The cheering practically shook the Alltech Arena while Beezie Madden rode back into the ring for the awards ceremony last night after winning the $250,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Lexington qualifier. The fact that it was Barn Night at the National Horse Show added to the decibel level, as the costumed kids screamed their adoration of a very special rider, but the way the crowd reacted is typical of what happens when Beezie emerges victorious.
This was the second week in a row that the Olympic multi-medalist and current Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals champion had topped a qualifier, but she was on a different horse for this outing. Last weekend at the Washington International, she rode Breitling LS, who partnered her to the series title in Paris last spring. At the Kentucky Horse Park, the impressive style belonged to her newest addition, Chic Hin D Hyrencourt, whose tongue-twister name even Beezie had trouble pronouncing when she mentioned him in passing last week. (I miss the days of names like Idle Dice and Jet Run, but you take what you get when buying horses from Europe.)
It’s only since this summer that Beezie has been riding the magnificent gray Chic, but she’s understandably impressed.
“He’s apparently quick enough across the ground, as we saw today,” she commented after he proved himself with agility and style.
“I would love to see him go do some championship events. He has the scope, carefulness and seems to have the brain for it, so I’m looking forward to the future with him.”
You could say yesterday’s class was an audition of sorts for which horse Beezie will take to the finals in Sweden next April. She’s trying to get all her horses qualified, so she can pick the most suitable one when the time comes. Ironically, although she leads the East Coast sub-league standings of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ North American League, she’s already qualified to defend her title. So second-place Molly Ashe Cawley actually would head the league if you were just looking at points.
In typical Beezie style, a thoughtful and brilliantly executed approach to the jump-off put her ahead of five rivals, with a 0.20-second edge over second-place Molly on Cat Ballou, a Holsteiner gelding who nearly didn’t make it to the class after suffering a mysterious allergic reaction earlier in the week.
With the advantage of going last in the tie-breaker at the Kentucky Horse Park, Molly knew she needed to go all-out.
“I had to push it as much as I could,” she explained, but the effort fell just 0.20 seconds short of Beezie’s 36.57-second mark.
It seemed Beezie got a little extra power from the enthusiasm of her fans. Find out what she had to say about them, and her horse, by clicking on this video.
One of the most appealing things about Beezie, in addition to her talent in the saddle, is her modesty and the way she is always quick to share credit for her spectacular success.
While discussing the class, she acknowledged her team, which includes owner Abigail Wexner, a longtime supporter; her grooms and other workers, as well as the man she called the leader of the group, her husband, John Madden. So it was only natural to want John’s insight on the latest addition to Beezie’s string. Listen to his assessment of Chic by clicking on this video.
Ken Krome designed a course where the first round had a tight time-allowed of 74 seconds. While all the rails stayed in place for four other riders—Catherine Tyree, Lorcan Gallagher, Adrienne Sternlicht and Cormac Hanley--they missed their chance to try for the title when each picked up a single time penalty.
Although he had the option of changing the time after the first three riders, two of whom collected time penalties, Ken stuck with his plan.
“I was for sure sweating it out,” he conceded, “but you basically ride every horse in the class yourself. At some point, you want them all to go clean and at other points you say, `No one else can go clean.’ It’s up and down. Today, I saw that there was really a great group towards the end, so I had faith. But I definitely pushed them.”
The jump-off began with the 1.55-meter Longines oxer that had been the final fence in the initial round. First up, 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games and 2016 Olympic team medalist Lucy Davis wound up circling on her approach with Caracho 14, getting 4 penalties even before she attempted to jump.
Next to go, her 2014 and 2016 teammate, Kent Farrington, drew gasps when he toppled a rail at that obstacle with Creedance, who had won the $135,000 qualifier for the grand prix on Thursday.
Warned by what had happened to Lucy and Kent, Beezie (who was also their teammate in 2014 and 2016) figured out a different approach to begin her round. Laura Kraut, third on Confu in a time of 38.10 seconds, was careful on the approach to the first fence, but lost time elsewhere.
After the double that was set three obstacles from the end of the course, Confu “turned really quick and I shifted into the left stirrup, so he had to swing back, come get me and then keep turning. That sort of slowed us down a bit,” Laura explained.
So who will Beezie be riding in the 2019 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals? She still has to qualify Coach in Florida before she can pick her mount.
Just before the finals she explained, “I’ll see who the ‘hot’ horse is,” noting that was her strategy in this year’s finals. And it worked.
Earlier in the day, the junior and amateur jumpers had their own grand prix, with 29 competing in the $50,000 Hollow Brook Wealth Management fixture. The very competitive class was won by a 25-year-old Tennessee resident, Haley Gassel.
Haley, who works in insurance and is also involved with fitness and body-building, does all her own work with her horses.
“We don’t have a groom,” she said, noting her partner is her mother, Wendy Graziani. That has cemented her relationship with the 18-hand Quite Dark 2. Since he’s “ginormous” and she’s only 5-6, it’s helpful that they enjoy the special closeness that grooming and barn work develops.
It was evident in the way she produced her 41.539-second clocking in the nine-horse jump-off, just ahead of the 41.611 mark set by Coco Fath and Huckleberry.
There was a lot of pressure, especially considering the size of the purse, but Haley knows how to handle it. Listen to her comments by clicking on this video.
The president of Hollow Brook, Philip Richter, and its CEO Alan Bazaar rode together in the junior ranks, and the longtime friends think alike about the concept of sponsoring competitions.
“We felt that the brand was very aligned with the Show Jumping Hall of Fame series and goals and the quality of riding that the Hall of Fame brings to the sport,” Philip said. Alan added, "It’s nice for us--brand building. It also feels good to be able to be part of something and supporting a passion” that the riders have."
For full results from the National, click on this link.