After six weeks of exciting, world-class equestrian competition, the 2018 Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) concluded on Sunday with the $100,000 Grand Prix of Traverse City CSI3* at the Flintfields Horse Park. In her competition debut at GLEF, two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and current Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final champion Beezie Madden piloted Abigail Wexner’s Coach to the fastest double-clear performance to win the most coveted prize of the summer at GLEF in 40.11 seconds.
“Coach has been one of my favorites all along,” Madden beamed. “We got him when he was 7. I’m so fortunate, again, that Abigail Wexner purchased him for me, she’s so generous. He’s a happy, fun, always playing around type of horse. He’s just young in his brain and goofs around sometimes but this year he’s really come around and he’s been focused when he should be. He’s won three big grand prix [classes] now. I’m really so happy with him.”
Madden, based in Cazenovia, New York, and the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding have been consistently competing together at the top levels of the sport since summer 2015. So far in 2018, they’ve claimed victory in the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Ocala in March and, more recently, the €345,000 Glock’s Grand Prix CSI5* at the Glock Horse Performance Center in Treffen, Austria, in June.
Madden kicked off her week at GLEF with a win in Wednesday’s $6,000 Staller 1.40m Jumper CSI3* class aboard Wexner’s Jiva and finished clear and in the top 10 with Coach.
On Sunday, 28 international horses and athletes were tested over the largest and most technical track the Grand Prix Ring has seen this season thus far, built by Canadian course designer Michel Vaillancourt. Eight were able to produce clear rounds throughout the first round to advance to the jump-off.
Starting off the tie-breaker was Juan Gallego (COL) and his own Fee Des Sequoias Z. They produced the first double-clear performance in 43.74 seconds. Yet, 20-year-old Hunter Holloway (USA) and Hays Investment Corp.’s VDL Bravo S took over the lead just one round later in 43.06 seconds.
After four more combinations tackled the jump-off, Holloway still led the way with only two challengers left to see, who also just so happened to be two of the top show jumping athletes in the world: fellow U.S. Olympian Margie Engle and Madden, ranked 28th and 12th in the world on the Longines Rankings list, respectively.
Engle and Madden, who are both shortlisted to compete at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon, North Carolina, in September, arrived at GLEF fresh off from competing at the prestigious CHIO Aachen World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany, where they both represented the U.S. and were teammates on the NetJets® U.S. Show Jumping Team in the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ CSIO5* Aachen.
Engle, who secured two FEI wins during Week V in the $35,000 East Wind Farms Welcome Stake CSI3* and $100,000 Grand Traverse Grand Prix CSI3* on Thursday and Sunday with Dicas, was first to go of the two riding her veteran partner Royce, owned by Gladewinds Partners LLC. They were the fourth pair to finish double-clear and stopped the clock in 40.70 seconds to move to the top of the leader board.
Despite losing a shoe in the schooling area just prior to her jump-off round, Madden kept Coach focused and relaxed as the shoe was put back on and re-entered the ring ready to give it their all over the short course.
“[I made up time in the jump-off] to the last, especially. I know I did one less stride than Margie [Engle] after the double and maybe from one to two, but I still don’t think I was quicker there. I just had a bigger stride and I really turned it on to the last.”
The pair left out strides in multiple lines and galloped flat out to the final oxer to finish six-tenths of a second ahead of Engle in 40.11 seconds to take home the top prize, garnering Engle second place and Holloway third place in the end.
1. Coach / Beezie Madden / USA / Abigail Wexner / 0 / 0 / 40.11
2. Royce / Margie Engle / USA / Gladewinds Partners LLC / 0 / 0 / 40.70
3. VDL Bravo S / Hunter Holloway / USA / Hays Investment Corp. / 0 / 0 / 43.06
4. Fee Des Sequoias Z / Juan Gallego / COL / Juan Gallego / 0 / 0 / 43.74
5. Liroy 30 / Taylor Land / USA / Taylor Land / 0 / 0 / 43.78
6. Cerano Vin Dingenshof / Diego Javier Vivero Viteri / ECU / Javier Estrada Gonzalez / 0 / 4 / 42.10
7. Casey Jones / Quentin Judge / USA / Double H Farm / 0 / 4 / 43.04
8. Darko’s Promise / Erynn Ballard / CAN / Ilan Ferder / 0 / 8 / 45.76
9. Coolmann 7 / Ashley Baker / USA / Grand Slam Farm / 1 / 84.72
10. Robin De Ponthual / Peter Lutz / USA / Gallagher/Meller Sport Horses / 4 / 75.33
11. Eax Run Run LS / Ilan Bluman / COL / Blue Star Investments / 4 / 75.94
12. Cetano Van Aspergem Z / Santiago Lambre / MEX / Tal Milstein Stables / 4 / 78.44