The last time I was at the Garden State Horse Show, I was 17 years old and I rode my horse, Alibhai's Alibar, in a little jumper class. We were reserve champions that day, and when the next edition of the Chronicle of the Horse was published, I excitedly flipped to the show results and beamed when I saw our names.
17 years later, I returned to the show, this time on assignment for the TDN. I found myself back in the jumper ring, with a camera in my hands instead of reins. I photographed about 25 Thoroughbreds in the $4,000 Thoroughbred Jumper Classic. You can read my preview of the class at this link: http://thetdnblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/thoroughbreds-on-first-saturday-in-may.html.
This year, the Garden State Horse Show awarded bonuses and hosted Thoroughbred hunter and jumper classes for the first time, through the support of the New Jersey Thoroughbred Industry, New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and the TAKE2 program (an initiative of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the New York Racing Association and the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc.).
On Friday, Star Street, a handsome son of Empire Maker who raced under the name Open Space, won the Thoroughbred Hunter Classic. I wasn't able to attend the show on Friday, but this photo by Reflections Photography illustrates exactly how he won the class. His form and style are remarkable, and everyone who saw his round said he embodied the quintessential show hunter.
|©2012 Reflections Photography|
In my preview of the jumper class, I introduced you to Smithwick, aka Hennessy, aka Bob's Big Bunch. The chestnut gelding was expertly piloted by Melissa Monti, but he pulled a rail and did not make it to the jumpoff.
As I watched the jumper class, I heard and saw a few common themes. The horses were quick, game, and eager. Some were a little too eager, and I heard many riders speaking soothingly to their mounts as they careened past, "Eeeeeasy, whoa, eeeeasy..." During the jumpoff, the rounds got faster and the riders handled the courses as accurately as possible, as illustrated in this photo of Jaclyn Loprete and Mostly Mine.
I saw a range of sizes and builds in the jumper class, and these horses came from very different backgrounds. Tug's Lucky Stripe, ridden by Heather Roth, was bred in England, never raced, and was an upper-level three-day event horse and jumper before he was imported to the United States. He competed at Badminton, Rolex, and in various mini prix jumper classes.
Charlene Benson's Jersey Girl (racing name Cat's Flag) was a test mare for breeding after she retired from the track.
Some horses, like Smartenique (ridden by Abby Barrett), showed under their racing names.
Nine horses made it to the jumpoff, including Less Is More, aka Lester, aka Mommie's Luke, who was featured in my preview. Linda McBurney handled the nimble bay with surgical precision, and they finished the class in third place.
Five Star Tack.
The Thoroughbred Jumper Classic was a real treat for spectators, from the nerve-wracking first rounds, to the gritty jumpoff rides, to the proud riders taking a rousing victory gallop after the class had ended. The Thoroughbred classes across the country are growing in popularity. As a rider and a Thoroughbred owner, I was inspired by the class, and I hope to find myself back in the show ring again sometime soon, this time in the saddle and without the camera.