Jessica Springsteen earned her first, career CSI5* victory on Sunday, September 11th when she won the Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Saugerties in New York, USA.
“I just tried to keep it a little bit together when I went a little bit faster,” Springsteen downplayed after a dominating jumpoff ride. “He’s still only nine, but he was jumping unbelievable so I knew I could take a little bit of risk and it worked out.”
The American rider led the largest jumpoff in the Million Grand Prix’ seven-year history to jump one of just two double clears on a sunny afternoon in New York’s Hudson river valley. Twenty-four-year-old Springsteen and her 9-year-old, Zangersheide gelding (Clarimo x Alcatraz) began their partnership less than a year ago, but after spending the summer with Europe as her training ground, Springsteen was primed to take on the challenge of the $1 Million grand prix.
Six pairs made it through to the jumpoff from the initial start list of 35. In past years, the Million trio of grand prix classes have earned a bit of a reputation for testing horses right to, and sometimes past their ability (in 2015 Beezie Madden was the only clear round to win the Million at Saugerties.)
However, with a new course designer in Wener Daeg of Germany, this year’s edition of the $1 Million Grand Prix hit all the right notes by offering a top level of sport that was safe, and fair. Rails fell throughout the course with no clear bogey fence. A triple combination at obstacle nine rode scopey and big and caused plenty of rails, and fences one and two fell for quite a few riders.
“It’s more important to implement the natural movement of horses in the courses,”
With a sweeping track and a jumpoff that encouraged riders to take risks to save time, course served up a classy day of competition with great sport for the spectators that lined the berm of sunken sand grand prix area.
“For me, it’s more important to implement the natural movement of horses in the courses,” Daeg said. “I’m not planning tricks and traps. At the end of the day I have been very lucky, I try to do my best and I’m very happy.”
Three previous winners of the $1 Million Grand Prix at Saugerties were on the start list this year, but it wasn’t to be for them to claim a second, six figure check. Madden and Breitling picked up an unlucky four faults in the triple combination, and 2013 winners Todd Minikus retired with Quality Girl after a refusal at that same triple combination. 2014 Million Grand Prix winners Nayel Nassar and Lordan jumped clear in Round 1 to make it to the jumpoff, but ran into trouble after making a risky inside turn on the way to fence 2, a large seahorse oxer. They would finish in 5th place.
The USA’s Catherine Tyree continued her recent upswing by jumping an impressive double clear with Enjoy Louis to place 2nd. Tyree, who has only been back in the saddle since June after recovering from a broken leg, guided her own, 12-year-old Belgian warmblood (Coriano x Kannan) to the first successful jumpoff effort. However, her time of 51.29 seconds would eventually be eclipsed by that of Springsteen’s 51.69.
“I know the horse so well, I’ve had him for a year and a half now,” Tyree said of her mount. “I jumped him on Wednesday just to go around one time and then I decided since it was so hot just to leave him until today and he was great, so great. He’s such a fighter and he has a huge heart.”
Both Springsteen and Tyree ride as amateurs, and will go head to head again at next week’s American Gold Cup CSI4*-W before resting their horses.
In 3rd place, another lady rider, this one a full-fledged career professional, impressed with a level-headed ride of her own. Brandie Holloway rode her daughter Hunter Holloway’s former equitation horse Lucky Strike to a quick, four fault round in the jumpoff. Lauren Tisbo and Mr Visto placed 4th. Mexico’s Eugenio Garza Perez rounded out the jumpoff in 6th place aboard Bariano.
“My horse is wonderful, he’s allowed me to do things I never thought possible,” Holloway commented. “I thought the course was one of the best courses I’ve jumped. I felt like it wasn’t just for one horse’s style. If you had a slower, scopier horse, there were places where you could do, say the five to the five without running into a tight four that you were not capable of jumping. And then with a hotter quicker type horse without a big step, you could fade in or out and make the lines work to your advantage.”
The playing field was indeed even but Springsteen was the singular rider who really hit her stride when it counted in the jumpoff. Cynar VA is an expressive jumper on a normal day, and during this class, he flew over every fence with room to spare.
“My horse had a little bit of a break before this, so he felt really fresh and really great,” Springsteen said. “It was a good course for him and I couldn’t be happier.”
See the complete results list of the Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix at this link.