Lauren Fischer and Tosca Du Feugre helped secure the gold medal for Zone 2 with a score of zero in the Neue Schule/USEF Prix des States competition on Friday at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show.
Harrisburg, Pa. – Oct. 14, 2016 – The Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Championships continued on Friday with the Neue Schule/USEF Prix des States and Individual Phase II competition. For many young riders, the Prix des States competition is a junior’s first experience participating in the sport as a team member. Zone 10 previously held the record for the most Prix des States wins at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show with 12 gold medal finishes, but Zone 2 tied it up by claiming their twelfth and second consecutive gold medal on Friday.
“It’s a great feeling to pull off another win,” said longtime Zone 2 Chef d’Équipe Ralph Caristo. “This is what we strive for. My advice to them tonight was to just go in there and have fun. They have enough experience to know what they have to do and they rose to the occasion and did it. I have really good kids on this team and they’re so loyal to Zone 2. Of course we have to also thank the parents, the trainers and our zone committees who make this all happen.”
In the modified Nations Cup format class, seven regional teams competed over the Steve Stephens-designed course set in the main New Holland Arena of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex. At the end of the first round, the top six teams, based on fault totals with one drop score utilized, returned to jump the same track a second time in reverse order of their standings.
During round one Zones 2 and 4 were the only teams to produce multiple clear rounds with Zone 2 leading the way with three clear performances from Katherine Strauss, Lauren Fischer and Madison Goetzmann, dropping Eliza Month’s 24-fault score and heading into round two with 0 faults. Zone 4 finished on 4 faults after the first round with clear finishes from Brett Burlington and Cooper Dean and 4 faults from Sophie Simpson, dropping Helen Graves 21-fault score.
Sitting behind Zone 4 was Zone 5 with 12 faults, while Zone 7 followed with 13 faults, Zone 3 with 16 faults, the combined team of Zones 6, 8, 9 and 10 with 24 faults and Zone 1 with 29 faults.
Excluding Zone 1, the top six teams returned for the second round with riders hoping a second chance over a familiar course would prove to help their scores from the first round. However, as many teams continued to struggle over the technical track, it remained a battle between record-holding Zone 4 and the returning 2015 champions of Zone 2.
Katherine Strauss and All In
Burlington of Zone 4 produced the first double clear finish of the second round aboard Bluf. Strauss, who was part of the 2015 Zone 2 gold medal winning team along with Goetzmann and their same mounts, was up next as the first rider for Zone 2. However with only one rail separating Zones 4 and 2, she didn’t let the pressure faze her. She followed Burlington with another double clear finish with All In, keeping the scores between the two teams neck-and-neck.
“I felt like I had more confidence in the second round after knowing the course and familiarizing myself with it and seeing so many riders do it — I felt like I had really learned the nuances of the course,” said Strauss. “My trainer really emphasized the importance of paying attention to how the second round affects your horse because your horse could come back with more energy or less so that was something I was definitely aware of, but my horse jumped so well. I was so happy with him and felt so great coming here with such a great team and such a great support system behind me. It was a great night!”
Eliza Month and Calumpi
In the second rotation of riders, Graves from Zone 4 collected 31 faults with Armani, while Month of Zone 2 had an unfortunate parting from Calumpi at fence 8A, leaving no room for error for the remainder of each of the team’s riders.
“The course was quite challenging,” said Month. “The oxers were pretty wide and in such a tight space it was very crucial for you to keep your pace but also keep the connection with your horse. I think that it tested a lot of us who are used to being in the International Arena at WEF and galloping around with more of a field-type gallop. It’s hard transitioning to indoors but I think everybody here rose to the challenge and I’m so lucky to be a part of such an awesome team with such incredible horses.”
Next, Zone 4’s Cooper Dean and Wec Quidam-Quidam lowered the height of one fence for 4 faults, while Fischer and Tosca Du Feugre were able to continue the double clear streak for Zone 2. In the final rotation, Sophie Simpon and Why Not, winners of Thursday’s Individual Phase I speed round on opening night of the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Championships, finished on 8 faults, totaling Zone 4’s final score to 16 faults.
“You really had to know your horse for this course and know what was best for them,” said Fischer. “I’m really proud of my mare. I was a little nervous coming back in the second round with the pressure of keeping our double clear streak going. My game plan was just to keep her straight over every single jump. This is her first time doing anything like this and she really came out on top and gave me two really nice clear rounds.”
Madison Goetzmann and Wrigley
Still sitting on a score of zero, Zone 2 anchor rider Goetzmann and Wrigley could have had three rails down and still secured the win for Zone 2, but Goetzmann went above and beyond to give Zone 2 its third double clear finish to claim the gold medal with a total score of zero.
“I thought it was an excellent course,” said Goetzmann. “It definitely asked the riders a lot of questions. There was a tight time allowed, there were definitely a few wide oxers coming out of a short turn and you really had to understand how to ride the track and be able to ride efficiently and smooth in the small indoor ring. I definitely had so much confidence in my horse, and Ralph Caristo gave all of us riders so much confidence I didn’t feel too much pressure going in to the final round. I felt like I had a great team behind me and my horse was absolutely amazing.”
2016 Zone 2 gold medal Neue Schule/USEF Prix des States team left to right: Lauren Fischer, Katherine Strauss, Chef d’Équipe Ralph Caristo, Madison Goetzmann and Eliza Month.
Scores obtained in Thursday and Friday’s competitions are converted into points and will carry over into Saturday’s final Phase III competition, where the top 60 percent of competitors from Phases I and II will be eligible. The individual champion will be crowned as the competitor with the lowest number of combined penalties after Phases I, II and III, and the top three competitors will be awarded the gold, silver and bronze medals.
The four Zone 2 riders will take to the top of the podium to accept their gold medals in a presentation on Saturday afternoon following the conclusion of the individual junior jumper competition. They will be joined on the podium by Zone 4 in the silver medal position and Zone 5 in the bronze.
Be sure to check back with PhelpsSports.com for daily coverage of the Neue Schule/USEF National Junior Jumper Championships at the 2016 Pennsylvania National Horse Show, leading up to the Pessoa/US Hunter Seat Medal Final, presented by Randolph College, on Sunday, Oct. 16. Find more information on the Pennsylvania National Horse Show here.