Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024

Night Train Slow But Sure At I Love New York

 A conservative approach helps Darragh Kerins and Night Train continue their hot streak.

When Darragh Kerins schooled Night Train before the jump off of the $75,000 Hermes Grand Prix of Lake Placid July 5 in Lake Placid, N.Y., he didn’t feel terribly confident.

Three other strong pairs posted clear first rounds during the signature event of the I Love New York Horse Show, including the previous week’s grand prix winner, Kent Farrington aboard the careful and quick Up Chiqui and Christine McCrea with her veteran partner, Vegas.
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 A conservative approach helps Darragh Kerins and Night Train continue their hot streak.

When Darragh Kerins schooled Night Train before the jump off of the $75,000 Hermes Grand Prix of Lake Placid July 5 in Lake Placid, N.Y., he didn’t feel terribly confident.

Three other strong pairs posted clear first rounds during the signature event of the I Love New York Horse Show, including the previous week’s grand prix winner, Kent Farrington aboard the careful and quick Up Chiqui and Christine McCrea with her veteran partner, Vegas.

But when his competitors ran into problems, Kerins took a conservative approach to the jump-off that paid off, putting in the only double-clear performance of the day and earning the top check for Double H Farms.

“Just before I walked in the ring his owner said, ‘Just try to jump a clear, smooth round,’ ” recalled Kerins. “I didn’t take too many chances—but with one behind me, I definitely got a little lucky.”

Up Chiqui took the jump-off course first, flying around at breakneck speed. But the spry chestnut slammed on the brakes after attempting what proved to be an impossibly tight turn one fence from home, sending Farrington into the dirt. McCrea and Vegas also suffered a refusal that knocked them out of blue ribbon
contention, so by the time Night Train trotted onto the field with just one horse to follow, Kerins had a bit of breathing room.

“If Kent hadn’t had his mishap, there’s no way I—or anyone else—could have beaten him,” admitted Kerins, 33.

Night Train didn’t touch a rail, soaring over the fences as his rider gave him an accurate, if restrained, ride over the jump-off course. The final pair, Keean White and Celina Z, couldn’t match Kerins’ round when they pulled a rail after a rollback to take second.

Celina Z’s four-fault performance thrilled White, who chalked up the error to a bit of greenness on the mare’s part. “It was a tough course out there, and she went beautifully” said White. “In Florida she was only jumping 1.30-meter classes, so she’s really coming along.”

Night Train (S. Calvaro Z—Hermione Rouge) has been on fire this season, jumping clear round after clear round and picking up grand prix wins at Devon (Pa.) and HITS Saugerties (N.Y.). “I’ve had him a year and a half, and he keeps getting better,” said Kerins, Ridgefield, Conn. “The rideabilty hasn’t always been there—he can be strong—but he keeps learning, and he’s getting better all the time.

“He’s the smallest horse in the class—only 15.11⁄2 hands—but his heart is bigger than anything,” Kerins added. “He’s in great condition, and he’s been jumping amazingly well. Last week was the worst he’s gone [with two rails in the first round of the $75,000 Budweiser Grand Prix Of Lake Placid] in ages, but if he doesn’t jump another clear round the rest of the summer that would be all right. He doesn’t owe anyone anything.”

Kerins will return to his native Ireland to show his countrymen what his little chestnut horse can do at the CSIO***** in Dublin. He last rode for his country at the CN Nations Cup in Wellington (Fla.) in March, helping the Irish team place fourth.

A Family Outlaw

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A year and a half ago Visse Wedell set her heart on finding a great hunter prospect, but financially she knew she shouldn’t be in the market for another horse. But when she visited Nona Garson’s Ridge Farm in Wellington, Fla., and saw a little bay gelding who would be stepping onto the block in an upcoming auction, she knew she had to find a way to make the numbers work.

“[The InterContinental Sporthorse Auction] is usually held in February, but last year it was a month later,” recalled Wedell. “I had closed on my apartment in New York just before. I had to sneak money out of that account and into another one to pay for him so that my father didn’t notice. He didn’t find out about him for about a year.”

Wedell’s decision paid off at I Love New York, as her Outlaw picked up the green conformation hunter championship and tied for the grand hunter title with T. Lyman Whitehead aboard.

“He’s a real trouper,” said Whitehead, North Salem, N.Y. “He never looks for a way out, and he’s very well-meaning. He came out of the womb wanting to do everything well.”

Outlaw only put in a few trips as a pre-green horse last year before stepping up in the conformation ring this year, and he’s been steadily improving all season, picking up tricolors at Old Salem I and II (N.Y.) and at Saratoga (N.Y.).

I Love New York Tidbits

•    Kent Farrington earned the Richard and Diana Feldman Perpetual Trophy for Excellence for accruing the most prize money in the two featured grand prix events of Lake Placid and I Love New York. Farrington won the $75,000 Budweiser Grand Prix of Lake Placid, and took fourth in the $75,000 Hermes Grand Prix aboard Up Chiqui.

•    Laura Chapot, Neshanic Station, N.J., dominated the open jumper division, winning seven of nine in the 1.40, 1.35 and 1.30 meter classes with Chili Pepper, Redford, Face Value and Little Big Mama.

•    Lauren Cechini, Flemington, N.J., picked up the children’s hunter, 15-17, cham-
pionship and the grand children’s hunter championship both weeks.

•    Victoria Colvin dominated the pony hunter divisions for Scott Stewart, earning grand pony and medium pony hunter championships aboard Cortina, and topping the small division on Lovin’ U.

•    Schaefer Raposa rode Grand Central’s Centerfield to the top of the large pony hunter division during Lake Placid and I Love New York.

“It’s been a natural progression for him,” said Whitehead. “We didn’t have the mindset that we were going to Florida to look for results. A lot of people expect first year horses to go like junior hunters, but that’s just not reality. We took the approach that we would let him go at his own pace and not force him or overface him. We didn’t take him to Devon for exactly that reason. We thought it might be too much for him.”

Though originally purchased as an investment project, Outlaw’s innate talent and incredibly fast learning curve have tempted Wedell to keep the Dutch Warmblood as a mount for herself. She won the single over fences class she contested with him at Old Salem last fall.
 
“As an amateur, every once in a while you see that long one out of the turn and lean forward and say, ‘Please, God.’ He just leaves and keeps on going with his ears pricked,” she said with a smile.

Wedell splits her time between Wellington, Fla., and New Canaan, Conn., and relies on trainer Whitehead—as well as barn manager John Talley and groom José Lopez—to keep Outlaw and her other mounts show ready. “I can only do it because I know that I never have to worry about anything—they do such an amazing job,” said Wedell.

Back In The Saddle

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For Sharon Coleman, the toughest part of suffering through two herniated discs wasn’t the intense pain that forced her to endure four epidurals or the grueling physical therapy, it was staying out of the saddle. So when she accepted the championship ribbon in the adult amateur, 36-50, division at I Love New York after a fall forced her to the sidelines, she was ecstatic.

“I very much appreciate just being able to ride at all,” said Coleman, who trains with Beacon Hill and earned the tricolor with Mickey Mouse. “Riding this horse is the most fun I’ve ever had.”

After the injury, the 45-year-old knew she didn’t want to spend the rest of her horse show days only watching her husband, Scott Coleman, compete in the adult amateur jumpers. So she diligently performed her physical therapy, strapped on a back brace, and six months to the day after the accident, drove back to the barn.

“The less I do, the better,” said Coleman. “I’ve had to cut my riding in half—I ride three days a week instead of six—and Heather [Senia], Krista [Freundlich] and Stacia [Madden] did him all week and do an amazing job keeping him ready for me.”

Coleman eased back into the show ring early this spring, and in Lake Placid it all came together. “Getting on him is like getting in a convertible and putting the top down,” said Coleman, Shrewsbury, N.J. “He reminds me of a big dog—he wants to please all the time. When I come in the barn and call for him, he whinnies for me.”

It took a while for the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood to find his niche. After Frank Madden imported him from Europe, the horse spent two years at Beacon Hill as a sale horse, and “Mickey” did time in the jumper, hunter and equitation rings. Coleman had her eye on him and finally took over the reins in 2006.

Bringing Home The Bikes

Kimberly McCormack has developed a ritual when leaving the Lake Placid show grounds. Every summer for the past four years she’s loaded up a new mountain bike that she’s won in the Kathy Scholl Equitation Classic.

The top two finishers in the class take home bikes, and McCormack won the class for the second year running, and she took second place each of the two previous years. But since two of the bikes have been stolen, McCormack didn’t exactly have an extensive collection at home.

McCormack rode a smooth, forward course over the twisting track to earn a 93 and finish the first round on top. “The course walked hard. You really didn’t have a chance to catch your breath,” said McCormack, Clermont, N.J. “It was the kind of course where if one thing went wrong, the whole thing would fall apart.”

After a flawless test, which required riders to canter in and trot out of a short line, and counter canter a fence after a tight turn, McCormack held her lead, edging out Sara Green, who took home the other bike, and Carolyn Curcio. The fourth-placed rider, Shelby Wakeman, pulled up mid-test after her mount threw a shoe unbeknownst to anyone watching.

McCormack trains with Missy Clark, John Brennan and her sister Kristy McCormack of North Run Stables. Kristy trained her sister’s longtime equitation mount, 9-year-old Sundance, after the gelding showed up at the barn as a sale horse. “He has amazing balance, and his rhythm doesn’t change at all,” said Kristy. “But he took a while to come around. He has a nice jump but was a terrible junior hunter. Then one day we realized this is one we should definitely hold on to.”

Kimberly has been riding with Kristy since her riding career began, so sibling rivalry rarely interferes with her training. “Kristy’s always helped me, so it’s just the way it’s always been—it’s not awkward at all,” said Kimberly. “We argue sometimes, but not much at all. And, of course, Missy and John are training as well, so it balances really well.”

Mollie Bailey

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