Traverse City, Michigan – August 06, 2021 – The penultimate day of CSI 3* show jumping competition at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, took the form of the $36,600 Welcome Stake CSI 3*. A field of 54 talented international athletes entered the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring hopeful to close out Friday with a win. After a competitive 14-horse jump-off, it was Bliss Heers (USA) and Antidote de Mars, owned by Bridgeside Farms LLC, to come out on top.
Guilherme Jorge (BRA) laid out the 13-obstacle first round course across the expansive arena, utilizing its size to challenge athletes and their mounts with a triple combination and a winding track that were the source of many rails being tipped out of the cups. The United States’ Alessandra Volpi (USA) would produce the first clear of the class aboard Berlinda. Just after Volpi, Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) and Disneyland would force a jump-off after completing the track with no faults to their names. Fourteen others would follow suit to add their names to the jump-off roster, including Kyle King (USA), Heers (USA), Olivia Chowrdy (USA), Ali Ramsay (USA), Erynn Ballard (CAN), Pizzaro on a second mount, Emma Marlowe (USA), Natalie Dean (USA), Shawn Cassady (USA), Nicholas Dello Joio (USA), Ailish Cunniffe (USA), Victoria Heurtematte (PAN), Cathleen Driscoll (USA), and Nikko Ritter (USA).
First in the arena for the tie breaking 8-fence jump-off, Alessandra Volpi (USA) set the standard high with a quick and clear round in 35.29 seconds. Those who followed Volpi experienced difficulty through the track, especially to the single-to-oxer combination set on the rail midway through the course.
After a tight rollback through the middle of the arena, many suffered a rail down at the vertical fence after trying to shave time on the course by cutting their track. It was Olivia Chowdry(USA) and Balkana du Tillard who would be the first to skillfully navigate the course fault-free after Volpi, taking over the lead with a fast and clean finish just two-tenths of a second better than Volpi in 35.09 seconds.
Chowdry’s lead would be short-lived as Heers (USA) set forth into the arena with her trusted partner Antidote de Mars. Bliss tactfully piloted the 11-year-old Selle Francais stallion, turning and burning her way through the narrow turns to stop the clocks in 34.56 seconds to emerge at the top of the leaderboard.
Canada’s Erynn Ballard (CAN) would try her hand at nabbing the leading spot riding The Z Group’s Corner Pocket Z, but would fall just short of Heers’ strong finish to ultimately settle into second place on a time of 34.90 seconds. Chowdry and Balkana du Tillard, owned by Atlas Equine Holdings LLC, would eventually finish the afternoon with third place honors.
Previously prepped as a short-listed mount for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Antidote de Mars has garnered international recognition with Heers in the irons. Though not naturally big-strided, Heers credits her top finish Friday to the stallion’s quick pace across the ground and innate ability to tackle a tight corner with ease allowing them to shave time off the clock. Heers’ win was made even sweeter as she celebrated her birthday one day early.
Heers’ top finish earned her valuable points toward the coveted CaptiveOne Advisors Open Jumper Rider Bonus Leaderboard, however, Australia’s Katie Laurie (AUS) continues to maintain her leading position with a total of 42 points she garnered after a successful Traverse City Spring Horse Show series. After his win during Thursday’s $36,600 Winning Round CSI3* as well as consistent top placings throughout the GLEF series thus far, Kyle King (USA) has moved his way up the leaderboard to take over the second place spot with a total of 38 points. Karl Cook (USA) still holds the second place position on a total of 37 points after multiple grand prix wins during the Traverse City Spring Horse Show and GLEF. Offering show jumping competitors the chance to accumulate points throughout the 12-week Traverse City Horse Shows series, the bonus is awarded to the athlete with the most points at the conclusion of the 2021 $230,000 American Gold Cup Grand Prix CSI5*, presented by CaptiveOne Advisors. The CaptiveOne Advisors Open Jumper Rider Bonus is a highly sought-after prize among the field of international competitors that attend Traverse City Horse Shows.
Winner’s Circle – Bliss Heers (USA) $36,600 Welcome Stake Winner
On Antidote de Mars:
“He felt incredible. The facility is fantastic and he is fresh and ready to go. It was really fun, he feels amazing.”
On the jump-off:
“My strategy, to be honest, was just to ride the corners well. To be honest I wasn’t really planning to go all out, I just wanted to ride a conservative round and make the best of the corners. [Antidote de Mars] turned so well and I am always to do less strides in the corners rather than trying to leave them out down the line. I think the corners is where I shined because for him anyway, he covers the ground quickly but our stride isn’t the biggest so we don’t necessarily leave out the strides that the others can leave out. We kind of try to use our track to make up time.”
On Traverse City Horse Shows:
“Traverse City is amazing. I absolutely love it here! The facility has been fantastic. Even with all of the rain that we had, the footing is incredible. Matt Morrissey and the whole crew have done a fantastic job. The venue, the VIP, the atmosphere, I love this place.”
Final Results – $36,600 Welcome Stake CSI 3*
1) Bliss Heers (USA) & Antidote De Mars – 0 / 0 – 34.56
2) Erynn Ballard (CAN) & The Z Group – 0 / 0 – 34.90
3) Olivia Chowdry (USA) & Balkana Du Tillard – 0 / 0 – 35.09
4) Alessandra Volpi (USA) & Berlinda – 0 / 0 – 35.29
5) Kyle King (USA) & Magic Mike – 0 / 0 – 35.38
6) Ali Ramsay (CAN) & Bonita VH Keizershof Z – 0 / 0 – 35.48
7) Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) & Disneyland – 0 / 0 – 36.99
8) Nicolas Pizarro (MEX) & Pia Contra – 0 / 0 – 37.93
9) Emma Marlowe (USA) & Cherokee – 0 / 0 – 41.40
10) Natalie Dean (USA) & Don’s Diamant – 0 / 4 – 33.83
11) Shawn Cassady (USA) & Kaiser Van Het Lambroeck – 0 / 4 – 34.36
12) Nicholas Dello Joio (USA) & Calva D’Or Z – 0 / 4 – 35.43
Source: Press Release by Allyson Lagiovane / Phelps Media Group for Traverse City Horse Shows
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography