GLADSTONE, N.J. — Aug. 16, 2019 — The jumper divisions kicked off in the main arena Friday for another day of competition at Monmouth at the Team. The highlight of the day was the $5,000 Welcome Stake, sponsored by Equine Billing Services, that attracted 41 horse-and-rider combinations. Located at historic Hamilton Farm, former home of the United States Equestrian Team (USET) and current headquarters of the USET Foundation, the show features seven full days of hunter/ jumper competition.
Before the start of the Welcome Stake, spectators enjoyed "The Joy of Dressage," a beautiful showcase presented by international dressage competitor and coach Catherine Haddad Staller. Haddad Staller represented the U. S. at two FEI World Cup™ Finals and two FEI World Equestrian Games. She has had over 150 placings and wins in international competition in North America and Europe. With her husband, Dr. Greg Staller, founder of Running ‘S’ Equine Veterinary Services, she breeds and trains international dressage talent at Khimoni, their facility in Califon, New Jersey. The demonstration included her top students, Michelle Brady, 27 from La Grande, Oregon, Hope Beerling, 20 from Queensland, Australia and featured U.S.Para Dressage Equestrian Kate Jackson, who represented the U.S. at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina.
Michelle Brady demonstrating a pirouette, Catherine Haddad Staller. Photos by EQ Media. Katie Jackson. Photo by Anne Gittins Photography
Of the impressive 41 horse-and-rider starting field, course designer Skip Bailey’s first track narrowed those returning for the jump-off to an even number of 12. All three Champey sisters, as well as familiar names such as Pablo Mejia and Alexandra Desiderio, were among the ones to speed through to the second course.
Time was an issue for several contesters of the first track. During the first round, 10 combinations narrowly missed the advancing to the second round due to a fault score of four or less, while another 15 dropped more than a single rail or had additional time faults. New Jersey resident Morgan Ward had the fastest first-round time at a blazing 74.675, followed by Lauren Henry and VDI Ferrari, and Hunter Champey with Backstory.
Champey and MDHT Equestrian’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Ustinov x Urijke) led the jump-off field and immediately set the time to beat on a blazing-fast and clean round timed at 36.412 seconds. Several more attempts were made against Champey’s time including her two sisters, Dakota and Morgan, but it wasn’t until young professional Ward re-entered the ring that the junior lost the lead. Ward gave it her best shot with Jenni Hebel’s eight-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Cappucino x Sussi) and managed to knock almost a full second off of Champey’s best by crossing the timers in 35.788 seconds.
“We just started working with this horse at the end of June so we haven’t tested him out much other than some 1.30m classes in Vermont,” Ward explained. “He is really great though because he will help me with anything I ask him to do and he’s quick to the jump off but still careful.”
“I thought I could have been faster from fence one to fence two,” she continued, “and with this horse I probably could’ve left a stride out to the last fence, but I didn’t want to risk having a rail down and he will also be returning to compete in Sunday’s grand prix.”
Unfortunately for Ward, she left just enough space for Newsprint Farms’ Questionnaire and Pablo Mejia to scoop the lead. Mejia, an experienced professional hailing from Loxahatchee, Florida, left no holds barred and piloted the 15-year-old Selle Francais gelding(Hermes Do Merier x Jeu D’Esprit) over the finish line in 35.313 seconds.
“This horse is really at his best when I can get a good pace going,” he said. “However, he is also extremely good at turning very quick after a fence, but it takes him a bit of time to get accelerated again, so that is always risky.”
Mejia continued, “I think we were a little slow to get moving in the beginning so some of the lines we really had to work to get down in stride, but he is a great horse and he tried his heart out.”
Mejia won the second-place prize in the same class two years ago and makes it a point to support the show whenever he can.
“Michael [Dowling] and Tucker [Ericson] put on such a great event and you can really tell how much effort they put into this show," he said. "It’s all the little details that make a difference and I would say it’s one of the nicest shows in the area.”
In addition to his victory, Mejia also received Stal De Eyeckenhoeve’s Trip of the Day award, and was presented with an embroidered vest and a Voltaire Design belly-girth for his win.
While finishing third, the day was still special for Champey as she celebrated a year of incredible partnership with Backstory. The two were paired exactly a year ago on this day at the 2018 Monmouth at the Team horse show.
“It’s really heartwarming and rewarding for me to have this success with him today,” she said. “When I first got him, I was competing only in the 1.15m height and now we are regularly in the 1.30m and 1.35m classes. He’s given me the support and confidence I needed to successfully move up to the bigger divisions.”
Final Results of the $5,000 1.25m Welcome Stake, sponsored by Equine Billing Services:
Horse / Rider / Owner / JO Time | Faults
1. Questionnaire / Pablo Mejia / News Print Farm / 35.313 | 0
2. Levin / Morgan Ward / Jenni Hebel / 35.788 | 0
3. Backstory / Hunter Champey / MDHT Equestrian, LLC / 36.412 | 0
4. Attention Et Z / Callie Smith / Callie Smith / 38.015 | 0
5. Froukjecara / Alexandria Desiderio / Tranquillity Farm / 41.645 | 0
6. Famous-O / Audrey Schulze / Audrey Schulze / 41.658 | 0
7. Catch The Dark Z / Garrett Warner / Shadow Creek NY LLC / 42.117 | 0
8. Unsomnie De La Roque / Dakota Champey / MDHT Equestrian, LLC / 36.036 | 4
9. Flash G / Morgan Champey / MDHT Equestrian, LLC / 39.828 | 4
10. Latour 59 / Margaret De Filippo / Margaret De Filippo / 36.912 | 8
11. VDI Ferrari / Lauren Henry / Lauren Henry / 59.879 | 16
12. Fabel / Morgan Champey / MDHT Equestrian, LLC / 59.597 | 19
Monmouth at the Team thanks the day's sponsors, including Tranquillty Farm and the Desiderio family for providing breakfast. The Sameth Family for sponsoring the Outreach divisions. B.W. Furlong and Associates provided afternoon cupcakes and cookies. American Regent sponsored the High Child/Adult Jumpers. The Welcome Stake cocktail party was presented by Amy Miller, Weichert Realtors.
Monmouth at the Team resumes Saturday with more jumper action, including the featured class, the $6,000 Child /Adult Jumper Classic, sponsored by Maybe Forever Stable and True & Associates.
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