Conor Swail and Simba De La Roque. Photos by Josh Walker for The Chronicle of the Horse.
Nicole Bellissimo Conquers U.S. Open $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix
New York, NY – U.S. Open Show Jumping commenced at the second-annual Rolex Central Park Horse Show in Manhattan’s Wollman Rink on Thursday evening with a $40,000 FEI Speed Class, presented by Canadian Pacific Railway, and the $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix. Ireland’s Conor Swail, who also took top individual honors in the 2014 $50,000 “NYC vs. The World” Team Speed Challenge in Central Park, jumped to victory again in the FEI Speed, this time aboard Simba De La Roque. Also earning U.S. Open accolades, Nicole Bellissimo took top honors in the $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix in the irons of Harley David to kick off day two of the Rolex Central Park Horse Show, which continues through Sunday, September 27.
International designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil set the track for the $40,000 FEI Speed Class, presented by Canadian Pacific Railway, which served as an opening round to the U.S. Open $212,000 FEI 3* Grand Prix, presented by Rolex. Twenty-seven competed in the speed test with faults converting to points and carrying over to the U.S. Open Grand Prix on Friday, Sept. 25.
Swail and Simba De la Roque entered the ring, backed by the New York City skyline, from 14th in the original order, and the nine-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Kannan x Allegreto) left all the rails intact in Jorge’s 13-effort course. He stopped the clock clear and fast in 57.36 seconds for owners Susan & Ariel Grange.
Swail’s time bumped fellow Rolex Central Park Horse Show veteran Todd Minikus (USA) from the lead into second. Minikus and Quality Girl, owned by Quality Group, finished as the runner up in 58.10 seconds. Daniel Bluman and Conconcreto Believe capped the top three in 59.33 seconds for owners Blue Star Investments and Colombian colors.
Hardin Towell (USA) and the aptly-named New York, owned by Jennifer Gates, LLC, took fourth in 61.57 seconds, while Kent Farrington and RCG Farm’s Uceko rounded out the top five finishers on 62.17 seconds.
Coming off a win in the $125,000 New Albany Classic last week, Swail and Simba De La Roque have enjoyed a string of recent successes, topped by Thursday’s U.S. Open win.
“It’s great to be here again. The horse was great and the venue is just amazing,” said Swail. “The course builder wanted us to ride it a certain way and I don’t think there was any other way to do it. We all did similar numbers all the way around.”
Swail gave credit to Simba De La Roque for being careful and accurate in striking surroundings, but acknowledged that his challengers were sitting on horses with similar talents. “The 1-2-3 horses are all very careful and very shifty with quickness off the ground. You need to be on something that can be that way in this atmosphere. Now and again you try and make the horse fit the venue and I think it’s working so far,” he added.
Bluman agreed, saying, “It’s about picking a horse that can jump like it’s an indoor competition. You also have to have a horse that can walk into a very impressive venue right off the bat, feel comfortable with the crowd and rise up to the occasion.”
Bluman and Conconcreto Believe jumped near the end of the order, leaving Minikus’ time with Quality Girl from the 9th place in the order intact.
“My plan was not to go as quick as I did, and when I came in the ring, Quality Girl seemed like she woke up a little bit. I overrode the first jump, but then she felt on her game and we just tried to stay on the same page the whole way around,” said Minikus.
All three top riders agreed that the class was the perfect preparation for Friday’s signature event. The U.S. Open $212,000 FEI 3* Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, takes center stage in Wollman Rink on Friday at 8 p.m., when riders will not only aim to take home the blue ribbon, but an exciting bonus as well. While cashing in on their share of the $212,000 purse, the winning rider will be presented with an additional $25,000 for the U.S. Open honor.
After Thursday’s win, Swail set his sights on preparing for Friday, but was quick to acknowledge his gratitude for being invited to the Rolex Central Park Horse Show, and to Canadian Pacific Railway for their dedication to promoting horse sport.
Canadian Pacific’s President and Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel joined riders at the closing press conference and expressed his satisfaction with being part of the second-annual Rolex Central Park Horse Show. “I was here last year and this exceeded expectations again – it’s phenomenal,” he said. “I sat here sending pictures to my wife and my daughter – it’s just an incredibly special place for a competition and was first class. We’re so happy to be a part of it.”
This year serves as the unveiling of the U.S. Open at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show, a concept that Mark Bellissimo, International Equestrian Group (IEG) CEO, is confident will expand. “We’re already seeing the riders bringing their better horses this year and I think it will just continue in the right direction,” he said. “Over time, we want this to be one of the greatest stops in show jumping. Bringing something to the market like this is very different and I think there’s an amazing opportunity for the sport here.”
U.S. Open $25,000 U25 Grand Prix
Earlier in the evening, 21-year-old Nicole Bellissimo and Harley David made her father, Mark and The Bellissimo Family proud with a win in the U.S. Open $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix. She piloted her eight-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (HarleyVDL x Libby) to the only double-clear effort of the class, finishing in 38.07 seconds after a four-horse jump-off.
Abigail McArdle and Harriri V.D. Maltahoeve posted the first clear round from the first position in the original order for owners Plain Bay Sales. She was later joined by Kelli Cruciotti aboard Serenity Equestrian Ventures’ Chamonix H, Hayley Barnhill with The ISB Group, LLC’s Beezie, and finally Bellissimo.
Returning first in the jump-off, McArdle had two rails to finish fourth. Next, Cruciotti and Barnhill both pulled one rail apiece before Bellissimo returned with an open door.
“I was obviously in the advantageous position of going last,” said Bellissimo. “At the same time, I wanted to make sure that if I had a rail I wasn’t too slow and I tried to ride that plan.”
Bellissimo broke the beam clear in 38.07 seconds for the win, while 18-year-old Cruciotti claimed second on four faults in 37.31 seconds, and 22-year-old Barnhill third with four faults in 37.34 seconds.
“I’m so thrilled to be here, and I want to thank The Chronicle of the Horse and Rolex for putting on this fantastic event. To think that we’re competing in the middle of New York City with that skyline behind us is an incredible experience,” added Bellissimo. “I’m so happy with my horse. He’s only eight, so he really had to step up this year and he absolutely did tonight.”
The Under 25 Grand Prix Series is designed to give young riders a valuable stepping-stone from the junior and amateur ranks to the grand prix level and was spearheaded by Equestrian Sport Productions (ESP) and Artisan Farms at the Winter Equestrian Festival in 2010.
“I’m very proud of all three riders, but especially proud of the winner,” said Mark Bellissimo, CEO of both ESP and IEG. “As a father thinking of the strategy, you know there were no clear rounds so I thought she would go slow, but she took some turns that I wouldn’t have taken. That’s why I’m sitting in the stands and she’s not.”
Bellissimo continued, “It was the perfect kick-off to a great event and I’m excited to see the Under 25 division emerge.”
The Rolex Central Park Horse Show continues through Sunday, September 27, with more multi-discipline equestrian sport. In addition to Arabians, the schedule includes the inaugural U.S. Open in the following categories: Jumpers, Dressage, Hunters, and U25 Jumpers. All classes will be streamed live at www.centralparkhorseshow.com.
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 http://centralparkhorseshow.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CPhorseshow, and follow @cphorseshow on Twitter and Instagram.
Nicholas & Lence Communications
Equestrian Media Contact:
Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.