Traverse City, Michigan USA. – July 3, 2020 – The new month brought the highly-anticipated six-week Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, which commenced its first week of competition Wednesday. Serving as the highlight event of the week thus far, the $36,600 Welcome Stake CSI 2* was the first FEI class of week one and attracted a hefty field of 48 entries to the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring on Friday. Relying on their footspeed and scope to top a lofty jump-off of 16 horse-and-rider combinations, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Indra Van De Oude Heihoef, owned by The Blue Buckle Group, were triumphant to pocket the winner’s share of the prize money.
For the first round of riding, course designer Manuel Esparza (MEX) crafted a track featuring 16 efforts to test the pack of horse-and-rider pairs. Statistically speaking, Rich Fellers (USA), Charlie Jayne (USA) and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) posed the greatest threat of victory with three horses apiece entered in the class, while a handful of other athletes also improved their chances with two mounts. As the second duo to take to the ring, Fellers and Mojo proved to be the trailblazers as the first clear ride of the class, and Jayne soon forced a jump-off with his clear ride on Tou La Moon. As the class progressed, 14 more partnerships turned in penalty-free trips to earn jump-off eligibility and bring the total number of returners to 16. The American contingent led the way with 13 qualified combinations, while the Irish squad would return 3 pairs. Laying down an impressive three-peat of showings, Fellers successfully completed clear rides on all three of his horses to emerge as the frontrunner, followed by Andrew Bourns (IRL) with two jump-off mounts as the only other rider to qualify more than one horse.
Third to tackle the track for the second time, Jennifer Waxman (USA) and Deleyn were the pacesetters for the jump-off as the first duo to go double-clear, crossing the timers in 38.500 seconds to set the standard, but were quickly overthrown by Sweetnam and Indra Van De Oude Heihoef, who pushed the envelope even further to finish in a fault-free time of 34.900 seconds, nearly four seconds faster.
By the halfway point in the order, Bourns (IRL) on Sea Topblue, Fellers (USA) riding Lux Lady and Steve Schaefer (USA) aboard Zarkava each gave good runs that left all the fences intact but broke the beam a few seconds off the pace. That trend continued for Lacey Gilbertson (USA) on Baloppi, Margie Engle (USA) with the reins on Cesna M and Bourns (IRL) with his second ride A Toi De Prim, each of whom performed to the tune of zero faults but could not catch the leaders’ time. As the second-to-last to ride, Fellers blazed through the pattern with Steelbi, taking the tight inside turn option and galloping between the obstacles, which were all left standing, to give Sweetnam a run for his money, but ultimately stopped the clock in 35.510 seconds to claim the runner-up spot with only one duo left to ride. Proving that the leading time could be beat, Brian Moggre (USA) and Nikita Jolie sprinted to a fiery time of 34.55 seconds, but downed the penultimate fence to keep them out of contention.
Leading the pack nearly from start to finish, no small feat considering the size of the jump-off horde, Sweetnam retained his spot at the head of the leaderboard to capture victory and the lead spot in the lap of honor with Indra Van De Oude Heihoef. Finishing the day with an outstanding set of results, Fellers claimed both second place and third place. The faster of his two double-clear mounts, Kathleen Waldorf’s Steelbi captured the runner-up honors in a time of 35.510 seconds, followed by Fellers’ own Lux Lady in third place thanks to a fast time of 36.130 seconds to add to his prize money winnings.
Though he did not compete Friday, Jonathan Corrigan (IRL) retained his status at the top of the standings in the CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus due to a number of top placings during the Traverse City Spring Horse Show, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel. Of the top six riders on the leaderboard prior to the Welcome Stake, only Daisy Farish (USA) and Kendall Bourgeois (USA) competed Friday, but neither earned enough points to overtake the leader. The Rider Bonus will be awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points in competitions $25,000 or more in prize money over the course of 11 weeks of riding in Traverse City, concluding with the $213,300 CaptiveOne American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI 4* on September 13.
Winner’s Circle – Shane Sweetnam (BRA)
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / R2 Faults | R2 Time
1. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) & Indra Van De Oude Heihoef / 0 | 68.97 / 0 | 34.90
2. Rich Fellers (USA) & Steelbi / Kathleen Waldorf / 0 | 70.95 / 0 | 35.51
3. Richard Fellers (USA) & Lux Lady / Richard Fellers / 0 | 73.13 / 0 | 36.13
4. Andrew Bourns (IRL) & Sea Topblue / Andrew Bourns / 0 | 73.45 / 0 | 36.24
5. Lacey Gilbertson (USA) & Baloppi / Seabrook LLC / 0 | 71.49 / 0 | 36.69
6. Andrew Bourns (IRL) & A Toi De Prim / Blackwatch Farm / 0 | 70.40 / 0 | 37.68
7. Steve Schaefer (USA) & Zarkava / Steve Schaefer / 0 | 70.90 / 0 | 37.76
8. Jennifer Waxman (USA) & Deleyn / Sweet Oak Farm / 0 | 72.93 / 0 | 38.50
9. Margie Engle (USA) & Cesna M / Virginia Batholomay / 0 | 72.06 / 0 | 44.03
10. Brian Moggre (USA) & Nikita Jolie / Ashland Farms / 0 | 72.55 / 4 | 34.55
11. Annabella Sanchez (USA) & Incitatus / Annabella Sanchez / 0 | 72.48 / 4 | 35.70
12. Spencer Smith (USA) & Ayade Hero Z / Ransome Rombauer / 0 | 72.47 / 4 | 38.43
Source: Press release by Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group for Great Lakes Equestrian Festival
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography