Zone 2 Gold Medal winning team at Lexington - Mattias Tromp, Lydia Ulrich, Ralph Caristo, Callie Smith and Meg O'Mara
Lexington, Kentucky – July 20, 2012 - - The teams from Zone 2 (NJ,NY,PA) swept to victory at the 2012 North American Junior Young Rider Championships in Lexington, Kentucky on Friday night, standing at the top of the podium in both the Junior and Young Rider team competitions.
The Young Rider squad, comprised of Meg O’Mara, Lydia Ulrich, Callie Smith and Mattias Tromp negotiated the difficult Richard Jeffery designed course with a team total of only 21 faults through two rounds of competition.
Leading the way was Mattias Tromp with a key clear round over the first course and a solid four fault performance in round two on his mount Vosqinus. Callie Smith, who had two rails in the first round, sealed the victory for Zone 2 with a pressure packed clear round in round two on Upstaire. Lydia Ulrich and Santos Utopia added rounds of 5 and 4 to help nail down the win. Meg O’Mara, the fourth member of the squad, ended up with the two drop scores on Sinatra IV.
Mattias Tromp and Vosqinus
Tromp thought competing at night, under the Rolex Stadium lights became a distinct advantage. “My horse doesn’t really care what the conditions are. If anything, I think the lights make the jumps a little bit more impressive so it makes them a little bit more careful,” he said. “I think jumping under the lights was an advantage rather than a disadvantage.”
As far as Richard Jeffery’s Nations Cup course, Tromp said, “I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to show in a lot of bigger classes with my horse, so I didn’t see anything new out there today. I thought it was a very challenging course, but I didn’t think it was over facing for the competitors here tonight.”
And according to Tromp, he’s ready for the Individual Finals tomorrow. “We’ve done a lot with Linus to make him very fit. At the end of today he still felt fresh in the victory gallop, so I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Callie Smith and Upstaire
Teammate Callie Smith saw the course differently. “I completely underestimated it when I went in for the first round. I didn’t trust my horse as much as I should have and I kind of screwed up in two places. They were my rails, not his,” she admitted. “I think the course asked a lot of good questions. I think we could all handle it, it was just our mental capacity, how nervous we were and stuff like that really got to us.”
Lydia Ulrich dissected the course this way. “It was a difficult course, and I think coming here, it’s such a big ring and showing under the lights adds another factor for the riders. The course was definitely challenging, but it was doable if you rode well and were on your game,” she said.
Meg O’Mara agreed. “The course was really tough. It was a technical course, which is good for our zone because we’re used to them. I think some people had difficulties with this course because of the liver pool under the lights and the half strides,” she noted.
California’s Zone 10 was second after the first round of action, trailing the team from Zone 2 by only 6 faults with 19. The three-member combined team, made up of riders from Zones 3, 7 and 8, was another 6 faults further back of Zone 10 with a total of 25.
Zone 3-7-8 Silver Medal team - Katie Cox, Navona Gallegos, Kaitlin Campbell with coach Sandra Ruiz
In round two, Zone 10 wilted under the relentless pressure applied by Katie Cox, Navona Gallegos and Kaitlin Campbell, who finished the second go-round with only nine total faults on the scoreboard.
Cox improved from 13 faults in round one to produce a solid 5 fault go in round two. Gallegos held steady with two rounds of 4 faults and Kaitlin Campbell set aside an uncharacteristic 8 fault first round total to seal the deal on the Silver medal with a brilliant clear in round number two. Cox was aboard Twilight, Gallegos piloted No Fear and Campbell was up on Grand Pleasure. They finished with 34 faults to edge out Zone 10 by a single fault.
Campbell, competing in her third Young Riders championship, spoke of the “composite” team. “Well Navona and I have known each other for a while. We were friends before we came here, so we hoped our zones would be combined together,” she said. “I think we all know our own programs so well that we can do our own thing but still come together as a team. There was another team of three people and when their first rider fell off, we decided staying on was our biggest priority,” she laughed.
Zone 10's Bronze Medal team with Karen Healey
Zone 10 essentially became a three rider team as well when Stevie Sorenson and Esperanto were eliminated in both rounds. For the remaining three riders, time faults became the deciding factor and the team’s eventual downfall when all was said and done.
Sage Flynn and Hot Pants, the lead-off rider improved from the 8 faults she scored in round one to put in a beautiful clean jumping round the second time around. But, she failed to get home in time, adding a single and ultimately costly time fault to the Zone 10 score sheet. Charlotte Gadbois, who had a single rail and two time faults in round one, had two rails and the same two time faults in round number two. And anchor rider, Killian McGrath and her mount Salerno, had back to back rounds of a single knockdown and a single time fault.
Sage Flynn and Hot Pants
The California contingent ended up with 35 faults, one fault away from a tie for the Silver medal. Their score sheet showed a total of seven time faults.
All the California girls agreed that their horses were affected by the humidity. They got to Kentucky almost a week in advance so the horses could acclimate. Three out of the four of the Young Rider horses flew to Kentucky from the West Coast. As Killian McGrath noted, “My trainer had me riding my horse twice a day just to get him fit to even come here and put up with this extreme weather.”
For Zone 2 and veteran coach Ralph Caristo, it was the second Gold Medal since the NAJYRC competition moved to the Horse Park in Lexington, having won the Gold during the inaugural event in 2009. Caristo said he felt “ecstatic” and noted, “I’m so grateful not only to the riders, but also to the parents and the trainers. I couldn’t be happier for all my riders.”
Mattias Tromp said of Caristo, “He’s our fearless leader.”
Master Chef - Ralph Caristo
Previous Gold medals for Zone 2 came in 2006 and 2005 at the Virginia Horse Center, and in 2004, 2002, 1997, 1995 and 1991 when the Young Riders Championship was held at Howard Simpson’s Tempel Farms in Wadsworth, Illinois. Interestingly, two-time Olympic Gold medalist, McLain Ward, who will compete at the London Olympics for the United States, was a member of Caristo’s first winning Young Riders team back in 1991.
Gold medal winner Mattias Tromp noted, “I get a lot of help from Barney and McLain Ward. I can’t thank them enough for all the help they’ve given me.”
For Zone 2, it’s a matter of team camaraderie, always at the top of Caristo’s list.
“I kid about competing with Mattias tomorrow for gold, but honestly, this and Prix Des States are my favorite shows to come to. It’s all about the team,” said Callie Smith. “We have our own Facebook group. We were 100% for this team and we wanted it so bad. We were clutching each other at the gate and almost having heart attacks. We were so nervous for the whole team. I think it really shows that we do have a great team relationship and have compassion for each other.”
“It’s awesome that the whole year we want to beat each other,” she went on to say, and added, “and then twice a year we come together as a team and it’s not just about us anymore.”
“We’re all really great team members and we all cheer for each other and help each other. It’s a good team,” said Lydia Ulrich. “Ralph and Holly are both great team leaders and it’s great to have them behind everything that we do. They are so willing to get us ready to win and they’re both great.”
Zone 2 also scored the Gold Medal in Friday’s Junior Team competition in a dominating display of excellence.
Zone 2 Junior Team Gold - Katherine Strauss, Lillie Keenan, Charlotte Jacobs, Kira Kerkorian
The squad, comprised of Charlotte Jacobs and Kachina, Kira Kerkorian with Malcolm, Katherine Strauss and Chellando Z and Lillie Keenan with Vanhattan outdistanced the rest of the field with only nine total faults posted over two rounds of competition. The team was led by Jacobs and Keenan, the lead-off and anchor riders, who each posted double clear rounds. Strauss added rounds of 4 and 5, while Kerkorian had the two drop scores. No other team came close.
Keenan spoke of anchoring the team. “I was nervous, but I was glad I have the teammates that I have. Without them I don’t know if I could do it. You’re doing it not just for yourself, but also for the whole team. I think I feed off that kind of energy and so does my horse,” she said.
Charlotte Jacobs and Kachina
Lillie Keenan and Vanhattan
The Silver medal went to the three member team from Zone 5.
In reality, the gang from Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio was nearly perfect, but without the chance to drop a score, couldn’t overcome the one bad round on the score sheet. Double clear rounds from Individual Junior leader Abigail McArdle (Cosmo 20) and from Kalvin Dobbs (Winde) lead the way for Zone 5, and Ali Boone improved from a nightmarish 20 fault performance in round one on Wait and See to put in a brilliant clear in round two to help nail down the Silver medal.
Zone 5 Silver Junior team Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20
Kalvin Dobbs and Winde
Ali Boone and Abigail McArdle
McArdle, with three clear rounds in the books, leads the way in the Junior Individual Finals tomorrow. “I don’t want to say anything because I don’t want to jinx myself,” she laughed.
The Bronze medal went to Zone 4, comprised of Cordino and Elizabeth Patz (12/4), Kaely Tomeu with Belle Blue S (16/0), Quick N Easy and Claudia Billups (12/4) and Shawn Casady who had a 4 and zero with Zubantos. The group from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee totaled 32 faults at the end of the day.
Zone 4 Bronze Medal Junior team
Shawn Casady and Zubantos compete in the pouring rain....
As we post this story, we’re just hours away from the Individual Finals. We’ll have that complete report tomorrow. We’ll also have additional photos.
PHOTOS BY: Kenneth Kraus
YOUNG RIDER TEAM RESULTS
JUNIOR TEAM RESULTS
YOUNG RIDER - INDIVIDUAL