Traverse City, Michigan, USA – September 11, 2020 – The pressure was on Friday at the 50th American Gold Cup CSI 4* & 2*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors LLC, as 57 starters put forward their best efforts in the $72,900 American Gold Cup Qualifier CSI 4*, presented by Traverse City Tourism and Great Lakes Sports Commission, the prerequisite class to Sunday’s $213,300 American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI 4*. Slots were open for the best-placing 49 contenders to advance, in addition to Beezie Madden (USA) with a secured place as the reigning champion, to make it an even 50. Capitalizing on her horse’s impressive and well-known footspeed, Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) navigated Silver Raven Farms’ Akuna Mattata to the victory rosette ahead of a talented jump-off field to conclude the day with a new prize money check in her pocket and a win under her belt headed into Sunday’s grand finale.
Course designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA) exercised his skill Friday morning in the first phase of the class with a 16-effort pattern that ultimately saw 19 exhibitors master the track by leaving all the fences intact within the time-allowed. Second in the ring, Natalie Dean (USA) added yet another clear round to her name following a successful series so far, piloting Chance Ste Hermelle to the first fault-free ride of the class, and she was soon joined in the clear ranks by Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) on Akuna Mattata, who forced a jump-off. As the class progressed, the United States led the way with a total of 13 penalty-free rides from its representatives. Successful trips came from the initial two plus Peter Leone (USA), Kent Farrington (USA), Elizabeth Madden (USA), Daisy Farish (USA), Lucy Deslauriers (USA), Schuyler Riley (USA), McLain Ward (USA), Alison Robitaille (USA), Kristen Vanderveen (USA), Ali Wolff (USA) and Katie Dinan (USA). International challengers that qualified for the tie-breaker round included Erynn Ballard (CAN), Luiz Francisco de Azevedo (BRA), Paul O’Shea (IRL), Beat Mändli (SUI), Gavin Harley (IRL) and Lorcan Gallagher (IRL).
For the second portion of competition, Leone, O’Shea and Robitaille all elected to forego the jump-off and save their horses for Sunday, bringing the number of returners down to 16 from five nations. Trimmed to eight obstacles, the shortened track saw Dean log the first double-clear of the day on Chance Ste Hermelle in 41.97 seconds to set the pace, but her time was quickly eclipsed as Shahinian-Simpson galloped Akuna Mattata to a lightning-fast time of 37.43 seconds to claim the top spot with 14 remaining. Slicing across the pattern, Ward and Contagious gave the leaders a run for their money with a swift time of 36.70 seconds, but dropped the back rail of the final oxer to drop them down the list. Shahinian-Simpson still retained the top place with one final duo to ride.
Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) and VDL Cartello gave it their all in a bid to overthrow the leaders, turning in a nail-biting round that stopped the clock in 37.61 seconds, just milliseconds off the quickest time of the day.
Leading the jump-off nearly from start to finish, the United States’ Shahinian-Simpson and Akuna Mattata captured the premier spot in the victory gallop and the lion’s share of the prize money. Gallagher and VDL Cartello, owned by Heathman Fam LLC, finished fractions of a second behind in the reserve spot, and Lucy Deslauriers (USA) rounded out the podium with a third-place finish aboard her own Hester in a clear time of 37.94 seconds. All told, nine of the original field of starters concluded the contest with a double-clear performance.
During the awards ceremony, Natlie Dean (USA) was distinguished as the selected recipient of the Horse & Style Magazine Style Award.
Friday’s contest served as the third-to-last eligible class to earn points towards the CaptiveOne Advisors $30,000 Leading Jumper Rider Bonus, which will be awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points in competitions worth $25,000 or more in prize money throughout the 11-week Traverse City series following the final class, the $213,300 CaptiveOne American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI 4* on Sunday. Shane Sweetnam (IRL) sat atop the rankings ahead of Kristen Vanderveen (USA) headed into the Qualifier, and the rankings remained the same following Friday’s highlight class.
Winner’s Circle – Nicole Shahinian Simpson (USA)
On her win:
“I enjoy going first in the jump-off actually. I like to just have a plan and go do it. With Nahla, Akuna Mattata, she’s a one-gear horse and you just go and do your job and see what happens. It was close, Lorcan [Gallagher] was close, but it felt awesome. I called on her everywhere and it felt smooth, it was one of my jump-offs to remember.”
On the jump-off:
“I had my plan. [Akuna Mattata] has a great galloping stride, she executes across the ground phenomenally. I caught the first jump just how I wanted to do the seven strides down the first line. About halfway down I thought, ‘I am getting here easy, let me sit still,’ and then all of a sudden it was pretty gappy, so she was very good to me there. We made a great and sliced across that oxer, felt like it was right out of stride. I actually took a pretty good shot into the double, and that’s always dicey because you don’t know how much of a shot to take, but I had so many people behind me.I left out another stride to the liverpool, super turn back, she was right there with me, really smooth. I had walked ten strides to the last line but normal, and I knew that if I caught it and gave me a point of reference I knew that I could get the nine strides. I couldn’t be more happy with her, she was just fantastic.”
On where she made up the time in the jump-off:
“I didn’t get to see all of them go, and I’m not sure if they were a little bit off along the VIP tent, but I know a few had the rail at the last jump. McLain [Ward] had my time. It was luck in the books there. [Lorcan Gallagher] is fast, he is on a fast horse, and he gave it a good go. His horse gave him a little buck and I think that’s where the two-tenths of a second was. It was fun, a great class.”
On looking ahead to Sunday’s $213,300 American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI4*:
“My mare is competitive, there is very little of what I would say training or regrouping, it’s all pretty simple. She goes her way. She will have tomorrow off and just do some flatwork and get ready for Sunday.”
Results – $72,900 American Gold Cup Qualifier CSI4*, presented by Traverse City Tourism and Great Lakes Sports Commission:
Place / Horse / Rider / Country / Owner / R1 Faults | R1 Time / R2 Faults | R2 Time
1. Nicole Shahinian-Simpson (USA) & Akuna Mattata / Nicole Shahinian-Simpson / USA / Silver Raven Farms / 0 | 72.310 / 0 | 37.430
2. Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) & Vdl Cartello / / Heathman Farm LLC / 0 | 76.000 / 0 | 37.610
3. Lucy Deslauriers (USA) & Hester / Lisa Deslauriers / 0 | 76.560 / 0 | 37.940
4. Ali Wolff (USA) & Casall / Blacklick Bend Farm / 0 | 75.400 / 0 | 38.010
5. Beat Mandli (SUI) & Galan S / Grant Road Partners LLC / 0 | 73.190 / 0 | 39.770
6. Luiz Francisco de Azevedo (BRA) & My Way / Santa Cecilia Stables LLC / 0 | 78.510 / 0 | 40.270
7. Katherine Dinan (USA) & Brego R’n B / / Grant Road Partners LLC / 0 | 77.360 / 0 | 40.950
8. Schuyler Riley (USA) & Robin De Ponthual / / Katherine Gallagher / 0 | 77.180 / 0 | 41.040
9. Natalie Dean ( USA) & Chance Ste Hermelle / / Marigold Sporthorses LLC / 0 | 77.730 / 0 | 41.970
10. Mclain Ward (USA) & Contagious / / Beechwood Stables LLC / 0 | 74.660 / 4 | 36.700
11. Kent Farrington (USA) & Austria 2 / / Take The High Road LLC / 0 | 74.330 / 4 | 37.530
12. Kristen Vanderveeen (USA) & Bull Run’s Risen / Kristen Vanderveen / 0 | 75.700 / 4 | 37.800
Source: Press release by Allyson Lagiovane / Phelps Media Group for the American Gold Cup
Photos: © Phelps Sports / Allyson Lagiovane