Christine McCrea Cruises to Win $37,000 CSI3* Welcome Stake 

The pieces all fell into place for Christine McCrea (USA) during the first week of the Traverse City Spring Horse Shows (TCHS), as she commanded the field in the $37,000 CSI3* Welcome Stake. With the Windsor Show Stables entry Julieta, a mare McCrea has ridden in international competition since 2020, she handily took the win by over two seconds with the quickest jump-off  of three double-clear efforts.

Guilherme Jorge (BRA) set a track with elements that presented enough of a challenge to kick off a big season without asking too much of the horses and riders who may be newer to the CSI3* level. As the first round came to a close, 10 combinations etched their names onto the tiebreaker list and returned for a cruise around the short course.

Winner, Christine McCrea (USA) and Julieta. Photo ©Andrew Ryback Photography

The jump-off track concluded with a long run from an oxer on the VIP side of the Turtle Creek & Casino International Ring all the way to the final fence, set close to the in-gate. “In the jump-off you had to stay on top of your time. You had to fight for the numbers. I landed [from the second to last] and I was like, ‘Go, girl, go!’ And thankfully I saw a distance to the last jump because if I didn’t I was going to go through it.”

The journey with Julieta hasn’t been all smooth sailing. “It’s been a long one,” McCrea remarked of her story with the 2010 Holsteiner mare (Canstakko x Casall). “This has been a long time coming and a work in progress for several years now. It started with me not being able to stay with her because she is quite an extravagant jumper. She was uncomfortable for me in the beginning.”

Second place winner, Peter Lutz (USA) and Hollerno. Photo ©Andrew Ryback Photography

Though it took some time and training for McCrea to learn how to ride the mare’s flashy jump, they have reached the level of comfort required to mold together and jump clear rounds. In fact, they jump clear 53% of the time in international competition. “Now I get on her and I know what’s going to happen,” she continued. “When she’s like she was today, you can do whatever you want. She is a trier. Sometimes she’s not on it but today she was completely with me. I’m just so excited about her.”

Last to jump off was McCrea’s husband, Jonathan McCrea (USA), with his second of two qualified mounts, Gazelle ES. While he may have been attempting to unseat his wife’s lead and make for a one-two finish for the McCrea family, a rail down and about an extra second on the clock dropped him to sixth and awarded the win to his wife. “I asked him, ‘Did you let me win?’ because he did nine strides to the second fence but he knew it was eight – he told me it was eight,” Christine elaborated. “I want to win fair and square, and he said no so I guess it was my day.” Jonathan still captured third on his first mount, Windsor Show Stables’ Fantasy BB in 44.19 seconds. Peter Lutz (USA) stood between them in the second place position aboard Lovsta Stuteri’s Hollerno, finishing in 44.06 seconds.

Third place winner, Jonathan McCrea (USA) and Fantasy BB. Photo ©Andrew Ryback Photography

The 2022 season at TCHS is off to a solid start for the McCrea family, with Jonathan securing second in the $37,000 CSI3* 1.45m Speed and the couple bookending Friday’s podium. It’s a welcome change of scenery for the pair to return to the Flintfields Horse Park. “I like the ring because it’s not totally square, and I like that there are a number of different classes,” McCrea shared about the horse show. “You can bring every horse of every age and do all kinds of levels. You can bring your grand prix horses and go for a number of weeks. It’s a lovely town, the weather is beautiful, and I really enjoy the show.”

International athletes will take a day to rest before competing for the week’s highlight, Sunday’s $138,600 CSI3* Turtle Creek Casino & Resort Grand Prix.

Final Results: $37,000 Welcome Stake 

1. JULIETA: 2010 Holsteiner mare by Canstakko x Casall
CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Windsor Show Stables: 0/0/41.90

2. HOLLERNO: 2012 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Baltic VDL x Ahorn
PETER LUTZ (USA), Lutz/Manfredi Show Jumping LLC: 0/0/44.06

3. FANTASY BB: 2010 Dutch Warmblood mare by Cardento x Labor’s VDL Indorado
JONATHAN MCCREA (USA), Windsor Show Stables: 0/0/44.19

4. FELLINI S: 2010 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Vermont x Rash
PETER LUTZ (USA), Lovsta Stuteri: 0/2/49.02

5. PRIMO TROY: 2009 Irish Sport Horse gelding by Clinton x VDL Arkansas
GIAVANNA RINALDI (USA), Itasca Group LLC: 0/4/41.29

6. GAZELLE ES: 2011 Dutch Warmblood mare by Diarado x Ukato
JONATHAN MCCREA (USA), Windsor Show Stables: 0/4/42.80

7. IDOL H&H: 2013 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Action-Breaker x Glennridge
ANDREW WELLES (USA), Evergreen Stables, LLC: 0/8/42.26

8. JACKOFHEARTS: 2012 Danish Warmblood gelding by Toulon x Baloubet Du Rouet
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Gladewinds Partners, LLC: 0/8/51.25

9. CASPER: 2011 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Quality Time TN x Burggraaf NV
HANNAH HINK (USA), Hannah Hink: 0/17/52.11

10. CESNA M: 2012 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Check In x Sandro Boy
MARGIE ENGLE (USA), Virginia Bartholomay: 0/20/59.01

11. TACHINI Z: 2009 Zangersheided gelding by Toulon x Burggraaf NV
MICHAEL MORRISSEY (USA), MD Stables: 4/80.45

12. VDL STELLA: 2012 BH mare by Cardento x Baloubet Du Rouet
HANNAH HINK (USA), Hannah Hink: 8/76.59

Lydia Rae Howard and Charming Charly 5. Photo ©Andrew Ryback Photography

Lydia Rae Howard Steps It Up in THIS 3’ Children’s Medal

Future equitation stars had their time in the spotlight Friday, and it was Lydia Rae Howard’s day to shine in the THIS 3’ Children’s Medal. In the newly relocated Main Hunter Ring, each rider showed off their equitation skills over a course of fences 3’ in height in front of the iconic double-decker VIP pavilion.After all pairs had jumped the first round, the top four were invited to test and answer the judges’ questions including a trot fence, a two-stride combination, and other challenging elements. Howard’s ability to seamlessly navigate Charming Charly 5 around the test scored her a blue ribbon and a strong start to the TCHS Spring series.

Howard, age 14, has a forward-thinking attitude and aims for each trip in the ring to improve upon the last. Her efforts paid off in the THIS Children’s Medal as her test propelled her to the top of the leaderboard.

“This is a really fun class; I do enjoy it a lot,” Howard remarked. “In the first round I had a small mistake that was something I and my horse were working on, so going into the test I was excited and hoping I could improve that mistake, but I was mainly just ready to try and do better than the first round. The trot jump felt really nice.”

Lydia Rae Howard and Charming Charly 5. Photo ©Andrew Ryback Photography

Howard’s mount, Charming Charly 5, a 2008 Oldenburg gelding, is owned by Fox Meadow Farm, and she got the ride last year to step up to the 3’ fence height. “He’s a really sweet horse,” Howard said of Charming Charly 5. “He’s very easy going. He doesn’t like traffic but he’s gotten so great about it, and he’s a really good boy. I love him to death – he’s a really awesome horse.”

As for goals, Howard, a ninth grader at Bedford High School, has hopes to rise to the 3’6” level, but overall strives for continuous improvement. Much of the Temperance, MI, native’s advancement in the sport has taken place at Flintfields Horse Park. “I started coming to Traverse City when I was doing short Stirrup on my pony and I’ve been coming ever since, just moving up divisions,” she continued. “I want to move up to the 3’6” and I want to go in and do better than I did before and keep trying to improve.”