Molly Ashe-Cawley and Executive Privledge 3E, fourth to go in today’s class, finished fourth in the final order as well, clocking in at 71.389 seconds.
Interestingly, the two fastest times of the day also came out of the top of the order.
Shane Sweetnam, first to go with Solerina and Todd Minikus who followed directly with Zilox T, each posted amazing times, but each pulled a rail in their chase for today’s title. Minikus raced home in 64.881 seconds and Sweetnam in 64.968, but the four fault penalties each gathered along the way, would relegate that pair to tenth and eleventh respectively, when the dust had settled and the day was done.
Meanwhile, Fenney and Ashe-Cawley stayed atop the leaderboard and were never really challenged again until the lead eventually changed hands when speedster Rothchild and yesterday’s winning rider, McLain Ward, joined the party more than halfway through the class. Rothchild is always ready to rumble and today was no exception as the feisty chestnut pinned his ears and raced home with a new top time of 66.356 seconds, 5/10ths of a faster than Fenney.
As we worked our way down the order, another Ward victory seemed imminent. As college football analyst Lee Corso often says - not so fast, my friend.
With only six remaining, Jonathan McCrea and Twisther soared to the top of the charts with a deceptively fast and beautifully ridden speed ride. Racing home in 66.156 seconds, McCrea nailed down the Thursday victory.
“He’s a specialist at this height and speed,” smiled McCrea after his victory gallop. “He looks big and slow, but he’s got a big step. He’s always following my eye; he just seems to go where I look. He’s deceivingly fast is, I guess is the best way to put it.”
According to McCrea, Twisther is rapidly becoming a mount he can really count on in classes like these. “You know, I think I’m lucky with Twisther. Every time, he’s a specialist in these classes and he’s going to win every time. I’m lucky. We work good together. He won in New Hampshire and he won in Spruce Meadows and I was second in the $30,000 Saturday Grand Prix in The Hamptons, the fastest time by three and a half seconds with a rail at the last fence,” he said. “He’s just a winner.”
McCrea got a chance to watch McLain Ward’s speedy ride with Rothchild and knew exactly what he had to do. “I did watch him. You know, I think the Irish in me helped me a little bit at the bank jump. He just powered right on and off of there. And then at the turn down there at the end of the ring, I got lucky. He slipped a little bit, but it ended up working out well.”
Regarding Stephens’ track today, McCrea commented, “It was a nice course. Fair. A couple of options and you know, in the end, I think most people ended up doing the leave out from 2 to 3, if they were going to win,” he detailed. “The in-and-out at the gate I thought was a little tricky with the ground and the way he positioned it. But I thought it was fair course.”
McCrea’s victory today came on his first ever visit to Old Salem Farm. “It’s my first time here, believe it or not, and I’m only two hours away and I have to say I’m impressed. Steve’s jumps are, for me, the best anywhere. They always bring out that something special on a course and, you know, the venue itself, it’s always nice to get on grass,” he said.
“I think now that it’s back, after a couple of years of it being off, it’s pretty exciting,” McCrea said of the Gold Cup’s return. “You know, my wife won it, I believe in ’06 on Vegas, and it’s just such a prestigious event for all the top riders. And now that I am an American and it means a lot to me,” he laughed. “I think it’s great that it’s on the East Coast. When I first came 12 years ago, it was in Devon, so it sort of went full circle. I think this location is perfect. Look at the turnout. It’s great!”
McCrea had high praise for Stadium Jumping, the event organizers. “You know, I’m best friends with Matt (Morrissey) and it’s been great. I think they do a phenomenal job. Just look at everything. The way they presented the ring, the fences, the vendor tents, the whole setup is awesome,” he said.
As for the American Gold Cup on Sunday, McCrea detailed his plans. “Colorado is here. He’s my best horse. He’s back this week from three in a row, but last week, he only jumped in one completion actually - the million dollar class at Saugerties. So, I’ll do him tomorrow and see about Sunday,” he reported. “Then he’s got five weeks off. And then we’ll take Twisther and we’ll go to Kentucky for the World Cup and have a go at New Albany. Every time he steps up, he gets it done, so we’ll see.”
Earlier in the day, Amanda Gunthel and Laracon won the $1,000 Mitchell-Innes & Nash Fine Art Adult Amateur Jumper class and had this to say about the American Gold Cup. “I love this venue. My Mom and Dad live pretty much around the corner, so it’s sort of like showing at home for me, which we don’t get to do a lot because we are usually on the road,” she said. “This feels like my backyard and I think this venue is fantastic. I love the spring show here. And everybody is so excited that The Gold Cup is here and I’m just happy to be a part of it. We just got back from the Hamptons and everybody I saw at the Hamptons was like, ‘I’ll see you at The Gold Cup.’ It’s wonderful. So, this is great.”
Tomorrow, we start with the big money classes, leading up to Sunday’s main event. At 1 p.m. tomorrow, it’s the $50,000 American Gold Cup Qualifier, FEI Art. 238.2.2, Time first Jump-Off.
It should be a good one. We’ll have the story for you tomorrow night. Until then, stay safe my friends.