Traverse City, Michigan, USA – June 11, 2023 – Jonathan McCrea (USA) had a dual reason to celebrate Sunday in Traverse City. Along with celebrating his 18th wedding anniversary with wife and business partner Christine McCrea (USA), he clinched victory with Gazelle ES in the $77,300 Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel Grand Prix CSI 2*, marking the season’s first international grand prix at Flintfields Horse Park.
The course was built up from the previous days of FEI action, set by Manuel Esparza (MEX) and welcomed 26 top entries to start out the season strong. Of those, nine jumped clear rounds, and McCrea was the first of them, putting him in a challenging spot come jump-off time.
“First is a hard place to go,” McCrea, of Windsor Show Stables, remarked. “There was a lot of talk in the practice ring among the riders whether to do seven or eight [strides] up the first line. I tried seven, and three-quarters of the way up the line I thought, ‘It’s not going to happen.’ But it actually worked out for the eight strides to turn back for the next jump really sharp. My mare loves to gallop. She’s very careful. The jump-off kind of suited her to be honest.”
McCrea’s strategy of quick across the ground held for the next eight competitors, as he nervously watched to see how the class would play out. Though a few caught the time, none were able to keep all the rails up. Ultimately, McCrea was one of only two double-clear rounds.
The other, finishing less than half a second off the time, was Margie Engle (USA) with her winning mount on Thursday, Jackofhearts, owned by Gladewinds Partners, LLC.
Third went to Francesca Bolfo (USA) and Jadalco with a blazing fast four-fault jump-off, timed in 36.31 seconds.
“This is my third year with her,” McCrea said of the Windsor Show Stables-owned 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Dorado x Ukato). “She’s been second I don’t know how many times. It’s long overdue. She’s a good mare; I like her.”
The temperature dropped significantly for Sunday, which was a change welcomed by Gazelle ES and no one else. “The weather today really helped her; she loves cold weather,” McCrea shared. “She’s a funny mare. I don’t ride her before the class. She doesn’t longe. It took a long time to get to know her. She was very standoffish in the barn when she came to me and now she’s a cuddly bear.”
Simplicity has always been the game plan with Gazelle, and with many horses in McCrea’s program, and it is paying off as he is seeing top results. “I’m a huge believer that less is more. She only showed one class this week. I didn’t jump her in the welcome. She’s starting to become a seasoned horse so that really helps. She wants to leave the jumps up.”
Among the items McCrea applauded at the Flintfields Horse Park were, “The facility, the management, the jumps, always nie course builders, and now the addition of the permanent stables in FEI. We have a bunch of eight and nine-year-old horses so there are lots of different options for them.”
McCrea has his top two horses competing in the FEI division, both of which will certainly be forces to reckon with all season as they grow even more comfortable back in their summer base, but he’s also bringing up young horses and young riders.
“We have an additional rider now, Delaney Flynn,” he remarked of the newest addition to the Windsor Show Stables team. Flynn currently sits in the top five on the CaptiveOne Advisors Open Jumper Rider leaderboard after a stellar opening week. “We wanted to support an up-and-coming American rider. We have some new horse that we have really high hopes for. We’re very lucky.”
He may have set the bar high in terms of anniversary gifts, but McCrea is also hoping it’s not his last grand prix win for the season. With another top mount still sitting on the sidelines, he has plenty of horsepower to produce more wins.
Final Results – $77,300 Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel Grand Prix CSI 2*
1) Jonathan McCrea (USA) & Gazelle ES – 0 / 0 – 38.49
2) Margie Engle (USA) & Jackofhearts – 0 / 0 – 38.96
3) Francesca Bolfo (USA) & Jadalco – 0 / 4 – 36.31
Source: Press Release from Traverse City Horse Shows
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography / Megan Giese Photography