"It was one of those shows that just doesn’t happen very often," said Liza Boyd of Finally Farm's domination during the Rolex Central Park Horse Show, held September 20-24 in New York City.
The show couldn't have started out better after Hardin Towell and his student Jennifer Gates captured two major jumper victories to start the week. Hardin topped the $40,000 U.S. Open CSX FEI Speed Class aboard Evergate Stables' Lucifer V.
Hardin and Lucifer V, a 2006 Westphalian gelding (Lord Pezi x Grandina), improved upon their third-placed finish last year and clocked a jump-off time of 53.53 seconds. Hardin was the last entry on course and ultimately overtook Daniel Bluman (ISR) aboard Bacara D’Archonfosse, a 2007 Belgian Warmblood mare (Asca Z x Queen D’Archonfosse) owned by Kim Douglas and Alexa Schwitzer, who stopped the clocks in 55.75 seconds.
"I felt the course was nice," said Hardin. "It had a twisty turning start, but it wasn’t so big and my horse has been jumping big classes all year. Tonight was a very competitive class, but I had a lot of confidence in my horse, so I took some shots and it was fantastic. I felt he was pretty quick to the second-to-last jump, and I thought my turns were nice. Last week at the American Gold Cup I only got third, but I didn’t trust my horse or myself through the first line, and in the second line I had the third jump down. I would’ve ended up third even if I’d gone clean, so today I decided to believe in my horse. I felt fast today and I knew it was quite good.”
Hardin and Lucifer also placed an impressive second to Kent Farrington riding Creedance in the U.S. Open $216,000 Grand Prix CSI3*, presented by Rolex, and Hardin earned the Leading Rider Award. He noted that Lucifer’s consistency has become one of his greatest strengths, and that trait paid dividends at Central Park.
In the U.S. Open $25,000 Hollow Creek Farm Under 25 Grand Prix, Jennifer Gates, of Seattle, Washington, jumped to a speedy double-clear performance aboard Alex for the win. Aboard the 2004 Westphalian gelding (Arpeggio x Marilu) owned by Copernicus Stables LLC, Jennifer bested the class of 13 entries with a jump-off time in 27.14 seconds.
“I thought that the first round was really well done,” said Jennifer. “I was really happy with it. I thought Alex helped me out a bit in the first round, so I was really lucky to come in with him for the jump-off and be able to go that fast. I was trying to just come out and go as fast as I could, so I’m really happy with his performance tonight.”
The pair have been together since July, and this is their fourth show together. “I was very lucky to get the ride on this horse. He’s one of the coolest ones I’ve gotten to ride," she said. "He just goes into that ring and does his job. He’s such a sweetheart in the barn; I’m hoping to grow our partnership and work on being a bit faster.”
Hunters Take the Big Apple Stage
Liza followed up on her brother's success with victory in the U.S. Open $50,000 Duchossois Cup, presented by the Gochman Family and Betsee Parker, aboard Stella Styslinger's O'Ryan.
"It was a special win, and I’m not sure why, but I got a bit emotional when they threw the cooler over O'Ryan's back," said Liza, who considered the late Bruce Duchossois a dear friend. "I think it was also being in the city with my family and the unique energy there. Showing at Central Park is really exciting if you have the right horse, and walking through Central Park to the schooling area is really amazing."
Liza described the two-round class as a fun but serious competition, and she particularly liked the format of the show. "Being able to focus on one ring and one class I feel is a little taste of what the jumper riders are used to when they attend the FEI events," she said. "We're so used to running from ring to ring, that this was special. We were able to spend time back at the barn talking and hanging out. The Tosh family even had time to take Elle to the Central Park Zoo, so that was quite fun for her."
Liza enjoyed course designer Bobby Murphy's track. "There were pretty jumps, but only so much you can do there with the size and shape of the ring," she said. "The course wasn't technical, but it was mostly verticals, so the biggest challenge was not to rub the fences. With the atmosphere there, though, it was enough of a challenge just walking into the ring!"
After the first round, Jennifer Alfano and Miss Lucy held the lead with Liza and O'Ryan second by 1 point. "Miss Lucy just loves that venue. I'm amazed at how she can keep that height over those smaller jumps," said Liza. "She went the best in the first round and was beautiful,"
In the second round, Hunt Tosh set the pace with a score of 89, so Liza knew she had to go for it. "I thought, 'OK, now the judges are throwing out high scores, so you have to make sure you keep the height and be bold.' I tried to gallop enough but tried not to let him get strung out or get a rub. I thought he jumped better the second round. He had nice height through the in-and-out, and then I did gallop to the last jump to finish off with flair, and he went great and got the 90. We were on top."
As she walked out of the ring, Jen entered aboard Miss Lucy. Due to the way the ring is set up, Liza wasn't able to watch Miss Lucy go as she walked back to the schooling area.
"I was really happy with my performance, so I thought if I’m first or second that would be great," she said. "Jen had last year off due to her knee injury, so I would be just as happy if I won or if she did. In the end, it was basically splitting hairs because I won by half a point.
"Jen and I are great friends and walk these courses together and cheer each other on. This year we added Hunt to the mix, and that was great. We laughed, because we almost gave him too much information since he'd never been here before and almost beat us!" she joked. "But that's the fun part about the sport, these great friends. Having the three of there at the press conference was wonderful, and it didn't matter which one won. We were all cheering each other on. I think that this event brought that out in us because we were able to spend so much quality time together."
Even though Stella Styslinger is a busy freshman at the University of Virginia, she made the Central Park Horse Show a major goal. And the time and effort she put into preparation paid off with the victory in the Junior/Amateur-Owner Hunter Classic aboard Cassanto.
"I'm so happy for her," said Liza. "Stella did this class last year and was third on O’ Ryan, so she understood the format. She rode beautifully, went in with confidence and stuck to the plan we had. In the schooling area, which is quite small, she had a couple of mistakes, but she didn’t let that bother her. I was so proud of her."
Pony rider Zola Thompson took fifth place in the Pony Hunter Classic aboard Elegance. "She rode really well, was relaxed and focused, and the pony jumped great. She left very confident, and the show was great preparation for the fall indoor shows ahead of her."
Although there were many people who contributed to Finally Farm's success at Central Park, Liza cited the most important person to thank is Katie Wood.
"We had it easy compared to Katie. She’s the one who was out at Gladstone with the horses, and her hours were crazy," said Liza. "She came to the horse show and worked all day long. Between preparing and shipping the horses from New Jersey to the show, she was up for 26 hours straight. She went above and beyond, and I can't thank her enough for having all of the horses so well prepared and beautifully turned out. She made it all happen."
Special thanks also to James Parker and The Book LLC photographers Vicci Valenti and Sam MacDonald for the amazing photos that truly captured the moments and memories that we'll cherish forever!