GLADSTONE, N.J. — May 2, 2019 — After several days of top hunter competition, jumper riders took over the USET Main Ring Thursday at the Garden State Horse Show, produced by the Junior Essex Troop. Classes began at the .70m height and worked up to the feature class, the $10,000 Ted Grant Welcome Stake, sponsored by the Spina Family, at 1.35m. With a blazing fast time of 27.486, Tranquillity Farms’ Michael Desiderio took the victory while Hunter Champey earned second, and Pablo Mejia rounded out the top three.
This year, the Garden State Horse Show is hosted for the first time at the home of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation headquarters, the iconic Hamilton Farm. Top AA’ rated hunter and jumper competition continues through Sunday, May 5.
Twenty-one combinations contested the track designed by Joseph Carnicom and 11 of those entries advanced to the jump-off phase. Competitors consisted of both junior/amateur and professional riders with several athletes bringing multiple horses to the table. Desiderio was 6th to return in the jump-off and, with some seemingly impossible turns, shaved over two seconds off Hunter Champey and Backstory’s jump off time of 29.949 to complete the course in less than 28.00 seconds.
“The course tonight was great, but I knew I would have to really go for it if I wanted to win because I’m not normally quick,” he explained. “From jump 1 to jump 2, I noticed most people did nine strides, and I knew I could definitely make it tighter there so we ended up doing only seven strides.”
“We bought this horse four or five years ago in Europe and up until now she has done several grand prixs but mostly at the national level,” Desiderio said of Aminka, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare. “We try not to show her too much and save her for the classes we really feel are important.”
Desiderio and the entire Tranquillity Farms team are frequent attendees of the Garden State Horse Show and are thrilled about the Hamilton Farm venue. He and Aminka will return to the USET Main Ring on Saturday for the $25,000 EquiJet Grand Prix.
Young junior rider Hunter Champey was the closest on Desiderio’s heels and cleared the timers in 28.241 seconds with MDHT Equestrian, LLC’s 11-year-old Warmblood mare, Caprice. Champey also held at the 4th place position with her first returning mount, Backstory.
“Placing second in this class feels amazing because this is my first welcome stake,” Champey stated. “Caprice is incredibly talented, and fast, and I really feel like I can trust her with my whole heart; she’s a very special mare.”
Earlier in the day, Champey also produced a one-two punch in the $1,000 Low Junior/Amateur Jumper class with Caprice and Backstory. She piloted three mounts total in the class and competed against sisters Morgan and Dakota amongst the 12 entries. She and Caprice bested her previous top time with Backstory, to take home the blue and the red ribbons. Champey’s sister Morgan took the third-place honors after piloting Fabel to a quick finish.
“I ended up skipping a dance at my school to be here and compete in these two classes this evening, but, for me, it is so exciting and so worth it,” she affirmed.
As the final pair on course in the $10,000 Ted Grant Welcome Stake, Pablo Mejia and Isaura took over the third-place position on a time of 29.759 seconds.
Friday’s schedule will kick off with the continuation of several jumper classes in the morning hours, followed by a variety of junior equitation classes in the afternoon. For a full schedule or results, please visit www.horseshowing.com.
The Ted Grant Welcome Stake is named for Edward P. “Ted” Grant, a professional rider and trainer.
Grant learned to ride as a youth with the Junior Essex Troop and became a squadron leader in the 1960s. He served in Vietnam and was in the U.S. Army and served in the First Airborne Infantry Division in Vietnam from 1967-69. Grant returned to his roots at the Junior Essex Troop to serve as horsemanship director in the 1970s.
After returning from Vietnam, Mr. Grant began his career with horses. He spent several years working with the legendary coach of the U.S. Equestrian Team’s show jumping squad, Bertalan de Nemethy. He was nominated for the 2006 U.S. Equestrian Federation Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his 40-year career teaching and training hunters and jumpers.
Grant passed away in 2007 at the age of 57.
The Spina Family are the sponsors of the Ted Grant Welcome Stake. Allan Spina was a Junior Essex Troop squadron commander from 1978-79, his younger brother, Steve held the position in 1977-78 and Kenny Spina held the post from 1979-80. Ted Grant led the brothers and other Junior Essex Troop members on the competition horse show team.
“I leased a horse called City Limits,” said Allan Spina. “Ted took us to all the shows. He did it because he loved doing it. He loved the kids. He and Jack Fritz where the two people that were instrumental in getting me into the screening trials here at Hamilton Farm in 1977. I love the guy.”