Alex Granato Doubles Down in $182,000 Southern Arches CSI4* Grand Prix

After walking out of the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring as winner of the $182,000 Southern Arches CSI4* Grand Prix on Sunday, Alex Granato (USA) could be heard saying, “That was so good, I might just retire.” While retirement isn’t actually on his docket, celebration certainly is after he piloted Helios vd Nosahoeve to the gelding’s first-ever international grand prix victory to cap the second week of the Traverse City Spring Series.

Fresh off a win in the qualifier on Friday, Granato and the Kisma Equestrian-owned 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood proved unbeatable yet again over the courses of Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR). 

Alex Granato and Helios vd Nosahoeve. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

With a well-rounded starting order that featured veteran rider talent, the field served as a positive sign for the future with new and developing horses in the majority. Eight combinations successfully navigated the first round without penalty and advanced to the tie-breaking jump-off, including the likes of Shane Sweetnam—a recent tap to represent Ireland in the Paris Olympic Games—U.S. team riders LIllie Keenan and Spencer Smith, Canada’s Ali Ramsay, and Traverse City Horse Shows 2023 leading jumper rider Cathleen Driscoll (USA). 

Leading off, Driscoll set what proved to be a tough pace to catch, and it wasn’t beat until Granato trotted up as last to go. Unseated by nearly two full seconds, she and Don Stewart’s 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Idalgo (Catoki x Quidam de Revel) settled for second.

“Today is going to be up in my top memories for sure,” said Granato. “This is his first week being the main horse at this big level and it’s going to be a highlight for both of us.” 

Cathleen Driscoll and Idalgo. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Matching their effort from Friday’s win, Granato guided Helios vd Nosahoeve (Numero Uno x London) over a heart-stopping jump-off round that shot straight to the lead in 35.94 seconds. 

“He felt amazing,” he continued. “We geared his spring towards this week being the main focus, and all week he has handled everything beautifully. I planned to do seven strides at the beginning of the jump-off early so that I could steady in the first rollback because that looked like my best chance to catch Cathleen. He turned great there and then I just wanted to stay as rapid-stepped as I could.” 

For Granato, Traverse City Horse Shows has always brought success and has therefore become a staple in his yearly schedule. 

“I had my first two five-star wins here a few years ago during the first year of Major League [Show Jumping] so it’s been a favorite venue of mine for a while,” Granato explained. “I would like to hopefully aim Helios at one of the five-star weeks here in September because I know him well enough now that it is easy to gauge what classes and venues are right for him.”

The win also earned Granato the top spot in the current Open Jumper Leading Rider Bonus standings, which will be awarded during the finale of the 12-week series. 

Lillie Keenan and Kick On. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Driscoll’s time of 37.12 seconds earned her and Idalgo the reserve ribbon while a solid performance that stopped the clock in 37.84 seconds from Lillie Keenan (USA) and Kick On (Warrior x Caretino Glory), owned by Chansonette Farm, rounded out the podium placings.

Competition returns to the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring for the conclusion of the three-week Spring Series on Wednesday, June 19. 

For complete results, click here.  

Mischa Morrissey and After The Rain Star in Greg Crolick Stables Short Stirrup Hunter Derby

Mischa Morrissey stands for presentation with her parents and sister. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

A group of the sport’s young talents took to their very own derby track on Sunday as the final day of the Traverse City Spring Series’ second week included a new offering. The Greg Crolick Stables Short Stirrup Hunter Derby, presented by Little Bay Mare, LLC, gave the handful of young competitors an exciting opportunity to challenge themselves over their first-ever derby course. At the completion of two rounds, it was seven-year-old Mischa Morrissey who accepted the blue ribbon on her star mount, After The Rain.  

With both parents—Michael and Lourdes—riding and training professionally, Mischa has been on horseback from the time she could balance in the saddle and has a dream to follow her father into the jumper arena. 

“I want to do the jumpers when I get older,” she said. “I liked today’s course because there were some tight turns which was really fun on my pony because she is fast.” 

As a member of the Traverse City Horse Shows’ managing family, one of her favorite things about summers spent at the venue is the opportunity to compete each week. 

Mischa Morrissey and After The Rain. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

“I love showing here because I get to show every week,” said Mischa. “I would like to thank my mom and dad, and papa, and uncle Matt for today.”

The win proved to be a great way to kick off Father’s Day at the horse show for Michael Morrissey ahead of a busy final day of competition. 

Lily Ritter of McComb, OH, and Heather May’s 16-year-old Welsh Pony Cross mare, Northwind Sentimental, took second place, while the pairing of Sophia Whelan of Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, and Ponies and Palms Show Stables LLC’s 15-year-old Welsh Pony, Captain Crunch, rounded out the lap of honor. 

Natalie Jayne and Starstruck Shine in $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby 

Natalie Jayne and Starstruck. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Hunter riders donned their shiniest boots and billowing shadbellies as competition in the Main Hunter arena closed out with the $10,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby on Sunday. Thirty-one pairings strutted across the classic round course before the top twelve highest-placed duos returned for the handy round. Natalie Jayne of Elgin, IL, ultimately led the class’s lap of honor after adding an impressive score of 91 in the handy to their classic round score of 84 and producing a two-round total of 175 points aboard Starstruck. 

“He’s only seven-years-old this year so he is still pretty green,” Jayne explained of Ashleen Lee’s seven-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Heart Touch. “He has come a long way and he is just such a cute horse. To win any derby is great but I am really proud of him today.

“You wouldn’t know he is just seven by watching him go around,” continued Jayne. “He was a little suspicious and it was a lot to ask of a young horse with the wind and rain today, but he just marched right around. He is always game to go; he’s never going to tell you no.”

Natalie Jayne stands for presentation. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Jayne has taken her time getting to know the young gelding and says he has quickly gained wisdom past his years in the handy portion of the hunter events. 

“We just recently moved up to the 3’3” height and started doing the handy,” she said. “This is probably only my fourth or fifth time doing a handy course on him, but he was excellent with the turns and about landing his leads. His trot jump was also really good which was nice because sometimes that can confuse him a little; I was extra proud of him for that.” 

Kelsey Epperson and Incredible. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Less than half a point off of the leading score, Kelsey Epperson of Holly, MI, and Pamella Kissman’s 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Incredible by El Salvador, cantered into second place after combining a classic score of 88 and handy score of 86.85 for a total of 175.85 points. Veteran derby combination Hillary Johnson and Stephanie Battershall’s 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, Blue Monday by Cornet Obolensky, laid down two top trips with scores of 83.5 and 89 to end in third place with a total of 172.5 points. 

Hillary Johnson and Blue Monday. Photo © Andrew Ryback Photography

Competition at the Traverse City Horse Shows Spring Series will resume Tuesday, June 18 as all disciplines get underway for another exciting full week of hunter, jumper and equitation action. Show jumping highlights will include the $75,000 Molon Excavating CSI2* Grand Prix while the hunters can look forward to the $100,000 World Championship Hunter Rider Central Spectacular, presented by Debbie Smith Ltd., on Saturday night.