Alison Robitaille (USA) returned to Traverse City with some horsepower to spare. In Thursday’s opening FEI class, the $38,700 Downtown Traverse City CSI3* 1.45m Speed, she took the win by nearly a second on Ester de Maugre.
Quite a few entries came to play for week two of the Traverse City Spring Horse Shows, presented by Turtle Creek Hotel & Casino, with 35 coming forward in Thursday’s class, despite cold and wet weather conditions. Guilherme Jorge (BRA) set a beautiful track for the international field to take on, and the lead changed hands a few times.
Robitaille had the benefit of knowing how the course rode when it came time for her third and final entry. With Jikke-Cara and Oakingham Lira, she put in a fast clear and a fast four, respectively, then she put together her game plan with her final entry.
“They’re all such different horses,” she said of her three rides, all owned by Alison Firestone LLC. “But I think it always helps to have more rounds, so I think it was an advantage [to have three]. It was my third time doing the course so I knew exactly where I wanted to cut the turns; I cut a little closer into the double on her and I think I did a tighter turn back to the four-stride line.”
With a big week ahead for Ester de Maugre, winning the class wasn’t part of the plan initially, but, as they often do, plans change while on course. “My plan was to really go medium today because I’m planning on riding her in the Grand Prix [on Sunday],” Robitaille explained. “But from the first fence she felt like she was on it, so I went with her. Everything just kept coming up exactly how I wanted. She was very good to me. She spread her wings. I was thrilled with how she finished up.”
Claiming the lead with just two remaining, she unseated Katie Dinan (USA) who led for quite some time with the Grant Road Partners-owned Atika des Hauts Vents. With Dinan taking second, it was Colombia in third, as Roberto Teran Tafur held onto a podium placing after a speedy round early in the class aboard Santana, owned by Rocking Basilisk Farm, LLC.
Robitaille has had a big year breaking back onto the scene. The partnership between Robitaille and this nine-year-old Selle Français mare (Vigo Cece x Ogano Sitte) started coming together in the show ring at the end of February after being paired together by Kent Farrington (USA). She has several top mounts that are still very young, meaning she’ll be one to watch as her horses mature and become even more competitive.
“She’s very fast naturally which is always an advantage in speed competitions,” she continued about Ester de Maugre. “She’s really game and I love having her in my string.”
Robitaille, unlike many, is big on chestnut mares, and this one fits her style just right. “She’s a really smart horse. She loves her job and she comes out the same every day. I also love chestnut mares. I have always been very lucky and have had a lot of good chestnut mares. I love the look in her eye and her big floppy ears. She’s just always wanting to do the right thing,” she explained.
Echoing the sentiments of those returning to Traverse City, Robitaille said, “I love this area. It’s always great to be back here. They’ve made such great improvements. The FEI stabling is beautiful. The ring looks great. It’s a great place to be for a longer period of time with the horses.”
International show jumping resumes Friday with the $38,700 Village of Elk Rapids CSI3* Welcome Stake.
Calutano Has a Winning 3’6” Debut in Traverse City
The 3’6” Performance Hunter division was a highly competitive one, but during week two of the Traverse City Spring Series, it was a division rookie that took top honors. Calutano, a nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Laurie Stevens, took the division championship Thursday with Lainie Wimberly aboard.
“He’s never shown in the 3’6” before,” Wimberly said of Calutano. “I’ve done the 3’3” Performance Hunters and the national derbies [with him]. He won a derby during the Spring Series [in Wellington]. I came here and decided to try him in the 3’6” because I have aspirations of him doing an international derby but he’s a little green.”
On day one, Calutano came out strong, with a win in the handy round and third in the under saddle out of 16 competitive entries. “I was really happy with him. He’s handling the height really well,” Wimberly continued. “He’s very consistent, very even, and very smooth in his rhythm. He’s quite a brave horse. I have my eye set on the [USHJA National Hunter] Derby on Sunday this week with him. Doing the Performance 3’6” was just a warm-up for that and I’m thrilled that in his first time doing the height, he was champion.”
Wimberly, head trainer at Brigadoon Show Stables in North Salem, NY, has had the ride on Calutano since November, and they spent the winter season in Florida getting to know each other. For just nine years old, the horse is already proving how mature he is and easily handling each task thrown his way.
“He was delightful,” Wimberly remarked of how the horse behaved during his first week of showing in Northern Michigan, even in colder weather conditions. “He didn’t shake his head, he didn’t shake his tail, he was perfectly relaxed. He handled the weather great.”
Owner Laurie Stevens sadly won’t take to the saddle during Traverse City, but aboard Calutano she is highly competitive in the Low Adult Hunter division, scoring an 87 in Wellington against elite company.
Despite the uncharacteristically chilly day, Wimberly and her team are enjoying their time in a new part of the country. “This is our first year at Traverse City,” she said. “We’re loving it. My Green 3’3” [hunter] was reserve champion, my Performance 3’6” [hunter] was champion, and I’ve only shown the two in the hunters. We’re loving the horse show.
“The Main Hunter Ring is a beautiful ring to ride in,” she continued of the facility at Flintfields Horse Park. “There’s plenty of areas to practice and warm up that have fabulous footing. There are nice lunging areas. We have a great tent. We’re really happy with everything; we’ve been well accommodated here.”
Showing continues Friday with the USEF/Platinum Performance Talent Search, as well as the start of the Junior and Children’s Hunter divisions.