Another Sunday, another equestrian event, this time the $200,000 American Gold Cup and Longines World Cup Qualifier CSI4* - W, presented at Old Salem Farm in North Salem Sept 14 by the farm and Stadium Jumping Inc.
The event, which capped five days of competition, saw Jessica Springsteen of her family’s Stone Hill Farm, lead an American sweep. Aboard her equally superb mount, Vindicat W, Springsteen was flawless riding early in the draw and combined precision with speed in the jump-off to determine the winner among the immaculate riders. Laura Kraut out of Stars & Stripes road aggressively to give her a run for her money aboard Andretti S. (Aren’t these horses well-named?) Katherine Dinan, riding Nougat du Vallet for Grant Road Partners LLC, captured the bronze.
Springsteen – yes, she’s the daughter of Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa – has been trained by one of the best, Old Salem head trainer Frank Madden. Forget E.F. Hutton. When Frank talks, people listen. Or at least they should, because he always knows what he’s talking about, particularly when it comes to horseflesh. Springsteen’s parents, along with “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, were there to cheer her on – the Boss as low-key and unassuming as he is offstage; Scialfa giving credence to the notion of the vibrant redhead. But if Jess, as she is known, keeps this up – and there’s no reason not to see a great Olympic career for her, she’s that good – we’re going to have to start calling her “the Boss,” at least in the ring.
Show jumping has some similarities to such polo events as the Royal Salute Cup at the Greenwich Polo Club, which I covered last week in this blog – the crisp blue and white of the riding outfits, the white tents that peak like whipped cream among the gabled buildings, the familial crowds with children and dogs in tow.
But jumping offers a refined yin to polo’s thundering yang. Not only do you have to negotiate a series of fences of varying heights; you have to do so in a fluid manner while maintaining form – yours and your steed’s. Often it’s not the height of the fence but it’s placement close to another on the tricky course that is the challenge. On Sunday, many riders and horses knocked down part of fence number 12, which was set next to another. In navigating fences, timing is everything.
There’s another difference between jumping and polo. The latter is just beginning to gain female participants while roughly two-thirds of the 34 international entrants in Sunday’s event were women, who swept the podium. Indeed, it’s one of the few sports in which women and men can go head-to-head, because it’s 80 percent horse, and, as Frank has told me, the horse doesn’t really care if you’re male or female. This will add a spicy twist to the theme of rivalry in “Criterion,” the third planned novel in my series, “The Games Men Play,” about a racehorse trying to win the Triple Crown.
Criterion comes out of vaunted Lyndwood Farm in New York, which breeds, trains and/or stables Thoroughbreds for racing, Warmbloods for a variety of equestrian events and former racehorses for polo. At first I thought, how unrealistic – a farm that can do all this. But in the Gold Cup program, there’s an article about Centennial Farms – home to racehorse Wicked Strong and the horses shown by the late amateur jumper rider Don Little.
As Hannibal Smith would say on one of my all-time favorite TV series, “The A-Team”: “I love it when a plan comes together.”
The $200,000 American Gold Cup and Longines World Cup Qualifier will be presented on NBCSN Sunday, Sept. 21 4-5:30 p.m.