The final jewel in the competitive indoors equestrian season, the 2018 National Horse Show traded its natural hunter obstacles for jumper fences Wednesday afternoon, with quick-footed horse-and-athlete pairs taking to the Alltech Arena to battle for the lion’s share of the prize money in the $35,000 Free x Rein International Jumper Welcome Speed CSI4*. Besting the field as the quickest fault-free combination during the one-round speed class, the USA’s Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner’s Jiva captured the Cavcote Welcome Trophy and the first jumper win of the event ahead of the week’s full schedule of elite show jumping competitions.
For his first design of the week, course designer Ken Krome (USA) challenged competitors to tackle his 13-fence track quickly and carefully during their only attempt to earn a respectable position on the scoreboard, with 24 duos proving successful at leaving all of the obstacles intact out of the original field of 43.
As third in the order-of-go, Molly Ashe Cawley (USA) and Louisburg Farm’s Cat Ballou were the pathfinders as the first clean and clear trip of the evening in 66.33 seconds, but were quickly overtaken by Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) and Starlight Farms LLC’s Quidam MB in a brisk 55.68 seconds to claim the lead. Adding more girl power to the top of the leaderboard, Catherine Tyree (USA) piloted Mary Tyree’s Catungee to a 54.83-second trip to usurp the frontrunners, a lead that would hold until McLain Ward (USA) proved why he is consistently ranked among the best in the world, making a number of impressively tight turns to slice across the track aboard Beechwood Stables LLC’s Contagious in a quick 54.03 seconds.
Another top-ranked rider for the USA, Madden, pulled out all of the stops to improve upon Ward’s time, navigating Jiva at a breakneck pace and tripping the timers in 51.78 seconds to capture the lead with only a handful left to ride. Ultimately, Madden and Jiva proved unbeatable, emerging victorious by more than two seconds ahead of the next closest contenders. No stranger to the winner’s circle, Madden is currently the second highest ranked American in the Longines Rankings, sitting in the ninth position, just a few slots behind fourth-ranked Ward.
Behind counterparts Madden and Jiva, Ward and Contagious clinched the reserve championship, and Tracy and MTM Reve du Paradis, owned by MTM Farm, rounded out the top three podium finishes with their time of 54.25 seconds, just a hair off Ward’s pace.
The 2018 National Horse Show will feature more elite jumper action throughout the week, with the highlight events attracting world-class competition that includes the members of the gold medal-winning FEI World Equestrian Games team from the United States. On Thursday night, the Alltech Arena will host the $35,000 Palm Beach Masters Series International Open Jumper Speed CSI4* as well as the $135,000 International Jumper Classic CSI4*, followed by the Salamander Hotels & Resorts $35,000 Accumulator Class CSI4* on Friday afternoon. Juniors and amateurs will take center stage Saturday afternoon in the $50,000 Hollow Brook Wealth Management Show Jumping Hall of Fame Amateur-Owner/Junior Jumper Grand Prix, and the premier jumper class of the week, the $250,000 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Lexington CSI4*-W, will take place Saturday evening.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Beezie Madden - Free x Rein $35,000 International Jumper Welcome Speed CSI4* champion
On her reaction to winning and the class:
“It is always good to start with a win. I thought the course was quite friendly tonight, which is good to get a good start. In the end it turned out there were some difficult options you could do, and so it was an advantage to go near the end because I never would have thought to do that inside turn after the oxer until a few people did it, and then you kind of had to.”
“I was really happy with my horse; she has been really good so far. The last three shows she has done, she has won. That was our sixth class. She is a 9-year-old mare owned by Abigail Wexner. We bought her as a 7-year-old, so it will be two years next year in Florida. She has always been super careful; she was a little behind the other 7-year-olds when we got her, so she is catching up now that she is nine. She is quite a good horse. She has done a little bit bigger classes as well, but you have to spot her into those right now. She will stick to the speed classes here, so the [$35,000 Palm Beach Masters Series International Open Jumper Speed] faults converted tomorrow and the [Salamander Hotels & Resorts $35,000] Accumulator class Friday.”