Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2024

Kursinski Puts The Pedal To The Medal At Hampton Classic

By refining a crucial element that escaped her last year at the Hampton Classic, Anne Kursinski refused to accept a repeat of history and a second-placed finish in the $150,000 Prudential Grand Prix.

Aboard Roxana 112, Kursinski used the mare's speed--and didn't take a pull on the reins--as the deciding factor in the show's featured grand prix, Aug. 27-Sept. 3 in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

PUBLISHED
WORDS BY

ADVERTISEMENT

By refining a crucial element that escaped her last year at the Hampton Classic, Anne Kursinski refused to accept a repeat of history and a second-placed finish in the $150,000 Prudential Grand Prix.

Aboard Roxana 112, Kursinski used the mare’s speed–and didn’t take a pull on the reins–as the deciding factor in the show’s featured grand prix, Aug. 27-Sept. 3 in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

Before any of the 30 competitors earned a piece of the purse and Hampton Classic bragging rights, each faced a rigorous course built by Conrad Homfeld–a course that inspired a healthy buzz among spectators and riders.

The technical test required unwavering focus, strength and precision. Beyond the obvious questions on course, the week’s torrential rain–compliments of spin-off from Tropical Storm Ernesto–left the footing for Sunday’s finale spongy at best, despite commendable efforts from grounds crew.

“I do think the footing had something to do with [the difficulty of the course]. Some horses don’t care for it being so wet,” said Kursinski. “But you know when you come here it’s going to be one of the toughest courses you jump all year.

“Also, the field here isn’t perfectly even. There’s a little up and a little down, and Conrad uses that in his courses well. We really had to pay attention and have balance for little factors like that.”

It took eight attempts–ranging from 9 to 20 faults–before Lauren Hough and Casadora answered the course’s questions. Kursinski and Roxana immediately followed suit.

Unfortunately, for the rest, those two faultless trips didn’t start a trend. Rails consistently fell on every corner of the course.

Even defending champion and crowd favorite Joe Fargis on Edgar 12, who last year won both Hampton Classic headliner grand prix classes, downed five rails to the dismay of many spectators.

Finally, Chris Kappler–who won the $25,000 Sotheby International Open the day before on VDL Maseratie–discovered a solution aboard VDL Oranta.

When Kappler, Hough and Kursinski were the only riders to qualify for the jump-off, spectators were assured an exciting conclusion from three Olympic veterans.

Despite a rail at the fourth fence on the jump-off course, Hough and Casadora set a quick pace at 39.43 seconds.

Kursinski knew she needed a fast clear round with Kappler on deck. Roxana drew awes from the audience as she cleared most fences with room to spare in 39.09 seconds.

“I couldn’t watch Chris. I really wanted to win, and I didn’t wish him bad or anything, I just wished him a little slower,” she said with a laugh.

The pressure fell on Kappler and VDL Oranta. Their pace was smooth, clean and quick until just after Fence 6, when a slight stumble broke their forward momentum, Kappler said. Their final gallop stopped the timers a fraction short in 39.44 seconds.

So Kursinski conquered last year’s heartbreaking second-placed finish and pinned this year’s blue ribbon on Roxana.

Now 12, the German-bred mare’s campaign on the grand prix circuit began four years ago, while the past two years have been under Kursinski’s ride. Those two years have fostered a bond between Kursinski and Roxana that’s perfectly clear when watching the pair’s relaxed and fluent style in the ring.

“Roxana is so much like her rider,” said Scott Hakim, the horse’s owner. “They are both very smart, very keen and very competitive. They have a very rare chemistry, and Anne’s care for her is the best in the industry.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Hakim believes he found a truly special horse when he bought the mare four years ago. “Anne has really taken this horse to the next level,” he said.

“It’s nice to be home and have her owners here and finally win one,” said Kursinski, who competed on the Samsung Super League series in Europe this summer. “They didn’t make it to Europe to see her there, so I guess she was just saving the win for Scott.”

Fellow Super Leaguer Christine McCrea won Saturday’s $50,000 Grey Goose CSI-W Grand Prix aboard Vegas, and she hopes earning 20 points in the season’s first East Coast qualifier will build a strong foundation for the 2007 FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final in Las Vegas.

Despite qualifying for the World Cup Final last April, she opted to accept her selection onto the Samsung Super League team instead and compete in Europe for the summer.

“I actually didn’t have any plans [for the World Cup] until now,” said McCrea. “But I guess I’ll keep trying to qualify.

“This was my first outing with [Vegas] in America for a long time, so this win is very special,” added McCrea. “Being in Europe all summer I’ve jumped these types of courses a lot, so I felt pretty confident, especially on this horse.”

After an encouraging summer tour, McCrea’s confidence in Vegas was elevated, but she remained slightly nervous about his lack of ring time since arriving back in the United States. But when the 12-year-old, Rheinlander stallion sauntered into the ring with cool confidence, McCrea’s nerves settled, and the duo proceeded to master the 13-element, Homfeld-designed course.

But for many horses in the class, the vertical fences at 6AB seemed to reach out and grab their hooves. McCrea wisely placed Vegas’ strides between Fences 5 and 6 and trusted in his knack for handling verticals, which helped keep their first round clean.

As the six-horse jump-off began, McCrea preferred not to watch. Rather, she honed her focus on Vegas and their own preparation. She said as she waited to enter the ring, she simply thought, “Just go.”

With a flawless round in 45.40 seconds, McCrea took the lead and was never matched.

“I was ecstatic after the last jump! He gives me everything he’s got every time out, which is so hard to find,” McCrea said of Vegas. “He just really wants to be there and wants to clear the jumps.”

A Simple Recipe
Scott Stewart’s consistency continued this year in the Hamptons. Familiar names like Music Street, Farewell, Compliment and High Noon rang over the loudspeaker as Stewart stood for another victory photo, horses draped with tri-colored ribbons and Hampton Classic coolers.

Still, Stewart’s modesty under the limelight never faltered. While he guided Stephanie Riggio’s Compliment to the grand hunter championship and the green conformation tricolors, his own Farewell took first year green hunter honors while Dunwalke’s High Noon earned the regular working hunter championship.

But even after the camera shutters quieted and each horse was delivered into caring hands, Stewart never stopped moving. There was always another mount to prepare or a student to warm up.

Perhaps the reason his horses and students continue winning time and time again resides in his honest dedication to the horse, said Mimi Tashjian, who has trained with Stewart for more than a decade. She showed Stewart’s Rosso di Sera to the adult amateur, 46 and over, championship.

“I completely trust my trainer,” said Tashjian. “He wouldn’t ask me to do anything he didn’t think I could do. I also felt very comfortable on the horse.”

Tashjian noted that Stewart genuinely believes in every student and every horse with whom he works. He’s a connoisseur for unique horses with distinguishable personalities and an expert in connecting riders and mounts.

“It’s a simple recipe. Scott has an incredible natural talent,” said Tashjian. “And beyond anything, he’s a lover and advocate of the animal. He really believes his students can do what he can do and inspires you to want to go forward.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Tashjian returned to competition this summer after a two-year hiatus. Her first show aboard Rosso di Sera was in July at the Lake Placid Horse Show (N.Y.). The Hampton Classic marked her second show back with the 8-year-old stallion.

“There were just some things that precluded me from being in the saddle for awhile. But this is very, very special because it’s such an incredible horse show,” said Tashjian. “I’m just so excited to be back here, in the environment, there’s no time to be nervous. There were so many great riders and great friends in this division. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

In the only professional hunter division Stewart didn’t win, he was reserve champion. While he showed Alexa Weisman’s Music Street, Brad Wolf’s Canadian Sport Horse, Rio Renoir, repeated victory at the Hampton Classic. This year he earned the second year green division title with his distinct and aesthetic jump, under Holly Orlando.

It was nearly impossible to divert attention from this 7-year-old (by Rio Grande), especially over fences. Cindy Deibert originally chose Rio Renoir from a number of young prospects in Canada three years ago. Joe Guzzman trained Rio Renoir while Orlando picked up the reins to show him as a pre-green hunter. Last winter, Brad Wolf bought Rio Renoir and now shows him in the amateur-owner division as well.

“He’s amazing, and he’s as good for Brad as he is for me,” said Orlando. “No matter who’s riding him, he’s a winner. I get nervous because I know he’ll always do his part, so it’s all on me, the rider, to do my part.”

But there’s more to Rio Renoir than his one-of-a-kind style and fondness for Orlando. Rio Renoir enjoys a patient and caring trainer who dedicates himself to horses and refining the horse and rider relationship. Tom Wright is just that coach, said Wolf, who trains with Wright.

Seeing Double
Wright has a knack for finding considerate and willing horses who enjoy performing, said Francis Briggs, another Wright student who earned the grand adult amateur hunter championship.

She and her experienced, gray warmblood Skyy routinely perform perfectly prepared under the direction and management of Wright and Darrin Teodoro and looked especially relaxed throughout their section of the adult amateur hunter, 36-45, division. And like Rio Renoir, their championship this year mirrored last year’s results.

Now 13, Skyy has blazed a trail of ribbons through many shows, in many divisions and under many riders–including a rewarding junior hunter career with grand prix rider Paige Johnson.

“Considering I have four children, I was looking for a safe and experienced horse who could go everywhere; indoors, outside, grand prix field, everything,” said Briggs.

After retiring Big River, her last dream horse of seven years, Briggs almost gave up riding altogether. “But my twin sister, Stephanie [Ingram], had just leased Skyy for her daughter. We shared him at one horse show, and I fell in love with him and said, ‘He’s got to be mine,’ ” she recalled.

When Ingram’s daughter stopped riding Skyy shortly afterward, Briggs seized the opportunity. And it didn’t take long for the ribbons to follow.

“He hasn’t done anything all summer, and we literally just brought him up to the Hamptons. But you can always trust him and rely on him because I think he really just loves being an adult hunter,” said Briggs, who also rode Skyy to the adult amateur hunter
classic victory.

As luck would have it, Ingram and Ocean Front earned the reserve championship in section A of the adult amateur, 36-45, division for a memorable photo opportunity with Briggs and Skyy.

But Ingram picked up her own championship in section B with her 8-year-old, chestnut warmblood, Pilgrim.

“Tom Wright and Darrin are the team that got me in the ring going over a jump with a horse,” said Ingram. “Pilgrim is really a special horse. He’s so scopey and generous and kind. When he’s in the air I think to myself, ‘When are you coming down?'”

Like Skyy, Wright originally found Pilgrim a year ago for Ingram’s 15-year-old daughter, Christina Chapman. But she soon “discovered boys and tennis,” said Ingram.

Briggs took Pilgrim’s reins at last year’s Hampton Classic and finished second in the adult amateur hunter classic. “Everyone in the family has basically ridden him. He’s the family horse,” Ingram said with a laugh.

Categories:

ADVERTISEMENT

EXPLORE MORE

Follow us on

Sections

Copyright © 2024 The Chronicle of the Horse