very exciting day, my first big win,” she said. “You know it was definitely a big track for me. My horse is relatively green. I started doing the bigger stuff with him last year. I got to do a couple bigger classes in Chicago to build him up, and he’s been really consistent this winter and [I’m] really happy with him, and after watching the first few go in the jump-off, my whole goal was to go double clear; it wasn’t to go as fast as they went. My goal was just to go double clear.”
Double clear turned out to be just what you needed to take the top spot in the final grand prix of the winter season in Ocala. Five riders made it to the jump-off: Aaron Vale, Scott Keach, David Cameron, Goldman-Smolen and Thieme.
While Vale has been on a bit of a win streak this winter—he won two grand prix classes last week—his luck didn’t hold up when Obi Wan knocked a fence in the jump-off, but their time was still good enough for third. Keach also had a rail with his mount Noble De La Chapelle, but he was a hair faster than Vale to take second. Cameron and Oaks Come By Chance finished fourth with Thieme rounding out the top five.
Goldman-Smolen got the ride on the Barbara Disko’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Elvaro—Celli) three years ago. She showed him for a few months, and they were second in the 7-Year-Old Developing Jumpers Finals at the Kentucky National that fall. But then the gelding had an extended hiatus while Goldman-Smolen took time out of saddle due to pregnancy.
“He got to have the winter off and grow up a little bit and just be a horse, and it actually was very good for him to have that. Then he’s been coming along with me post baby since then and he’s been stepping up and getting better and better and better every year. Every time he goes out there he tries so hard and he’s been consistently double clear for me this year so we won early on in the circuit and then double clear again after that and in the jump-off almost every week that we’ve shown here. So really happy with him, and so thankful to Barb for everything she does for me.”
Keach has had his mount Noble De La Chapelle, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood (For Passion D’Ive Z—Mistinguette Driepikkel, Eros Platiere), for three years. He said the gelding started showing his potential in early March, when he took him down to Wellington, Florida, for Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival.
“It’s been a work in progress, and in the four-star Nations Cup I took him down there and did the grand prix, and he had one down, and I thought, finally, I’ve been banging my head against the wall for three-and-a-half years, and finally down there he showed me what I’ve been waiting for.”
Vale’s mount, the 9-year-old warmblood Obi Wan (Centadel—Wenezza), has already picked up two grand prix wins this season.
“Going first in the jump-off and a couple fast riders behind me, I was trying to put in a good fast round,” he said. “Unfortunately I had one down and I really kind of got the ride the way I wanted to. The horse is a bit inexperienced at this level, but he’s a real trier so I was unfortunate I couldn’t have left that one up and put a little more pressure on the rest of them.
“But my horse won a welcome and two Sunday grand prixs and this placing, so he had a great season on the new footing here,” he continued. “He loved it. So, I can’t complain at all. And, just wonderful job by [course designer Marina Azevedo] again. It’s nice. Some of these [combinations] would want to go on to bigger shows later in the year, and it’s nice for the horses to get to jump a big track that kind of prepares them for some maybe international jumping later on in the season.”