Killian McGrath and Salerno
Lexington, Kentucky – July 21, 2012 - - On the final day of Show Jumping at the North American Junior Young Rider Championships, presented by Gotham North, the Individual medals were decided for both the Junior and Young Riders at the Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.
The way the two competitions, featuring the nation’s best young equestrians, unfolded over a strenuous rain-shortened three day stretch couldn’t have been more opposite.
In the Juniors, it was Abigail McArdle going wire to wire, producing an impressive five straight clean rounds to secure the Individual Junior Gold Medal without a serious challenge.
Meanwhile, in the Young Riders, the race for the title changed from day to day and during today’s intense, final two-round battle for the Gold, the standings were shuffled from round to round with California’s Killian McGrath eventually emerging victorious, leapfrogging her way to the top after starting the day in fifth place, over eight points behind the two day leader Mattias Tromp. But today, her two brilliant jumping rounds with a single time fault in the first and a knockdown and two time faults in round two, set her up for victory when those ahead of her fell by the wayside.
McGrath, from Westlake Village, California, began the week with a fifth place finish in the opening speed class on her talented partner Salerno. Then during the team competition last night, McGrath posted back to back rounds of five faults in the Nations Cup. Those three scores set her up for today’s fray with a total of 15.92 points.
Mattias Tromp and Vosqinus
Callie Smith and Upstaire
Four riders had better scores coming in, including Tromp, whose 7.55 points on his mount Vosqinus was less than half a point better than his Zone 2 teammate Callie Smith and Upstaire, the winners of the opening day speed class. Smith entered the Saturday final with an even 8 points. Sitting in third place coming in was Zone 3’s Kaitlin Campbell who totaled 11.55 points on Grand Pleasure. Also just ahead of McGrath was Navona Galegos of Zone 8 and No Fear. Galegos was just ahead of the California rider with 15.54 points as compared to her 15.92 points.
Kaitlin Campbell and Grand Pleasure
Navona Gallegos and No Fear
The first of the two rounds today really shuffled the deck and shook up the standings. Of the four riders that were ahead of McGrath, only Callie Smith and Upstaire survived the challenge of the first round.
Tromp had a disastrous round of twenty faults to send him plummeting from first to fourth. Campbell parted company with Grand Pleasure early on the course and was eliminated from the finals and Galegos also posted a round of twenty faults over a very difficult and technical Richard Jeffery designed course.
Meanwhile, another Zone 2 rider, Lydia Ulrich and Santos Utopia worked their way into contention. Coming into today’s final, the pair sat seventh, but with a beautiful four fault round over today’s first course, they moved into third place heading into round two with 22.28 faults.
Lydia Ulrich and Santos Utopia
Smith, who had eight coming in, posted a round of eight faults to lead the way into round two with a new leading total of 16 points, but now, just a narrow .92 points ahead of McGrath.
In round two, Ulrich and Santos Utopia nailed down the Silver medal with a score of 4 jumping faults and one time fault to total out at 27.28 points.
When McGrath finished the second round with 6 faults, four jumping and two time faults and an overall score of 22.92 points, the pressure was clearly amped up on Callie Smith. But, with only 16 points, they still had a rail in hand. Smith could still win Gold with a single knockdown.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the job done. Picking up two late rails, Smith was relegated to the Silver medal, finishing her day with 24 total points.
“I probably should have taken a little extra time where I had my first rail. That was probably my first mistake,” Smith admitted.
Callie Smith and Upstaire
Jeffery’s tight time allowed had all of the riders scrambling to make it home in time.
“The time was definitely a factor for me,” said Gold medal winner McGrath. “I don’t usually worry about it on my horse because he’s quite fast, but I wanted to take my time and make sure I was doing everything correctly before I worried about the time allowed.”
“I was shocked when they said that I won. I asked Karen, ‘Is this real?’ said an elated McGrath, who trains with Karen Healey. “I’ve ridden with Karen since around Halloween (Karen interjects that it’s been since August) “I feel like it’s been a really long time!” laughed McGrath.
Killian McGrath and Salerno - line-up candy
Killian McGrath high five with teammate Charlotte Gadbois
“Nerves were a big factor,” she added. “I was sitting in fifth, so I just wanted to be as consistent as possible and ride the best I could and hope that it would all work out.”
“I’ve only dreamed of getting a Gold medal and never actually thought it would happen this quickly,” said McGrath who was competing in her second Young Riders Championship. She competed on the Junior Zone 10 team last year.
As far as her partner, Salerno, McGrath said, “I got him the first week of Thermal from Laura Kraut. She imported him from Brazil. He’s one of the most amazing horses I’ve ever ridden. He’s really smart, really forgiving, and really athletic. I’ve been doing the highs and the high classics throughout the year. Just before I came here I did my first Grand Prix. It went really well considering how nervous I was, and it was a good confidence boost,” she said.
Silver medalist Callie Smith noted that the pressure might have gotten to her a bit during todays final, “I was pretty nervous going into the first round because I was .45 behind Mattias. After the first round it was even more nerve-wracking. Now, I was .92 ahead and I was more nervous about my horse being tired because he was pretty exhausted today. I wanted to just ride well and hoped it would all come together.”
Lydia Ulrich, Killian McGrath and Callie Smith - Individual Medalists
All in all though, the NAJYRC experience has been a a good one for Smith. “I think Young Riders is a great precursor for any larger event. We learn so much here, especially because it’s a team event and we don’t have many opportunities to ride on teams.”
“I definitely think riding on the team is a really good experience because you have to work on picking yourself back up after a bad round,” agreed McGrath. “You have to think about the other people on your team and not just yourself.”
Bronze medalist Lydia Ulrich said the constantly changing standings had everybody a bit on edge. “Between the first and second round there were a lot of changes in the leader board, so I think we all realized how much things could change at this point. That definitely made me a little more nervous for the second round,” she admitted.
Ulrich agreed with McGrath and Smith on the benefits of the Young Rider Championship, stating, “I think Young Riders is a really great stepping stone for a riding career. We’re all getting older and getting out of our junior years, and this is a really good opportunity for us to develop at this level and move up to the next level. You learn so much here about team work. It’s a great experience,” she smiled.
Enjoy our post-event conversation with Gold Medalist Killian McGrath
Junior Individual Finals
Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20 jump the final fence on the fifth course to secure Gold
In the Junior section, it was a dominating performance by Abigail McArdle and Cosmo 20.
In five demanding rounds of competition against thirty plus challengers the dynamic duo from Illinois never had a rail down.
“This horse has been so amazing. I really feel like she gets better in every round,” smiled McArdle.
They sailed to the Gold Medal with ease.
“I was nervous but I have a lot of confidence in my horse and I knew we could do it,” she said.
The fight for Silver and Bronze however, was a different story. In fact, five rounds were not enough to decide the issue.
With four faults apiece and double clear rounds during the Individual Finals, Charlotte Jacobs and Shawn Casady remained tied and were forced into a sixth and deciding jump-off with their mounts Kachina and Zubantos, respectively.
Jacobs returned for the tiebreaker first and rolled a rail in her chase for the Silver medal. Finishing up with 4 faults, Kachina stopped the clock in 37.85 seconds.
Charlotte Jacobs and Kachina
Shawn Casady and Zubantos
All Casady had to do was go clear. He was up for the challenge and secured the Silver medal, sending Jacobs into the Bronze position. “He’s still young but he’s a great guy,” Casady said of his partner Zubantos. “I’ve been so fortunate to ride this horse.”
“There were three people tied with four faults, so I was really looking to go clear and hoping we wouldn’t all have to jump off,” smiled Casady.
“I just had to hope for the best,” smiled Jacobs. “Kachina has a really big stride, so she covers a lot of ground. But, we gave it a good go today. I’m happy with the way he jumped.”
After a late finish yesterday, the Junior riders were forced into a 7:30 start early this morning. “We were all a little tired coming into today and I know the horses were too,” Jacobs noted. “Once I started riding, though, I was running on adrenaline.”
“I had Doritos and Red Bull this morning. It gave me a lot of energy,” laughed McArdle.
Charlotte Jacobs, Abigail McArdle and Shawn Casady
McArdle trains with Katie and Henri Prudent and spoke of the progress they’ve made since the beginning of the year. “I started off in the lows in Florida and finally moved up to the highs by the end of the circuit. At that point Cosma was going really well and I was like ‘come on, Katie! They couldn’t be here because they’re at the Olympics with Reed (Kessler) and that’s a little more important,” McArdle laughed.
“I definitely think this competition is a great stepping stone. It clearly was for Reed,” McArdle said. “I’m hoping to have a successful riding career in the future as well.”
Enjoy our conversation with Abigail McArdle following her Gold Medal win
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS FROM THE JUNIORS AND YOUNG RIDERS ON THE FINAL SATURDAY OF THE NORTH AMERICAN JUNIOR YOUNG RIDER CHAMPIONSHIPS, PRESENTED BY GOTHAM NORTH
MORE FROM THE TWO GOLD MEDALISTS
Killian McGrath and Salerno
Killian McGrath and Salerno -a little line-up love
Killian McGrath and Salerno - tears of joy
Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20
Abigail McArdle and Cosma 20
THE BEST OF THE REST
Callie Smith and Upstaire - Silver
Charlotte Gadbois and Semira de Saulieu YR Zone 10 - 4th Indiv
Katie Cox and Twilight YR Zone 7 - 8th Indiv
Madison Cameron and Wiberra YR Zone 9 - 6th Indiv
Sage Flynn and Hot Pants YR Zone 10 - 5th Indiv
Charlotte Jacobs and Kachina- Bronze
Gabrielle Bausano and Ubico H Zone 2 - 7th Indiv
Hannah Von Heidegger and Candlelight VD Warande Zone 10 5th Indiv
Kalvin Dobbs and Winde Zone 5 - 4th Indiv
Katherine Strauss and Chellando Z Zone 2 - 8th Indiv
Lillie Keenan and Vanhattan Zone 2 - 5th Indiv
Ralph Caristo - Master Chef and PhelpsSports columnist and reporter Taylor Land
PHOTOS BY: Kenneth Kraus
YOUNG RIDER FINAL STANDINGS
YOUNG RIDERS - ROUNDS 4 AND 5
JUNIOR RIDERS - FINAL STANDINGS
JUNIOR RIDERS - ROUNDS 4 AND 5