Traverse City, Michigan – July 18, 2021 – Competition in Week II of the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF), presented by CaptiveOne Advisors, came to a head on Sunday, July 18, with the Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) $230,000 Grand Prix CSI 5* taking place in the Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel International Ring. Thirty-five top show jumping competitors gathered once again to vie for the most prestigious individual honors of the MLSJ Tour’s inaugural week. At the conclusion of the class, it was Alex Granato (USA) and Bright Lights Group’s Carlchen W who claimed their second CSI5* win of the week, and their first CSI5* grand prix win together.
The technical first round course designed by Marina Azevedo (BRA) proved challenging for many competitors, with just four going clear and advancing for the jump-off round. Riders were required to navigate tricky turns and tight distances around the 16-effort track. Kyle King (USA) and Coffee To Go, a 12-year-old Westphalian gelding, were the only clear pair until Natalie Dean (USA) and Chance Ste Hermelle, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare, stepped in the arena as seventeenth in the first round order. Granato (USA) and Carlchen W, winners of Friday’s MLSJ $72,900 Honor Hill Farm 1.50m CSI5*, were next to add their names to the jump-off list with an expertly ridden clear round.
Kristen Vanderveen (USA) and Bull Run’s Risen, a 15-year-old KWPN gelding, were the final combination to earn a ticket to the tiebreaker for their clear effort.
Eager to set the pace early on, King and Coffee To Go crossed the timers in 40.81 seconds, but rolled an unfortunate rail early on in the course to end on 4 faults, leaving the door open for the remaining three athletes. Dean (USA) and Chance Ste Hermelle were next to try out the shortened track, but difficulties on course would result in an 8 fault finish in 43.14 seconds. Hot on the heels of their win earlier in the week, Granato (USA) and the notoriously quick Carlchen W, a 13-year-old Warmblood gelding, sliced and diced their way through the spacious arena, crossing the timers in 36.87 seconds and clearing each fence with ease to make themselves the undeniable leaders with just one left to challenge their time.
Try as they might, however, Vanderveen (USA) and Bull Run’s Risen were unable to best Granato’s speedy time, tripping the timers at 39.35 seconds with 4 faults to their name and ledning Granato (USA) and Carlchen W their second CSI5* win of the week and first CSI5* grand prix win in the history of their partnership. With Granato’s Sunday win, he jumped up to sixth place with 20 points on the 2021 CaptiveOne Advisors Open Jumper Rider Bonus leaderboard.
From the Winner’s Circle
Alex Granato (USA) – $230,000 Major League Show Jumping Grand Prix CSI5* Winner
On winning two CSI5* classes in a row:
“I feel great! My horse feels incredible this week. This was our first big venue of the summer, so it feels amazing to have him going this well and feeling this good. This is the most consistent he has felt all summer and our first CSI5* grand prix win, so that feels even better! I am just excited for how things are going.”
On the pressure in the jump-off:
“Kristen [Vanderveen], I know she is on a big, slow looking horse, but Kristen is always deceivingly fast and I obviously never count her out. My horse is quick so I just really wanted to stay on pace in the beginning. Everybody else did seven [strides] up the first line, which was my plan, but when he jumped so huge over the triple-bar I thought it would be better to stick with eight [strides] and get back on my canter from there. I also planned to do one less [stride] to the double, but he jumped so well. At the vertical, I was worried about running in too hot too the double, so I regrouped and did an extra stride there as well. Talking with Kristen after, she actually had the same thought as well going down the double and she ended up getting there too deep, which is why she thought she had the rail considering she went in with the same plan I did. I was lucky and it worked out that my horse was adjustable and was working with me today.”
On his week:
“[Carlchen W] is always there for me. I really feel like any time we are not in the jump-off, it is probably because of something I did to him. He is amazing, he feels great. When he is going in top form like this then there is no other feeling like it that I have had, so I just want to keep doing right with him. We are planning to go next week with him, but we are going to regroup now that we won’t have to qualify for the grand prix. We will probably do the low 1.40m class at the beginning of the week to level out and be smooth, then do the grand prix with him next week, and then he has a good rest for a few weeks before we come back in September.”
On what is next for Carlchen W:
“I want to just stay consistent and keep him at this level for a long time, as long as he is feeling good. My next year, year and half, I would really like to focus him back towards CSI5* Nations Cups and team appearances, and obviously ideally a championship or two will still be in his future.”
On the jump-off:
“I went in with two plans in mind for the first three jumps. With it starting with a triple-bar and taking out A of the line, my initial plan was to do seven [strides], but he jumped so big and high over the triple-bar that I was worried about running down too hard. I thought I could still get the seven but that it would really throw off my track for the next jump, so I stuck with the eight even though it was a little slow feeling. Then I got right back on my canter, so I did eight and eight [strides]. He rolled back beautiful to the vertical, I think we did seven on the rollback, then he jumped it a bit slow so I did an extra stride than I had in my plan to the double, which worked out great. He jumped that great and then I tried to get on a big canter. I went a little wider than I probably normally would anticipate, but they didn’t really narrow up the oxer, so I went a little wide with a big gallop. Then he rode great in the eight home.”
On how Carlchen W feels:
“This is the best he has felt since the Pan American Games. With COVID and everything that went on, it threw a lot of wrenches in our plans, so this year I refocused on having him at his peak as the season goes. He did very little during [the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF)] and I really just focused on his fitness and maintenance. He jumped the last CSI5* there really well. This was our first CSI5* appearance since the [$500,000 Rolex CSI5* Grand Prix] at WEF and obviously he feels great. I think he is jumping even stronger and better than he did all of the 2020 season. I really just went back to the drawing board with him. With him being thirteen, and even though I know him so well I think his home routine caught me a little off guard as he is aging, so I really refocused back in on his flat work and just small rail and grid work to work on his straightness and fitness, and that is where I think it really paid off today. It was a technical enough course with a lot of scope questions and rideability questions, and he jumped beautifully, straight and strong and was there for me when I needed it.”
Final Results – Major League Show Jumping $230,000 Grand Prix CSI 5*
1) Alex Granato (USA) & Carlchen W – 0 / 0 – 36.87
2) Kristen Vanderveen (USA) & Bull Run’s Risen – 0 / 4 – 39.35
3) Kyle King (USA) & Coffee To Go – 0 / 4 – 40.81
4) Natalie Dean (USA) & Chance Ste Hermelle – 0 / 8 – 43.14
5) Erynn Ballard (CAN) & Gakhir – 1 / 77.34
6) Georgina Bloomberg (USA) & Tulara Colmine – 1 / 77.49
7) Nicolette Hirt (USA) & Chatou 7 – 1 / 78.37
8) Kaitlin Campbell (USA) & Dandy – 3 / 85.16
9) Alison Robitaille (USA) & Lima 47 – 4 / 73.32
10) Schuyler Riley (USA) & Robin De Ponthual – 4 / 73.92
11) Margie Engle (USA) & Royce – 4 / 73.92
12) Gavin Harley (IRL) & Very Chic Du Tillard – 4 / 74.44
Source: Press Release from Traverse City Horse Shows
Photos: © Andrew Ryback Photography