Thursday’s $142,000 Cabana Coast CSI5* Qualifier could have easily been divided into two categories: before the storm and after the storm. With severe weather blowing into Northern Michigan in the middle of the class, the CSI5* riders had to wait out a weather delay and go to battle in a 15-horse jump-off. Ultimately, it was one of the final competitors – and last to jump off – Darragh Kenny (IRL) with Chic Chic, who took top honors.
“The horse jumped fantastic,” Kenny said of the 12-year-old Westphalian stallion owned by Vlock Show Stables. “He’s an incredible horse and always pulls out a great result. Daniel [Bluman] was obviously very fast so I just had to go try to beat him. Luckily enough for me it played out well today.”
With Marina Azevedo (BRA) setting tracks for the week, elite CSI5* athletes came out for the second stop on the Major League Show Jumping tour, so Kenny was in good company. Bluman (ISR) was first to go in the jump-off, setting the pace with Over The Stop Stables LLC’s Gemma W at 40.05 seconds.
“I knew Daniel was very fast between the first two jumps, and that came up well for me; we ended up doing the same strides,” Kenny said of his track in comparison with Bluman’s and where he made up the time. “I was lucky the last line showed up as forward as it did. That was great for me.”
Kenny’s time was just enough to take the win, clocking in at 39.91 seconds, pushing Bluman to second. Jacob Pope (USA) and Highway FBH, owned by the Highway Group, took third.
“I’ve been riding the horse for quite a while, about three years,” Kenny continued of Chic Chic. “In the last 12 months we’ve really clicked and I know him well. I know how to ride those jump-offs with him. He’s a super competitive horse and he’s super careful, so I made my plan and tried to do it as well as I could.”
As last to go, with the fortune of several riders opting to withdraw to save their horses for Saturday’s $414,000 B&D Builders CSI5* Grand Prix, the cards fell in Kenny’s direction. He also had the luxury of another mount to aim at Saturday’s class, so he knew Thursday could be Chic Chic’s day to shine.
“I’m riding a different horse on Saturday, a stallion named Hamrah [Van Het Exelhof Z],” Kenny said of his plans as the week goes on. “I think he’s a very exciting horse. He’s still very green so this will be a big step up for him. I’ll be interested to see what he does on Saturday. I have big hopes for the horse in the future but this is all about education now.”
With top riders and well-established mounts set for the $414,300 B&D Builders CSI5* Grand Prix, Kenny will have to wait and see if it’s his time with this new mount. Until then he’ll enjoy the glory with Chic Chic, who will also contend in the individual portion of the MLSJ Team Competition, set for Friday evening.
Count Me In Notches a Win in $39,000 CSI2* Speed Classic
A familiar face took top honors in the $39,000 CSI2* 1.45m Speed Classic earlier Thursday, as Conor Swail (IRL) sped to the win with Count Me In. It wasn’t a small field, with 78 entries coming forth to test the single-round speed track, but Swail, coming late enough in the order, knew exactly what to do.
“I had a good ride on my other horse Gamble and we were close enough to the time, but I saw Cathleen [Driscoll’s] round and she had a really good, fast round,” Swail said of second-place finisher Driscoll aboard Magnolia, owned by Plain Bay Farm. “Everyone was struggling to catch her.”
Swail had no struggles of his own, shaving precisely one second off the leading time. “I knew my plan and all my numbers,” the world top-10 ranked Irishman continued. “Crosby is a very fast horse and I must say, the second half of the course we were lightning fast. We flew around and did all the numbers I was looking for. I felt it was good enough to be close and it obviously is nice we were able to win today. He’s an amazing horse for me and this was a nice run around for him. It was a good day for both of us.”
With Driscoll (USA) in second, the yellow ribbon went to Natalie Dean (USA) and Oasis Van De Bucxtale, owned by Marigold Sport Horses.
Though “Crosby’s” record shouldn’t suggest the 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding should be in his comfort zone at the CSI2* level – he was Swail’s mount for the 2022 FEI World Cup Finals and was the winning ride for the Aga Khan Trophy at the Dublin Horse Show – he’s fallen slightly out of form and Swail is working creatively to bring him back up.
“He’s lost a bit of confidence, so I’m doing these smaller classes to try to make it more fun for him,” Swail said. “We went to Spruce [Meadows] and won three or four classes there at 1.45m-1.50m level. I’m trying to let him enjoy himself a wee bit and hopefully we can build him back up to his achievements from last year. The horse doesn’t owe me anything. He’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden. Whatever he wants to give me I’m happy with.”
Swail took podium finishes in 2022 at the Flintfields Horse Park, making his return a happy one, made even better with Thursday’s win. “I think this is my third time [here] and I have really enjoyed it,” Swail remarked of Traverse City. “It’s been a good show for me. The footing is great, and obviously the weather is good. It’s about the conditions; the footing is excellent and it’s a great arena to ride in. They have quality jumps and good course builders so I’m happy to be here again.”
CSI2* action resumes Saturday with the $76,000 Cabana Coast CSI2* Grand Prix.