In 2022, Ireland’s Simon McCarthy and Gotcha were the ones to beat in two-phase action during the second week of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF). One year later, McCarthy and the Rock Ridge Farms-owned mare repeated the same success in Thursday’s $38,700 CSI3* 1.45m Two-Phase to open FEI action during GLEF II.
“We messed up the jump-off last Sunday so I definitely wanted to redeem myself today,” McCarthy said of his determination to win. “My mare Gotcha loves it here so it seems to be a good palace for her and I’m delighted to win two years in a row.”
Up against some fierce competitors in the field of 32, McCarthy was fortunate to have a later draw, so he knew just how fast the pace would be. With the 12-year-old Holstiner mare (Stakkato x Cassini), he blazed around the second phase in 25.57 seconds, just five one-hundredths of a second faster than second-place finisher and U.S. Olympic team silver medalist Kent Farrington (USA) and his ever-successful mount Creedance. Charlotte Jacobs (USA) and Rincoola Milsean, owned by North Star, took another podium finish, claiming third.
Gotcha is a not-so-secret weapon for McCarthy, who has piloted her to many victories up to the CSI5* level during their partnership over the last three years. According to McCarthy, she is particularly strong in Northern Michigan.
“The weather here is good for her,” he commented. “She doesn’t like it when it’s too hot; she gets kind of [slow] in that weather so it suits her here. The footing is amazing; this team does an amazing job. She wins here a lot so I’m going to keep coming back. Any day you beat Kent is a deserved win.”
McCarthy’s three-year relationship with Gotcha is getting better with age, although he knows he has to pay attention to keep up with her. “She’s quite a spicy mare,” he shared. “She’s got a lot of energy. She definitely keeps me on my toes, especially in the warm-up. You can’t be asleep or she’ll spin you off. But she’s unbelievably careful and consistent. She fights for me every time she goes in the ring, and she deserves to win these classes as much as anybody.”
With Gotcha as a part of his string moving into the latter half of 2023, McCarthy has high hopes for each of his horses that it’s going to be a successful run from the three-star to the five-star level.
“I’m lucky to have a good string of horses,” he remarked. “I have Gotcha and Athletix Hero Z, who I’m hoping to jump in some five-star grand prixs this year. He’s an interesting horse for me and I’m excited for him. I recently acquired a new horse that I own with Ilan Ferder, and I think that’s going to be an exciting horse too, so we’re just going to keep going and hopefully everything will come to fruition.”
Show jumping continues on the international stage with Friday’s $38,700 Elk Rapids Marina CSI3* Welcome Stake.
Nick Haness Continues Winning Ways with Estimated Prophet in High Performance Hunters
Estimated Prophet made his High Performance Hunter debut in Traverse City during GLEF II, showing Northern Michigan what he was made of and taking the championship in the Perfect Products High Performance Hunters with Nick Haness aboard.
The 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding is one that Haness is very excited about, due to both his stunning way of going and for the potential he has as both a top hunter and top derby prospect. Together, they swept the over fences portion of the division by winning all four classes.
“He’s owned by Roaring Fork Farms and trained by the team at Balmoral,” Haness said of Estimated Prophet. “He’s a beautiful horse and we’re very excited for this championship as we’re gearing up for derby finals. After he did Junior Hunter [National Championships] with Djuna Lauder he’s had a little break, so this is my first show back with him in a while, and he won every jumping class. He was awesome.”
Despite his clear mastery of the hunter rings, Estimated Prophet only recently made the switch to hunters from the jumper ring. “This horse had a high profile in his past career as a jumper,” Haness explained. “But his beautiful scope and style was recognized by Balmoral to make him into a top hunter. I think I was his first hunter rider in his career. We’ve had a lot of fun winning international derbies in Thermal and championships [at indoors].”
The switch from jumpers to hunters was fairly effortless, especially for Haness, who is among the top hunter riders in the nation. “He’s such a natural athlete and natural hunter,” Haness remarked on Estimated Prophet. “One of my first shows on him ever was Capital Challenge, so we added the element of strong competition and difficulty, as a newly turned hunter, and he started off with a bang. He’s easy and smart, the jumps are effortless for him, and he really enjoys his job.”
Traverse City has proven quite successful so far for the horse, who picked up a top ribbon at the Junior Hunter National Championships just a few weeks ago. “He really likes the rings in Traverse City,” Haness said. “He feels like he’s jumping effortlessly here. I think he enjoys the footing; he feels like he’s covering the ground really softly. He seems like he’s on a great path.”
After winning the $25,000 USHJA National Hunter Derby during GLEF I, Haness hopes to make the most of his final week in Northern Michigan during GLEF II.