Dominic Gibbs and Cent 15.
Lexington, Ky. – Nov. 1, 2020 – Capping off the 137th anniversary of the historic Heritage competition, the ASPCA Maclay National Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm, highlighted the efforts of hopeful equitation riders from around the country Sunday at the National Horse Show. The last major equitation final for the year, the prestigious class featured record numbers, with 255 horse-and-rider partnerships taking their turns around the technical course designed by Bobby Murphy set within the Alltech Arena. As one of the United States’ most storied competitions thanks to its rich history, the National Horse Show has been the longtime host of the Maclay National Championship, which since 1933 has crowned a junior rider as the champion, a distinction regarded as one of the highest in the equitation discipline, especially considering how many advance to successful professional careers. In the irons aboard Mountain King Ranch LLC’s Cent 15, Dominic Gibbs reigned supreme to earn the tricolor honors as the most consistent junior rider throughout four arduous rounds of competition that tested exhibitors’ precision and efficiency to add a fourth top finish to his repertoire of growing equitation accolades.
Beginning early in the morning and throughout the first portion of the afternoon, exhibitors performed one-by-one over Murphy’s smartly-designed pattern, which was composed of 15 obstacles reminiscent of those riders would have seen in decades past. The hunt-inspired fences appeared in forms such as gaits, hedges, stacked logs and rolltops, plus a one-stride combination created out of racetrack fencing that proved to be one of the bogey tests of the day and plenty of wingless jumps. Murphy’s track was an apt test for the distinguished class as it called attention to the performances of those riders who mastered the course, separating that elite group from the pack as they successfully completed forward and tight lines, a precarious vertical and an obstacle jumped both directions, among other questions.
Faced with the tough job of ranking the multitude of riders seen throughout the day, judges Mark Jungherr and Emil Spadone ultimately settled on a final standby list of 24 juniors ahead of the second phase of the competition, the flat round. Thanks to her exemplary performance over fences that demonstrated correct, precise riding, Gigi Moynihan sat superior to her peers as the frontrunner following the challenging first fences round, leading ever since she tackled the pattern as the 36th in the start list. Behind Moynihan, the remainder of the top of the callback list included Dominic Gibbs, Taylor Griffiths-Madden, Mimi Gochman, Alexia Rule, Sophee Steckbeck, Ellie Ferrigno, Skylar Wireman, Chase Finizio, Hannah Dodd, Hannah Hoch, and Zayna Rizvi. Headed into the hack, those top 12 high-scoring riders were sectioned off to compete against each other under saddle, while the latter half of the standby list rode in another segment.
Excited to have made the top of the standings but with more tests to master, both sets of riders took to the Alltech Arena to compete in the flat phase of competition, during which they were challenged to show off their balance and strength via a series of directions from the judges that included all three gaits; working, extended, and collected sitting trot; simple change of lead to the counter-canter in front of the judges and walking to the line on a long rein. The leaderboard did not remain unchanged, as Gibbs leapfrogged up to the first spot, followed by Gochman, Griffiths-Madden, Steckbeck, Moynihan, and Ferrigno, in that order. Kierstin Antoniadis and Natalie Jayne moved their way up the list the most, advancing to 10th and 11th, respectively, after previously holding the 13th and 16th spots.
Returning in reverse order of the judges’ preference, the top 25 contenders each displayed their skills over Murphy’s second course, which asked for a long approach to fence one at a hand gallop, two counter-canter fences, a triple combination, and a forward 6-stride bending line. Not cutting any breaks for the qualified horse-and-rider challengers, the second jumping portion of the event served to further trim down Jungherr and Spadone’s ticket of premier performers. Wanting one last look at four entries, the judges requested that Steckbeck, Moynihan, Griffiths-Madden, and Gibbs, in that order, complete a final work-off. The test consisted of cantering fences 4 and 5, trotting fence 6, cantering the original fence 8C and 9, trotting fence 10, and hand galloping fence 12 before leaving the ring.
All four final contestants turned in valiant showings over the work-off track, leaving the judges the final job of separating the top contenders. The top ten returned to the ring for the awards presentation and as the reserve champion was announced as Griffiths-Madden, who just weeks previously won the 2020 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, it became clear that Gibbs had clinched the coveted title following four rounds of textbook riding. The champion rider piloted Cent 15, an 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding he worked with Beacon Hill trainer Stacia Klein-Madden, a former Maclay National Championship winner herself, to transition from a jumper to a successful equitation horse.
Based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, the 17-year-old Gibbs has had an astounding year with top-five finishes in all four equitation finals, now culminating in his victory in the 2020 ASPCA Maclay National Championship, presented by Chansonette Farm. Gibbs kicked off his equitation reign with fourth place in the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, followed by fifth position overall in the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Finals – East just one week later and another fourth-place result in the WIHS Equitation Finals. With his victory Sunday in Kentucky, Gibbs has added his name to an esteemed list of Maclay National Championship victors that include sport legends such as Bill Steinkraus, Frank Chapot, and Bernie Traurig, as well as new age stars like Jessica Springsteen, Lillie Keenan, and Victoria Colvin.
Though she hoped for the blue ribbon, Griffiths-Madden put in a superb performance that captured the runner-up honors following her efforts on her own Mac One III, and Moynihan was awarded the final podium spot with Christy Johnson’s Quantico. Stechbecl rounded out the top four riding Itteville, owned by Donald Stewart.
Sunday’s competition concluded the 137th National Horse Show, which featured nine days of equestrian action in the equitation, hunter, and jumper disciplines in 2020.
To learn more about the 2020 National Horse Show, click here.