What a horse. That was the phrase echoed throughout Flintfields Horse Park all week, but especially after the conclusion of the $405,300 CSI5* American Gold Cup Grand Prix, when Shane Sweetnam (IRL) took the win aboard James Kann Cruz.
“It’s a great feeling to have,” Sweetnam said of the ride aboard James Kann Cruz, owned by Gizmo Partners LLC. “It’s one of those horses you search your whole career to find, and when you find it you don’t believe it’s real. Every day he comes out and his form is even better. So I have to echo: what a horse.”
Sweetnam scored his second-ever CSI5* grand prix win with the 9-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Kannan x Cruising) as the sole double-clear effort over Alan Wade’s (IRL) course, besting a three-horse jump-off and becoming only the second-ever non-North American to win the prestigious title.
Behind Sweetnam, still chasing his first American Gold Cup win, was McLain Ward (USA) and Callas, owned by Beechwood Stables LLC. With one rail down in the jump-off, Ward was still thrilled with the outcome considering his still budding partnership with the mare.
“I’m a huge fan of Alan Wade’s,” said Ward. “To me he’s one of the three best [course designers] in the world. I thought today’s course was challenging. He certainly built a proper five-star grand prix. [Open] water in a sand arena is always a challenge, which we saw today. A phenomenal horse won the class and I was excited to be in the mix.”
Lacey Gilbertson (USA) took third place as the only other clear effort over the first-round track aboard the Seabrook LLC-owned Karlin van’t Vennehof. Third to jump off, she had the comfort of watching two of the very best in the sport take on the short course, one of whom was Sweetnam, her own trainer.
“Following both of them took the pressure off,” Gilbertson said. “They’re both amazing – two of the best in the world. I just needed to go in, be confident, and try to do what I could.”
The Morrissey Management Group was thrilled with the turnout from Northern Michigan horse fans and the exceptional sport put on display to conclude the season in Traverse City. “The crowd here today was great,” said Michael Morrissey, Sr. “So many top athletes in the world are here competing, and they gave them quite a performance. Today Alan [Wade] gave them a hard test and the horses performed, the athletes performed, and it was a great class.”
Sweetnam was not alone in believing his horse had unlimited potential, and the crowd saw that on display in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring twice during the week. “I always thought there was something special about him but you never know until you start working with a horse and start building the relationship,” he said of James Kann Cruz. “As soon as we turned up in January, everything went the right way and everyone was talking about him. It’s a different kind of pressure to win, and instead of managing every little detail I just have to let him do what he can do. He’s a great horse and he showed that [today].”
Sweetnam went home with not only the biggest win of the Traverse City Horse Shows season, but also with extra cash after winning the season-long CaptiveOne Advisors Leading Open Jumper Rider Bonus. Led by Margie Engle (USA) for the majority of the season, the bonus just slipped out of her reach as Sweetnam earned enough points to top the leaderboard. She is not going home empty handed, however, as Sweetnam opted to split the bonus evenly between himself and Engle after she jumped a clear round for his MLSJ team, the Spy Coast Spies the day before.
Sweetnam’s season was filled with top results for his entire team, including two Sweet Oak Farm team members atop the podium in the final Grand Prix of the season. “Each year they up the standard,” he said of Traverse City Horse Shows. “From the top level, to the progression of younger horses and for the clients, it’s great. Lacey started here jumping three stars at the start of the summer and she was able to jump into the five-star. They have a great niche here for progression. And it’s a nice place to be as well.”
Final Results: CSI5* American Gold Cup Grand Prix
1. JAMES KANN CRUZ: 2013 ISH gelding by Kannan x Cruising
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Gizmo Partners LLC: 0/0/40.42
2. CALLAS: 2008 HOLST mare by Casall x Coriano
MCLAIN WARD (USA), Beechwood Stables LLC: 0/4/41.71
3. KARLIN VAN’T VENNEHOF: 2010 BWP mare by Fantomas De Muze x Quasimodo Van De Molendreef
LACEY GILBERTSON (USA), Seabrook LLC: 0/12/42.25
4. DEZ OOKTOFF: 2008 KWPN stallion by Colandro x Lys Rouge
ROBERTO TERAN TAFUR (COL), Roberto Teran Tafur: 1/82.07
5. BENNYS LEGACY: 2008 OLDBG gelding by Lupicor x Voltaire
ADRIENNE STERNLICHT (USA), Starlight Farms 1 LLC: 1/82.80
6. CARLCHEN W: 2008 MECKL gelding by Chacco Blue x Continue
ALEX GRANATO (USA), The Bright Lights Group: 4/80.37
7. DSARIE: 2008 KWPN mare by Veron x Ahorn
BEAT MANDLI (SUI), Grant Road Partners LLC: 4/81.03
8. CHACCO BLUE II: 2007 OS stallion by Chacco Blue x Cincaba Rouge
SANTIAGO LAMBRE (BRA), Santiago Lambre: 4/81.32
9. VITAL CHANCE DE LA ROQUE: 2009 SF gelding by Diamant de Semilly x Rivage du Poncel
CONOR SWAIL (IRL), Conor Swail: 4/81.37
10. OBORA’S CHLOE: 2011 AWO mare by Chacco Blue x Lacapo
RALEIGH HILER (USA), Kurt Hiler: 5/82.97
11. AKUNA MATTATA: 2008 AHHA mare by Quinar Z x Landwind II
NICOLE SHAHINIAN SIMPSON (USA), Silver Raven Farms: 6/83.48
12. ENANDA: 2009 KWPN mare by Nebab de Reve x Holland
LUCY DESLAURIERS (USA), Luja LLC: 8/77.62
Greg Crolick Scores Repeat Win in $100,000 Pro Derby Final
Greg Crolick is going home with a smile on his face and an extra paycheck, as he and Chappy topped the $100,000 Pro Derby Final to conclude Traverse City Hunter & Derby Finals. After winning the inaugural class in 2021 aboard Testify, Crolick now has two derby final victories under his belt.
“This is a wonderful win for this horse,” Crolick said of Carole Chase’s 11-year-old Mecklenburg gelding by Chacco Blue. “He’s such a special horse. We debated on keeping him or letting him go and selling him, but I think it’s been a great option to keep him.”
Top professional hunters came out for the occasion, all vying for the lion’s share of the prize money and ultimate bragging rights aboard their top hunters. Chappy thoroughly impressed the judges in round one, as the last pair on course over Tom Carlson’s beautiful track, with a score of 96. With the advantage of going last in the handy round, he knew exactly what he had to do.
Moving up from sixth place, Samantha Schaefer and her long-time partner In The Know, owned by Madeline Schaefer, pulled off a risky inside turn to earn themselves a handy round score of 94 for a total of 185, which ultimately landed them in second place.
Jacob Pope and the Forget Me Not Farm entry Unbelievable also effortlessly aced the inside turn, placing third with a score of 184.5. Pope was also presented with the M. Michael Meller Style Award midway through the American Gold Cup Grand Prix.
Crolick opted out of the inside turn that only Schaefer and Pope chose, knowing he had a few points in his pocket to still take the win. “After I watched Samantha Schaefer and Jacob [Pope] do that crazy inside turn, I had to talk myself out of trying it,” he said. “I didn’t think it was needed, so it was better to go out and around and be as smooth as I could and just be as tidy as I could.
“I think that horse helped me win today,” Crolick continued. “He just has such a great way across the ground. Chappy jumped so well and we met every jump perfectly and we did as efficiently as we could without being crazy.”
Traverse City Hunter & Derby Finals has concluded its second year and riders echoed that it was an incredible experience. “This week is such a special week for the hunters,” Crolick concluded. “This is very similar to the same feeling I have going to Devon in May. The prize money is wonderful. More people came this year than last year, and it was really good competition. My student, Maya Rahaim, won the Non-Pro [Derby Final] today. It’s just a fun week. Plus having great competition makes us all rise to a certain level.”
Final Results: $100,000 3’ Pro Derby Final
1. Chappy / Greg Crolick / Carole Chase / 96 + 96 = 192
2. In The Know / Samantha Schaefer / Madeline Schaefer / 91 + 94 = 185
3. Unbelievable / Jacob Pope / Forget Me Not Farm / 94 + 90 = 184.5
4. San Pedro 15 / Jacob Pope / Donald Stewart / 91.5 + 91 = 182.5
5. Reese’s / Nick Haness / West Coast Equine Partners LLC / 88 + 92 = 180
6. Crowd Pleaser / Nick Haness / West Coast Equine Partners LLC / 90 + 89 = 179
7. G. Eleven / Jacob Pope / Donald Stewart / 88.25 + 90 = 178.25
8. Calisto / Greg Crolick / Jon Cotton / 90.5 + 87 = 177.5
9. Blue Monday / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 92 + 84 = 176
10. Moonwalk / Hillary Johnson / Stephanie Battershall / 88.5 + 86 = 174.5
11. Suede / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 93 + 81 = 174
12. Elliot / Hillary Johnson / Copper Fox LLC / 89 + 82 = 171
Maya Rahaim Rises to Victory in Non-Pro Derby Final
Kicking off hunter derby final action in the Main Hunter Ring, Maya Rahaim followed in her trainer, Greg Crolick’s, footsteps, taking top honors in the $25,000 Non-Pro Derby Final, presented by Makoto Farm, with the Renaud Farm LLC entry Catwalk.
A high score of 90 came their way after laying down a beautiful first round, over a track designed by Tom Carlson. Returning in the top spot for the handy round, Rahaim used the 10-year-old gelding’s (Catoki x Cumano) turning abilities to bring home another high score of 88 for a combined 178 and the win.
“My plan was a smooth, consistent first round,” said Rahaim. “It went very smoothly so I was happy about that. For the handy round, there were a lot of tight turns but my horse is very handy so I wasn’t worried. He jumped around very smoothly so I was happy with how he went.”
Olivia Sweetnam and Checker 69, owned by Staci Arani, took second-place honors with a score of 174.75, and just behind them on 174.5 was Nightcap and Abigail Roberts for third place.
Catwalk has an elegant presence in the ring, which Rahaim believes helped them land the top spot. “I love how he carries himself a bit, so he’s great in the handy rounds,” she continued. “If there’s a long run he’ll gallop down to it and shoot off the ground and jump amazingly. He really shines in a lot of different ways in these classes.”
A partnership that came together in March of 2022, Catwalk, known as “Walker,” was already a part of the Greg Crolick Stables team, so Rahaim was familiar with him and they got to know one another quickly. She aims to continue competing successfully in the 3’6” Junior Hunters and move into international hunter derbies in the future.
“It’s really amazing,” Rahaim said of the winning feeling. “I’m so thankful to our whole team. Everyone works so hard, especially thankful for Walker; he’s such an amazing horse.”
Crolick offered words of advice as his student walked into the ring for her handy round: “He said, ‘Deep your leg, keep looking to the jumps, and stay smooth and consistent,’ and that usually works for us,” Rahaim concluded.
Final Results: $25,000 3’ Non-Pro Derby Final, presented by Makoto Farm
1. Catwalk / Maya Rahaim / Renaud Farm LLC / 90 + 88 = 178
2. Checker 69 / Olivia Sweetnam / Staci Arani / 88 + 86.75 = 174.75
3. Nightcap / Abigail Roberts / Abigail Roberts / 87 + 87.5 = 174.5
4. Breathless / Owen Gajoch / Sara Barnes / 85 + 89 = 174
5. Kensington / Brian Shook / Emma Shook / 84 + 87 = 171
6. Coronado Beach / Hailey Guidry / Honor Hill Farm LLC / 81 + 86 = 167
7. Souvenez-Vous / Sally Ives / Sally Ives / 84.5 + 80 = 164.5
8. Aramis de B’Neville / Elise Stephens / Heritage Farm Inc. / 82 + 81 = 163
9. Jinter van het Hagehof / Sally Ives / Sally Ives / 80 + 82 = 162
10. Coppertone / Olivia Sweetnam / Sweet Oak Farm / 86 + 71 = 157
11. Small Social / Augusta Iwasaki / Ava Peck / 89 + 64 = 153
12. Cholita / Elise Stephens / Rendezvous Farm / 83 + 69 = 152
Grace Debney Delivers in Premier Equestrian CSI5* Winning Round
Grace Debney (GBR) never lets age or experience level discourage her from besting top professionals in international action. Sunday was no exception as she topped the $37,000 Premier Equestrian CSI5* Winning Round with her steady partner Zarina de Vidau.
Out of 30 entries, Debney was one of 13 to jump clear. All 13 returned for the jump-off and jumped in reverse order of first-round time taken. Debney was late in the order to jump off, with a speedy first-round time of 67.78 seconds, so she had the advantage of seeing several top pairs jump before her.
Speeding around the short course, she clocked in with Temple Equestrian LLC’s Spanish-bred mare (Diamant de Semilly) at 31.89 seconds, beating out Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Ashley Vogel’s Birdy du Thot to take over the lead. Sweetnam’s time of 33.13 seconds ultimately landed him in second place. The only other pair to come close to the leading time was Beat Mändli (SUI) and Chartraine Pre Noir, owned by Grant Road Partners LLC, with a double-clear time of 33.39 seconds, taking third.
“I bought her as an 8-year-old,” Debney remarked of Zarina de Vidau. “She was meant to be my High Junior jumper and she just kept stepping up, especially over this past year. She’s had a few international wins. She’s always been my rock. I owe a lot of my career to her for sure. This show last year she was doing the High Juniors and now she’s doing the five-star.”
Debney admits that Zarina de Vidau is always serious, and that’s part of her winning edge. “She’s all game face,” she said. “She has no time for anyone, she just wants to go in the ring and win. She’s everyone’s favorite; she’s so easy to deal with.”
She bought the mare from Reed Kessler (USA), who developed her as a young horse. With a similar riding style to Kessler, Debney knew their partnership would come together strong and they would be a successful pair.
“It took about a year for me to truly understand her,” Debney continued. “My first real high junior classic was the moment it clicked. She gives me so much confidence. I never walk into a class and think it’s too big. There’s nothing she can’t do.”
Final Results: $37,000 Premier Equestrian CSI5* Winning Round
1. ZARINA DE VIDAU: 2011 CDE mare by Diamant de Semilly
GRACE DEBNEY (GBR), Temple Equestrian LLC: 0/0/31.89
2. BIRDY DU THOT: 2011 SF mare by Magic D’Elle x Le Tot De Semilly
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Ashley Vogel: 0/0/33.13
3. CHARTRAINE PRE NOIR: 2012 SF mare by Kannan
BEAT MANDLI (SUI), Grant Road Partners LLC: 0/0/33.39
4. GREYA: 2014 OS mare by Colestus x Contender
KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Kent Farrington LLC: 0/0/34.070
5. DAMZELLE STE HERMELLE: 2013 SF mare by Uppercut Kervec x Paladin Des Ifs
LACEY GILBERTSON (USA), Seabrook LLC: 0/0/34.12
6. CASSINA 64: 2009 OLDBG mare by Collado x Locantus
RALEIGH HILER (USA), Kurt Hiler: 0/0/34.43
7. BULL RUN’S JIREH: 2014 HOLST gelding by Uriko x Colman
KRISTEN VANDERVEEN (USA), Bull Run Jumpers Inc.: 0/0/34.95
JUAN ORTIZ (VEN), Blue Trim LLC: 0/0/35.65
9. CASEY: 2012 HANN mare by Cartani x Grannus
SANTIAGO LAMBRE (BRA), Mario Onate: 0/4/32.45
10. QUINN 33: 2012 HOLST gelding by Quidam De Revel x Contender
TANNER KOROTKIN (USA), Zascha Nygaard Andreasen: 0/4/33.31
11. FOR GOLD: 2011 HOLST gelding by For Fashion x Heraldik
ALEC LAWLER (USA), Lawler Show Jumping LLC: 0/5/46.00
12. COQUELICOT VH HEUVELLAND Z: 2012 ZANG stallion by Catoki x Cassini II
SEAN JOBIN (CAN), Foxridge Farms Stables: 0/8/47.00