ph. Shawn McMillan
Twenty-three year old Karen Polle finished ahead of the veterans on Sunday afternoon in Bridgehampton, NY, scoring a big win in the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, presented by Longines aboard longtime mount With Wings.
Polle found herself in an ideal position at the tail end of a small, four-horse jumpoff produced from the starting field of 29. The three riders before her had all failed to jump clean over Guillherme Jorge’s jumpoff track, making her job crystal clear: jump without fault and win.
That’s exactly what she was able to do, landing off the final fence with an earsplitting grin as With Wings finished the day without touching a rail. Her time of 47.96 seconds wasn’t the fastest of the day, but it was the best. Todd Minikus and Babalou finished on four faults for 2nd place, as did Canada’s Chris Sorenson with Bobby for 3rd. Meagan Nusz and Dynamo were the fourth pair to contest the jumpoff, finishing on 8 faults.
“It’s pretty indescribable, I have to say incredible,” said a shocked Polle after what was her biggest career win to date. The amateur rider has been steadily working her way up the ranks for years with the help of Ann Kursinski, Todd Minikus, and currently Mario Deslauriers. Polle attends Yale University and is less than a week away from returning to school to finish her senior year.
She’s formed a strong partnership with With Wings, a 12-year-old bay KWPN gelding (Larino x L. Ronald) that she bought when the horse was seven. Polle and With Wings last competed at Calgary, Spruce Meadows, and Sunday’s result was their first top-ten finish since January.
“There’s nothing about him that’s not special, he’s great, he’s careful, he’s scopey. He’s everything you’d want in a horse,” Polle told the Hampton Classic’s Marty Bauman about With Wings. If anything, the crowd and the atmosphere on grand prix Sunday at Bridgehampton made him jump better, Polle added.
It was an unexpected finish to the week at The Hampton Classic, where veterans tend to shine on the open grass field and big atmosphere environment of the venue. Longines Leading Rider of the 2015 Hampton Classic Shane Sweetnam entered the grand prix as a favorite, as did Friday’s winner of the Grand Prix Qualifier, McLain Ward. But with both those riders finishing out of the top five (Sweetnam was 6th with Chaqui Z), the door was left open for a new face to claim her moment in the spotlight.
For Polle, the win marked an exciting turning point in her career as she focuses on a potential bid for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Polle is a born and raised USA citizen from New York City, NY, but last year she changed her citizenship to reflect her Japanese heritage in the hopes that she can qualify to represent Japan at next year’s Olympic Games.
Full results of the $250,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix, presented by Longines are here.