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Isabell Werth Dominates US Open $75,000 Dressage Freestyle

By on September 27, 2015

Isabell Werth and El Santo NRW. Photos by Josh Walker for The Chronicle of the Horse.

Jennifer Alfano, Giavanna Rinaldi and Sophie Gochman win in U.S. Open Hunter Debut

New York, NY – The final day of competition at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show celebrated international dressage on Saturday in the U.S. Open $75,000 Dressage Freestyle, presented by Axel Johnson Group. Germany’s Isabell Werth and El Santo NRW gave the crowd a commanding performance with a final score of 80.333% and her second win after taking top honors at the event in 2014. Also on Saturday, the U.S. Open Hunters made their debut in Central Park with wins for Jennifer Alfano, Giavanna Rinaldi and Sophie Gochman in their respective classes. The Rolex Central Park Horse Show wraps on Sunday, Sept. 27, with admission-free demonstrations and activities from 10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., and a ticketed Dressage Master’s Class with Charlotte Dujardin at 1:30 p.m.

Seven riders representing five countries participated in the U.S. Open Dressage competition in Central Park with the top four riders all hailing from different corners of the world. Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén and Paridon Magi scored a 76.587% to take home the red ribbon for Lövsta Stuteri South. Catherine Haddad Staller was the top-placing rider for the U.S. in third on a score of 76.587% aboard Rowan O’Riley’s Mane Stream Hotmail. Fourth was presented to Karen Pavicic (CAN) and her own Don Daiquiri after a score of 72.125%. Charlotte Jorst (USA) capped the top five in the irons of Kastel’s Nintendo for Kastel Denmark with a score of 71.792%.

After Werth and her 14-year-old German-bred gelding (Ehrentusch x Rythme) boasted the top score from Friday’s U.S. Open Dressage Grand Prix exhibition competition, they returned to Wollman Rink with even more focus and drive on Saturday.

“Ernie [El Santo NRW] did a really great job today and improved from yesterday. We could take risks and I’m really satisfied,” said Werth. “I’m really happy that we could come back here and do it twice. It is an outstanding and special atmosphere and beautiful venue. The skyline is brilliant – never have I seen a skyline like this for a competition.”

While winning was the highlight of her week, Werth’s experience in New York City was made all the richer with the presence of Pope Francis as he passed through Central Park on his recent visit to the U.S. “I was standing on the roof of the steward trailer and caught the eye of the Pope,” she said. “It made this show a double highlights in my life. It was really amazing and a feeling I will never forget.”

An impressive crowd turned out to watch the cast of dressage riders that traveled to New York this week. For Werth, their excitement made her job that much more rewarding.

“When I start my music, I feel like the spectators are awake and coming with me,” she said. “I think the special thing about this freestyle is that you have a lot of transitions and a lot of combinations between extensions, half pass, passage and piaffe. There’s no break and no time to think. But, now after a while I feel really at home in this freestyle and together with this music.”

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén and Paridon Magi

Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén and Paridon Magi

Second-place rider Vilhelmson-Silfvén was onsite in Central Park all week to experience the event and admits it was something she will never forget. “I think to ride in here tonight is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done,” she said. “This whole week has almost been unreal.”

Vilhelmson-Silfvén had never competed Paridon Magi before Saturday evening and was proud of his performance. “I’ve known him for a long time, but it was my first time competing him and the first time riding this freestyle. Walking from the warm-up area, he was like ‘let’s do this’.”

The U.S. was well-represented by Catherine Haddad Staller, who described her experience at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show as “magical.”

“I have to say it makes me very, very proud of my country because we are moving into the big time when it comes to horse sports,” she said. “New York City proves that for us. You need a promoter, you need a sponsor, you need a venue like this, and then the riders will come and it makes me very proud.”

Number-one dressage rider in the world Charlotte Dujardin participated in the U.S. Open Dressage with a demonstration performance aboard Evi Strasser’s Renaissance Tyme. They performed Dujardin’s wildly popular freestyle based on Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon and will present a Master’s Class on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

“For me, this week has been completely different because I’ve had no pressure,” said Charlotte. “It’s been complete fun to be here in New York. I’ve done some sightseeing and it is brilliant to be here and to see the show, the backdrop and how everything is set up. It was like learning new buttons with Evi’s horse. I rode him once yesterday before today. For tomorrow, hopefully I can go through the basics of how I train and bit more of what I do. I’ll have another day on my riding and feeling of this horse. It will be good fun.”

Antonia Johnson is fourth generation Chairman and Owner of Axel Johnson Group, as well as the Founder and Owner of top equestrian breeding and training farm, Lövsta Stud Farm. She was in the stands watching as not only her rider – Vilhelmson-Silfvén – but also her vision for dressage in America experienced success.

“Years and years ago I was born on Park Avenue. I grew up in NYC and this is really my home. I moved to Sweden when I was around 10 years old, but I have an unbelievable passion for Central Park,” said Johnson. “When Mark called me and asked if I was willing to support dressage I just felt we could do it together. This is just the start of something that will be really exciting over the years.”

Bellissimo stated that a show like the Rolex Central Park Horse Show takes a great deal of energy and vision, a combination he says Axel Johnson Group has plenty of. “Antonia’s confidence in this has been spectacular and it really meant a lot that she and Axel Johnson Group stepped up to support it,” he said.

U.S. Open Hunters $50,000 Duchossois Cup, presented by The Gochman Family

Jennifer Alfano and Miss Lucy

Jennifer Alfano and Miss Lucy

Jennifer Alfano and Miss Lucy, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare, were the ones to beat in the U.S. Open Hunters $50,000 Duchossois Cup, presented by The Gochman Family. Alfano led both the first and second rounds on scores of 89 and 90 for a guaranteed victory over courses built by Bobby Murphy of Lexington, KY.

Ten riders were part of U.S. Open Hunters debut at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show with all riders competing in each of the two rounds. Scott Stewart and David Gochman’s Empire sat in first on scores of 85 and 87 before Alfano entered the ring. Stewart was bumped to second, while third went to Maggie Jayne and Alex Jayne’s All Wrapped Up with an 86 and 83.

Kelley Farmer and Mindful took fourth for owner Kensel, LLC on scores of 83 and 81, while Louise Serio and Autumn Janesky’s Temptation rounded out the top five on an 80 and 82.

“It’s so exciting to be a part of this,” said Alfano. “To be in this atmosphere with that crowd is really special. I have to say thank you to Becky [Gochman] and Mark [Bellissimo] for putting it on and inviting me – what a great day.”

For the course, Murphy implored the help of street artist Max Collins to give the U.S. Open Hunter fences some New York City flair. Brush boxes were spray painted to resemble graffiti, and Manhattan-inspired images imposed on standards and jumps. For Collins, the experience was like nothing he ever dreamed he would be a part of.

“I know nothing about horses,” he said. “It seemed like a unique experience and I got excited to be involved in something so different. It’s been interesting to see how these guys have their own artistic approach to designing the jumps.”

For Murphy, the collaboration was a long-time coming after meeting Collins three years ago. “To take a photo and paste it on a jump makes your horse look like it’s jumping anything,” he said. “We designed the back side of the jumps for the horse and the front side for the photographers. We saw the ring as a canvas and I think we created some really beautiful art.”

Despite the unfamiliar obstacles, Alfano’s confidence in Miss Lucy never wavered. “Lucy is fearless. She thrives in places like this and she walked in today and looked around like ‘Cool, all these people came to see me,'” she said. “I knew she’d be great – you can jump her in any ring over any jump. Bobby always makes a beautiful course. It was nice to ride and he got some really nice rounds.”

The U.S. Open Hunters was born from the inspiration of both Mark Bellissimo and sponsor Becky Gochman, and sprung from the success of last year’s first-annual Rolex Central Park Horse Show.

“During the first day of the show last year, I ran into Becky and she stopped me and said, ‘We have to bring hunters to New York City.’ She shows great passion, and without her support it would be hard for us to do this,” said Bellissimo. “This whole show is an opportunity to elevate equestrian sport in the world’s largest city. The level of competition that we saw was great and we sold over 800 tickets for the hunter competition.”

“This event was a long time coming because I believe hunters should have just as much play in country as jumpers and I’m very proud that this discipline was brought to light in the great city of New York,” added Gochman. “Thank you to the great riders and thank you to Mark for accepting this idea.”

$2,500 Junior/Amateur Hunter Classic, presented by Meralex

Junior and Amateur Hunter riders took their turn in Central Park’s spotlight with a one-round classic, crowning Giavanna Rinaldi the winner aboard Taken for owner Jessica Stitt. Their score of 87 was four points higher than second-place finisher Stephanie Danhakl and her own Enough Said on an 83.

“Taken has done a lot of derbies over the summer and done really well, so he was used to the big crowd, big ring, scary jumps and he handled it really well,” said 16-year-old Rinaldi. “I really wanted to show here after watching last year and was really excited I got the opportunity to come.”

Annabel Revers and MTM Hands Down rounded out the victory gallop in third for owners Beechwood Stables, LLC on a score of 80. Kelly Bauernschmidt and her own Legato were fourth with a 73, and Samantha Kasowitz capped the top placings with a 72 aboard Mon Ami for Fair Play Farm.

$1,000 Pony Hunter Freestyle

Pony Hunter competition was presented with a twist at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show. Run as a freestyle set to music, the class for small and medium ponies played a song of each rider’s choice during their round. Sophie Gochman used the opportunity to pick a song to calm the nerves of an easily-excited Bit Of Love, owned by Dr. Betsee Parker. The strategy paid off and Gochman scored an 83 in the one-round classic for the win.

“It was amazing with the towers surrounding you and such a big crowd. It was so fun and I loved it,” said Gochman. “I chose the song Royals because it’s calming and Chester [Bit Of Love] can sometimes get excited in situations like this. I was surprised at how relaxed he was. He was confident, so I felt good about it.”

Mimi Gochman was runner-up to her sister by a single point with a score of 82 aboard Love Me Tender, also owned by Parker.

“For me as an old horseman, it’s nice to come back to New York,” said Parker. “The last time I was here was the last year The National Horse Show was at Madison Square Garden. Both girls did a wonderful job today.”

Stella Propp and her own Heart To Forget scored a 77 for third, while Tessa Downey and her own Grand Jete’ took fourth with a 76. Francesca Calamari rounded out the top five on a 70 in the irons of Sophia Calamari’s Empire’s Paris.

The Rolex Central Park Horse Show concludes Sunday, September 27, with free equestrian demonstrations, Land Rover Mini-Car Driving Experience for Children and a ticketed Dressage Master’s Class with Charlotte Dujardin, presented by Chronicle of the Horse and Breyer.

About Rolex Central Park Horse Show

Launched in September 2014, Rolex Central Park Horse Show is the first-ever outdoor, multi-day equestrian sporting event in New York City, showcasing some of the best show jumpers and dressage riders in the world as they vie for top prizes against a backdrop of skyscrapers in one of the world’s most iconic venues. As the event founder, Mark Bellissimo is the CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions and International Equestrian Group LLC; Managing Partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEF), Tryon Equestrian Partners and Colorado Equestrian Partners; and Publisher of The Chronicle of The Horse magazine. In its second year, Rolex Central Park Horse Show will make its triumphant return from September 23 to 27, 2015 and will feature five days of multi-discipline equestrian sport and performances, ranging from Arabians and Dressage to Hunters and Show Jumping. The Rolex Central Park Horse Show will also host the inaugural U.S. Open in the following categories: Jumpers, Dressage, Hunters, U25 Jumpers, and Arabians. For more information, visit, on Facebook at, and follow @cphorseshow on Twitter and Instagram.

Media Contact:
Shin-Jung Hong
Nicholas & Lence Communications
Tel: 212.938.0005

Equestrian Media Contact:
Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
Lindsay Brock

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