Alex Granato and Helios vd Nosahoeve Grab First in $63,000 CSI4* Welcome Stake

A clear blue sky and mild Michigan weather set the stage at Flintfields Horse Park on Friday afternoon for the $63,000 Traverse City Horse Shows CSI4* Welcome Stake, a highlight of the second week at the Spring Series, presented by Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel. From a 10-horse jump-off, Alex Granato (USA) led an all-American victory gallop after clocking in the best time aboard Helios vd Nosahoeve.

Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR) built a course true to form for the experience level of the 34 combinations that contested his first-round track. Granato was one of only a few contenders with a single horse to return, but quickly put the pressure on after leaving all rails in the cups in a tidy time of 36.21 seconds.

“We’ve been building a partnership for a while, but he’s become truly consistent in the last six months,” explained Granato of the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Numero Uno x London) owned by Michigan-based Kisma Equestrian, LLC. “He’s always been super talented but inexperienced and he can be a bit spooky, which works to his advantage in the ring as he’s brave, but he gets distracted by things going on outside. Getting to know him and playing with how he reacts to things has been a fun process.”

Alex Granato stands for presentation with Matt Morrissey of Traverse City Horse Shows. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Several in the field fought to overthrow the leading time from Granato by leaving a stride out in the final line. However, the move repeatedly proved to be a costly choice as the final fence tumbled from the cups.

“I went in the middle of the pack, but I didn’t really care when I went because my plan for him was pretty set,” Granato detailed. “I wanted to lay down the best plan I could for today and I figured it may not be the winner, but he was quite fast and turned well with me today, so they ended up having to chase me a bit. There were several faster than me after, but they had a rail as they went on to leave the stride out at the end.”

Lillie Keenan and Opium JW van de Moerhoeve. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

The USA’s Lillie Keenan nearly caught Granato as she finished up just fractions off the pace in 36.71 seconds on her second entry, Chansonette Farm, LLC’s Opium JW van de Moerhoeve, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion (Kannan x Nabab de Reve). Spencer Smith’s (USA) previous leading time of 36.99 seconds on Emily Smith’s 14-year-old Hannoverian mare Casablanca H (Conteur x Landor S) ultimately proved good enough for third, making it a clean sweep for the U.S. ahead of Sunday’s $182,000 Southern Arches CSI4* Grand Prix.

For Granato, the win is just the beginning of an exciting season, much of which he plans to spend at Traverse City Horse Shows in preparation for the two five-star events during the Tournament of Champions this fall.

Spencer Smith and Casablanca H. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“It’s a beautiful venue for one, and it promotes great jumping,” he said. “We come several times between the spring and fall, and I always try to make it a staple in our schedule. We specifically try to target our spring schedule for this week, so I just brought up the horses I am competing in the international and national events this week.”

Granato is currently bringing his famed international mount Carlchen W back from a minor injury while also aiming his international string at the fall’s American Gold Cup as well as the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Traverse City North American League (NAL) event in hopes of FEI World Cup™ qualification in 2025.

National horse-and-rider duos will take center stage in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring as competition resumes on Saturday with the $30,000 Traverse City National Grand Prix.

For complete results, click here. 

Darya Davoudi Takes Epic Win in Marshall & Sterling USEF Pony Medal

Darya Davoudi and He’s Epic. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Friday’s Marshall & Sterling USEF Pony Medal winner, Darya Davoudi (Houston, TX), credits a special partnership with her dun pony, He’s Epic, for the win. Davoudi has been partnered with the Epic Sporthorses, LLC-owned eight-year-old Westphalian gelding (Diamond’s Touch) since she first saw him in Wellington two years prior, and claims the relationship was love at first sight.

“He is the pony of a lifetime,” she gushed. “I really love his mind, especially considering he is a bit younger. He’s just so easy and handles everything so well.

Olivia Rydesky and Woodland’s Blossom. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“For these medal classes and given his age, we really focus on keeping him straight to the middle of the fence and landing our leads,” she continued. “The first fence can often be an issue for me if I don’t have enough pace, but we did a really good job with those today, so I was thrilled.”

Davoudi frequents almost all the rings throughout Traverse City Horse Shows as she competes in the children’s hunters, junior hunters, and low children’s jumpers in addition to her time spent in the pony ring with her two large ponies.

Francesca Nguyen and Cognac. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I’ve always been more of a hunter girl,” expressed Davoudi. “But now I’ve recently started doing the jumpers too, and I think it is cool to recognize how much my equitation rounds help me succeed in that ring as well.”

Olivia Rydesky (Clarkston, MI) and Kate Zoidis’ 10-year-old Welsh Pony mare, Woodland’s Blossom, earned the runner-up title in the class, while Francesca Nguyen (Grand Prairie, TX) and her 11-year-old Westphalian gelding, Cognac, rounded out the top three.

Continuing a day of pony equitation, Nguyen went on to win the WIHS Pony Medal with Cognac, this time beating out Davoudi and He’s Epic. Ava Crolick (Clarkston, MI) and Little Bay Mare, LLC’s eight-year-old Welsh Pony gelding, Maple Side Firework, earned the final pony medal win of the day as they took home the blue ribbon in the HJAM Pony Medal.

Ava Crolick and Maple Side Firework. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Pony competition continues through the weekend, highlighted by a new addition to the Traverse City Horse Shows schedule, the Greg Crolick Stables Short Stirrup Hunter Derby, presented by Little Bay Mare, LLC.

For complete results, click here.