Sydney Shulman, on Villamoura, was one of nine horse-and-athlete combinations to re-enter the Rolex Stadium on Saturday night under the lights for the jump-off of the $50,000 Kentucky Summer Grand Prix on Aug. 4. Jump-off rider extraordinaire Aaron Vale had set a blistering pace in 37.39 seconds, and although Alex Granato and David Oberkircher had beaten his time, they could not complete the short course fault-free. Enter Shulman as the last to challenge Vale. She not only beat his time but beat it by over a second to stop the clock in 36.19 seconds, simultaneously winning the week’s feature class and taking home Leading Rider Award.
“My plan was to really stick with the numbers that I walked,” said Shulman. “She’s a really little horse. so we tend to add places. She’s naturally quick, so I don’t really have to think about the time-allowed. I just wanted to give her the best chance. I look up to a lot of the riders that were in the jump-off. I’ve watched them growing up and throughout my career, so to be in the ring against them is really cool. I watched Jimmy [Torano]. His horse looks like he swallowed my horse, so it’s not always so helpful for me to watch a lot in the jump-off because she’s so particular with the way she goes and how little she is. I just kind of have to stick to my own plan in the end.”
Saturday’s class was the culmination of a week of exciting open jumper competition during the Kentucky Summer Classic. The 13-obstacle track, designed by Brazilian Anderson Lima, saw nine riders return for the jump-off after an original field of 32 starters competed. Jimmy Torano, who was second in the order-of-go on Ilan Feder’s Glasgow de Muze, set the standard with an early fault-free round hoping for a repeat of his win on Saturday at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. Granto and Scott Keach, who both showed multiple horses, produced two clear rounds each and were followed by equally competitive Vale on Major. Callie Schott and Shulman qualified with one horse each and knew they would have to bring their A game to beat the boys.
Shulman and Villamoura have been partners for almost a year and have racked up multiple important national and FEI top placings. The young professional from Greenwich, Connecticut, recently finished second in the $35,000 Welcome Stake CSI2** at the Tryon International Equestrian Center (North Carolina) in June as well as finishing with runner-up honors in the $50,000 Old Salem Farm Grand Prix CSI** during the Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows (New York). The pair was also fourth in the Kentucky Summer Horse Show’s $50,000 Rood & Riddle Grand Prix during Hats Off Day.
Although the 9-year-old Selle Français mare is small in stature, Shulman has seemingly had no issue channeling her energy to help her keep up with larger horses. The pair stuck to their plan and bested Vale with neat turns and forward lines.
“She’s extremely special to me,” said Shulman. “She’s absolutely amazing. I got her as a 6-year-old, so I’ve really brought her along. She did her first 1.40-meter [class] here last year, so it’s nice to see the progression throughout the year. She really should have won six grand prix [classes] by now, but I’ve just had a few rider errors get in the way. She was really due for this so I’m happy for her.”