Traverse City, Michigan, USA. – July 24, 2020 – The first FEI class of Week Four at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, brought a lofty field of 54 entries to front and center for the $36,600 Devoucoux Welcome Stake CSI 2*, which took place Friday morning in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring. Besting a 9-horse jump-off pack, Maria Costa (USA) and Ravello Farms LLC’s Valentino V Z separated themselves from the field during a hotly-contested tie-breaker round that saw the pace consistently pushed faster, with Costa and Valentino V Z ultimately emerging as the swiftest as one of the final partnerships to ride. The win was especially sweet for Costa as it marked her first international victory.
Designed by Guilherme Jorge (BRA), the 16-fence initial track was jumped by horse-and-rider pairs representing eight nationalities, comprised of the United States, Ireland, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Turkey and Israel. The only athlete with three mounts entered in the contest, Capt. Brian Cournane (IRL) statistically posed the greatest threat of victory, and he had already proven he was one to watch thanks to a second-place finish just days prior in the $72,900 North Face Farm Grand Prix CSI 2*. A grand prix winner in Traverse City in 2019, Santiago Lambre (MEX) piloted Dingeman to the first clear trip of the day as the eighth in the order-of-go, then was joined in the clear ranks by Stephen Moore (IRL) and Team de Coquerie, who forced a jump-off. Adding two more Irish names to the tie-breaker round, Gavin Harley (IRL) on Corbawido PS and Jonathan Corrigan (IRL) on Super Chilled logged the next fault-free efforts, followed by Adam Prudent (USA) in the saddle aboard Romeo De Villaret. The latter portion of the first round ultimately saw four more clear trips from Hardin Towell (USA) on Gotcha, Maria Costa (USA) aboard Valentino V Z, Erynn Ballard (CAN) riding Bettina des Celtes and Capt. Cournane (IRL) on Sunny van de Hunters.
Back for the jump-off, Jorge’s shortened track showcased the skills of nine qualified contenders, with Ireland leading the way with four challengers and the United States close behind with three flag bearers. No riders had two horses eligible for the tie-breaker phase. Second to tackle the track, Moore and Team de Coquerie served as the early pathfinders with the first double-clear performance of the day in 39.29 seconds to set the pace off of a quick gallop. Inching slightly faster, fellow Irishman Harley pushed Corbawido PS to the lead immediately next, tripping the timers in 38.91 seconds to usurp the frontrunners. Once again, the lead changed hands thanks to Prudent and Romeo de Villaret, who edged out the leaders to take the top spot in a clear 38.43 seconds with four left to ride, but the lead amazingly swapped another time as Costa sliced Valentino V Z across the pattern in a blazing time of 37.09 seconds to blow away the competition and ultimately claim victory in the $36,600 Devoucoux Welcome Stake CSI 2*.
Just a touch off the pace, Ballard and Ilan Ferder’s Bettina des Celtes earned the runner-up honors with an effort that left all the rails in their cups in 37.65 seconds. Prudent and Romeo de Villaret, owned by Plain Bay Sales, rounded out the podium as the third-fastest of six double-clear pairs with their time of 38.43 seconds.
For Friday’s class, Corrigan and Rich Fellers (USA) were the only two riders within the top six on the leaderboard for the CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus who participated in the Welcome Stake. Prior to the competition, Corrigan held a narrow lead, and he managed to retain it thanks to his top-ten ranking Friday. The CaptiveOne Advisors Leading Jumper 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, with the grand finale taking place in the form of the $213,300 CaptiveOne American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI 4* on September 13.
The Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, will continue for two more days before Week Four concludes. The weekend’s events for jumpers will be highlighted by the $72,900 Staller Grand Prix CSI2*, which is slated to take place Sunday afternoon.
Winner’s Circle – Maria Costa (USA)
On her first FEI win happening in Traverse City:
“This is my first international win. I’m so excited! I’m so happy to be here and that was really just such a fun round. I’ve been coming here for years, dating back to when I was doing the Children’s Jumpers back in this very same ing, so it’s pretty exciting. I was here last year with that same horse and he loved it, so we came in with a good feeling and it was a nice day.”
On learning from the Irish riders:
“I’ve had Irish trainers for quite some time now. I’ve been riding with Paul O’Shea for the past four-and-a-half years. It has been really great and I’ve learned so much from him. It’s nice to compete against him in the same class because we can go over our gameplan and really get everything worked out.”
On her jump-off plan:
“It’s always to go as fast as possible and leave the jumps up, but I was really just thinking that I’d take the first shot at everything that I saw, keep the connection and watch the front rail. It really paid off today. He is a really fast horse, so I just let him off the leash a little bit. His first instinct is to really go, so I embraced that and it paid off.”
On her support system at the show:
“I don’t have my actual family here with me this week, unfortunately, but they are cheering from home. I have such a big support system here between the people that work for me, Paul, and the Whipstick family that has always treated me like family. I’m really lucky.”
On her feelings ahead of Sunday’s grand prix:
“I’m so excited. I always have confidence going into the ring with my horse, Valentino, because no matter what happens I always come out with a smile. He is so much fun. I’m looking forward to another round with him.”
Results – $36,600 Devoucoux Welcome Stake CSI 2*:
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / R2 Faults | R2 Time
1. Maria Costa (USA) & Valentino V Z / Ravello Farms LLC / 0 | 74.49 / 0 | 37.090
2. Erynn Ballard (CAN) & Bettina Des Celtes / Ilan Ferder / 0 | 74.65 / 0 | 37.650
3. Adam Prudent (USA) & Romeo De Villaret / Plain Bay Sales / 0 | 75.12 / 0 | 38.430
4. Gavin Harley (IRL) & Corbawido PS / Wolfstone Stables & Sales Inc / 0 | 76.40 / 0 | 38.910
5. Stephen Moore (IRL) & Team De Coquerie / Vlock Show Stables LLC / 0 | 73.71 / 0 | 39.290
6. Jonathan Corrigan (IRL) & Super Chilled / Debra Wycoff / 0 | 73.57 / 0 | 39.510
7. Captain Brian Cournane (IRL) & Sunny Van De Hunters / Jules Cournane / 0 | 75.19 / 4 | 37.52
8. Jack Hardin Towell (USA) & Gotcha / / Rock Ridge Farms / 0 | 74.12 / 4 | 38.480
9. Santiago Lambre (MEX) & Dingeman / Santiago Lambre / 0 | 74.25 / 8 | 39.350
10. Schuyler Riley (USA) & Centolina Seconda / / Wolfstone Stables & Sales Inc. / 1 | 78.630
Source: Press release by Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group for Great Lakes Equestrian Festival
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography