Traverse City, Mich. – Sept. 10, 2020 – International competition commenced Thursday at Flintfields Horse Park, the home of the 50th American Gold Cup CSI 4*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, as the first FEI class of the week brought a sizeable field of 89 entries to centerstage for the $36,600 Staller Welcome Stake CSI 4*. Hailing from 11 nations, including the United States, Israel, Ireland, Great Britain, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Australia and Canada, the diverse pack of contenders featured nine previous winners of the prestigious American Gold Cup trophy, which is the ultimate ambition of the week’s elite riders that will be awarded Sunday. Off to a good start during his first visit to Traverse City and debut at the American Gold Cup, Rowan Willis (AUS) navigated his own Cartouch III to a speedy victory, leading the class almost entirely from start to finish.
For the power-and-speed competition, veteran course designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA) fabricated a track that was well-suited to the task at hand of separating the best-performing entries from the rest of the field. First to take to the ring, Gavin Harley (IRL) successfully completed the first pattern of fences aboard Very Chic du Tillard and advanced immediately into the speed portion, maintaining his momentum and tripping the timers clear in 28.79 seconds to set the early precedent. Within the first quarter of the class, the lead changed hands a number of time, with Molly Ashe Cawley (USA) and Berdien, Alberto Michan (ISR) on Cosa Nostra and Alise Oken (USA) aboard Shangri-La each taking a turn at the top before the lead finally settled on Willis and Cartouch III, who had pushed the time quicker to a fault-free 26.36 seconds.
Though more than 70 subsequent combinations tried to usurp the leaders from their throne, Willis and Cartouch III never fell from the top of the leaderboard, solidifying them as the victors.
Living up to her reputation for speed, Kristen Vanderveen (USA) nabbed the reserve honors aboard her own Bull Run’s Prince of Peace in a penalty-free time of 26.990 seconds, and Alison Robitaille (USA) jockeyed Alison Firestone LLC’s Appolon Bleu to the final podium spot in 27.170 seconds will all the rails still in the cups. By the end of the class, 49 pairs had made their way into the speed phase, and a smaller group of 19 duos finished on a double-clear result.
Boasting 52 points, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) held the lead in the CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus rankings headed into the final weekend of competition that will conclude 11 weeks of eligible point-earning classes. With Kristen Vanderveen (USA) 13 points behind the leader in second position, it was ensured that Sweetnam would retain the top spot following Thursday’s class, regardless of the results. The $30,000 bonus will be awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points in competitions worth $25,000 or more in prize money throughout the Traverse City series following the final class, the $213,300 CaptiveOne American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI 4* on September 13.
Show jumping will continue at the 50th American Gold Cup CSI 4*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, will throughout the weekend. Friday will feature the $72,900 AGC Qualifier CSI 4*, and Saturday will be highlighted by the $36,600 AGC Speed Classic CSI 4*. The grand finale of the week will take place Sunday in the form of the $213,300 American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI 4*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, and the awarding of the CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus.
Winner’s Circle – Rowan Willis (AUS)
On competing at the American Gold Cup:
“It’s good to be here! It’s the first time I’ve been to the American Gold Cup and the first time I’ve been to the show here in Traverse City, so it’s new all around. It’s always tough competition and a lot of good American riders wherever you go, and they all seem to have congregated here for the week so it will be tough jumping.”
On Cartouch III:
“I got Cartouch last year from Mark Turnbull in Scotland, so maybe the cloudy and rainy weather suited him today and he thought he was back home! He felt great and he was in good form. [Mark] has produced a few good ones so I’m going to have to go back and see what else he has in the barn.”
On Sunday’s $213,300 CaptiveOne American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI4*:
“Unfortunately no [Blue Movie] this week, but I’ve got a great mare [Ekita Eindeken Z] that I’m excited about and she’s done well in the last few grand prix classes, so we will see what she can do. I will aim her for the Gold Cup.”
Results – $36,600 Staller Welcome Stake CSI 4*
Place / Rider / Country / Horse / Owner / R2 Faults | R2 Time
1. Rowan Willis (AUS) & Cartouch III / / Rowan Willis / 0 | 26.360
2. Kristen Vanderveen (USA) & Bull Run’s Prince of Peace / / Kristen Vanderveen / 0 | 26.990
3. Alison Robitaille (USA) & Appolon Bleu / Alison Firestone LLC / 0 | 27.170
4. Daisy Farish (USA) & Great White / Daisy Farish / 0 | 27.430
5. Schuyler Riley (USA) & Quilimbo / E2 Show Jumpers / 0 | 27.550
6. Sarah Hubbard (USA) & Latino Van De Looise Heide / Hubbard Horses LLC / 0 | 27.560
7. Erynn Ballard (CAN) & Bettina Des Celtes / Ilan Ferder / 0 | 27.600
8. Natalie Dean (USA) & Don’s Diamant / Marigold Sporthorses LLC / 0 | 27.910
9. Alise Oken (USA) & Shangri-la / Hi Hopes Farm LLC / 0 | 28.150
10. Alberto Michan (ISR) & Cosa Nostra / Alberto Michan / 0 | 28.260
11. Andrew Bourns (USA) & Darquito / Andrew Bourns / 0 | 28.420
12. Katherine Dinan (USA) & Athos D’elle / Grant Road Partners Llc / 0 | 28.640
Source: Press release by Elaine Wessel / Phelps Media Group for the American Gold Cup
Photos: © Phelps Sports / Elaine Wessel