ince 1970, The American Gold Cup has been a staple of the show jumping universe. Originally based in Ohio, the show also made the rounds to Tampa and Philadelphia, before settling in at the Devon Show Ground in Pennsylvania for over 20 years. The show has since found a new home at Old Salem Farm in North Salem, New York. Old Salem is the perfect backdrop for an event steeped in tradition, with its rich history and sprawling grass fields. It's the kind of place - and the kind of show - that takes you away from 'real life' for a moment, letting you settle into the world of show jumping for the weekend and let Instagram, emails, and work fall away.
When it comes to tradition, there's a fine balance to be struck - we're all about moving sport forward into the modern age. But The American Gold Cup is maintaining tradition in a special way, effortlessly mixing the history of both the event and the old-school equestrian feel of the venue with a fresh perspective, including top-level jumper classes, world-class dining, creative shopping experiences, and a plethora of family activities.
It's not a modern take on the horse show, but it's not stuck in the past either - that's what makes it so special.
It's also a unique format, being a jumpers-only show, but not solely offering up classes for top professionals. Yes, the start of the show is the CSI4* $204,000 Longines Grand Prix - one of just seven events comprising the East Coast division of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League - and there's a fair handful of major classes attracting world-class athletes, but there are also offerings for junior riders, adult amateurs, and young horses. Not a hunter in sight, but providing an amazing opportunity for show jumpers of all levels to ride at one of the most loved venues on America's East Coast.
When it comes to the big guns, they've arrived in full force, and with guns a'blazin'. With many riders fresh off the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, it's another opportunity to ride Alan Wade's artfully designed, highly technical courses. Alan's courses garnered nothing but praise at the WEG, and he's continuing full steam ahead at Old Salem with his signature challenging yet delicate tests.
Still fresh off his gold medal victory with the U.S. Show Jumping Team in Tryon, McLain Ward is back at home in New York and still making moves, clinching the win in the $80,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier CSI4* with a new mount for him, fellow Olympian Reed Kessler's former horse, Contagious.
With 44 horse and rider combinations from around the world heading into Friday's event, it was stiff competition, but only eight pairs were able to leave all the rails untouched as well as keep within the tight time allowed to make it to the jump-off.
Ireland's Paul O'Shea and Canada's Ali Ramsay came in second and third behind McLain, but when McLain Ward is on fire, whoa - the man is on fire.
Tomorrow marks the biggest day for the show, with the Grand Prix kicking off in the afternoon, as well as McLain's famed mount Rothchild's official retirement ceremony.
Fitting that a horse who has made his mark on history will be retired at a show so well seeded in America's show jumping history books.
Photos by Dani Maczynski.