Syracuse, NY - November 1, 2008 - Today was the fourth day of competition at the Syracuse Sporthorse Invitational Tournament featuring The 125th National Horse Show. The show is being held at the Oncenter Complex in downtown Syracuse and will run through November 2.
The first round of the ASPCA Maclay Championship began at 6:30 a.m. Judges Leo Conroy and Jimmy Torano watched 150 riders tackle the first round course they designed. Later in the day, Conroy and Torano invited back the top 25 riders to compete in a second jumping round.
The best of the 150 competitors was Jessica Springsteen. Springsteen went eighth in the first round, and was able to watch the first few riders go on the monitor. This allowed her to see how the course rode. She had no problem going so early in the class because she has a tendency to over-think things if she goes toward the end.
The course was very technical and really tested the rider's ability. The course called for a lot of shortening and lengthening of stride complete with tight turns, roll backs, and long run single fences. It required a forward, aggressive ride, and the exhibitors rose to the challenge.
"I had a couple courses coming in, and Leo had a course as well," said Torano. "We kind of gelled them together, and we went to Richard (Jeffery) and asked if it was going to work. It did. We were lucky; it fit exactly like we had planned."
Andre Dignelli commented on the course as well.
"I thought the courses were some of the better courses we have seen in a long time," said Dignelli. "I think any good horse and rider could do it, and any weak horse and rider could survive it. I thought it was good."
Missy Clark added, "I loved the courses. I thought they were both fantastic. They made you ride forward to start and show your ability to do all the transitions from forward to downward, and it had smooth curves. I thought they were both absolutely fantastic courses."
Going into the second round, Springsteen was the last to go of 25 riders and was in first place. Following the completion of the second round, four riders were invited back into the ring for further testing. Those riders included Jessica Springsteen, Victoria Birdsall, Zazou Hoffman, and Christy DiStefano. The test asked the riders to canter a fence, counter canter a second fence, canter two more jumps, hand gallop another, halt and sit the trot back into line.
They were asked into the ring before the test was announced. This prevented the riders from conferring with their trainers and putting together a plan.
"I watched the three riders go before me and they were really good," said Springsteen. "I wanted to do something different, but I knew that I didn't have enough room to do a flying change. I just hoped he would hold it, (the counter canter) and he did."
Stacia Madden trains Springsteen, who is a past winner of the Maclay herself.
"We do a lot of practicing about what would happen in a situation like that. Jessie has had a lot of experience testing at shows like Devon where she has had to be on her own," said Madden. "I think she was pretty confident knowing what I would have told her to try and do. I am not exactly sure I would have had the same confidence to ask her horse to land right as she did. That is why in every situation, I give her options and say do what you feel. Jessie is such a good competitor and always makes the right choice."
Madden is a little superstitious and had a feeling about Springsteen's chances going into the competition today.
"I have a big thing with karma. When they were doing the draw, John (Madden) said pick a good one. When they picked the number, Jessie's name went though my mind, and then the next number they pulled was hers," said Madden. "A good friend of mine's lucky number is eight, and she ended up going eighth."
Madden continued, "The year I won the Maclay, a little girl came up to me at 4:30 in the morning while I was sitting in the stands and asked me if I was the winner. So when that was happening for Jessie, I said I think there is a chance that this is going to go our way if we don't make any mistakes."
After the first round, Conroy and Torano had Springsteen in first place. While a first and second round is mandatory, it is up to the judge's discretion if they want to make the riders perform any further testing.
"To be honest with you, we felt that if Jessica came in as the last rider and absolutely nailed it, we were not going to have another test," said Conroy. "There was one jump that was a little weak, and the second place rider did not quite hand gallop fast enough. So, we wanted to give the girls another chance to really show us what they could do."
Torano was very impressed with the way Springsteen executed her test.
"It was amazing," said Torano. "When she jumped the first fence, landed on the right lead and held the counter canter, I think everybody in the place knew it was over. She held the counter canter, and when she came out of the turn and hunted the last jump, we wanted to stand up and whoop. It was amazing."
Throughout the two rounds it remained extremely close between Springsteen and the second place finisher, Victoria Birdsall.
"The top group was so close. With Victoria and Jessica, you were splitting hairs," said Torano. "There was one jump coming by the gate that was a little weaker than everything else. We thought she (Springsteen) didn't absolutely take it. These girls were all really close, and we decided that whoever really wanted to win the class needed to come in and show us."
Both judges were very complimentary of the competitors. Conroy said the trainers in this country have been doing a fantastic job. The riders are so well trained and people can see the quality of the horses. He thought this explained the U.S. success in the past two Olympic Games.
Torano agreed with Conroy. He thought that what happened today did not happen by accident. From watching today's class, people could see the types of riders top barns are producing. These riders are the future of the sport.
In the stands to cheer on Springsteen was her father Bruce Springsteen, her mother and her two brothers.
"Jess has worked so hard ever since she was young. It is amazing to see young girls and boys her age with the kind of adult discipline it takes to achieve something like that," said Springsteen. "It is tremendous; it takes a very mature work ethic and a good degree of character. She has done wonderfully and has really developed. It has been so exciting to watch her ride and exciting to watch her develop into who she is through the activities with the horses. That has been exciting for us."
Springsteen's mother was also there to watch her daughter compete. She said that she usually does not get nervous when she is watching her daughter unless it is an important class like today.
Bruce Springsteen commented on his daughter's discipline and how much he has learned from this sport over the years.
"After you have been to so many shows year after year, you realize how difficult it is and what an achievement it is. You also realize how good the others riders are and how much work has gone into it," said Springsteen. "You see a culmination of thirteen years of riding come down to one minute and thirty seconds. That is a tough lesson in life. Musicians always get to sing it again; riders get one shot."
Ed Sayres, the President of the ASPCA, was also in the stands to watch the young riders compete. He was very proud of them and the example they are setting for other animal lovers.
"It is because of your exceptional handling of the horses that you have become ambassadors of our sport. We are their voice," said Sayres. "There are lots of horses in the country who are a lot less fortunate, and we love that you set that example in the way you handle your horses. You all did an exceptional job today; congratulations."
Tomorrow is the final day of competition for the horse show. Highlights include the Low and Medium Junior/Amateur Owner Grand Prixs, and the High Junior/Amateur Owner two round Final. Scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. will be the Animal Planet Sporthorse Cup.
For more information and full results, please visit http://www.syracuseinvitational.com
ASPCA Maclay Championship
1. Jessica Springsteen, Papillion 136, Stone Hill Farm
2. Victoria Birdsall, Cheyenne, Heritage Farm
3. Zazou Hoffman, Ivy, Missy Clark
4. Christy DiStefano, Fingerprint, Christy DiStefano
5. Samantha L. Smith, Palladium
6. Laura Pfeiffer, Foreign Encounter, Terri Dandino
7. Rachel Udelson, Littlefoot, Missy Clark
8. Carolyn Curcio, Rodin, Golden Goose Investments
9. Lucy Davis, Patrick, Lucy Davis
10. Samantha Senft, Lord Loxley, Liza Finsness
Reserve was Jacqueline Lubrano who rode Calito 7, owned by Horizon Hill Farm.
Photo Credit: Jessica Springsteen, winner of the ASPCA Maclay Championship. Photo (C) 2008 Randi Muster. This photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/jessica-springsteen-aspca-maclay-syracuse-11-08.html">Jessica Springsteen Wins The ASPCA Maclay Championship at The Syracuse Sporthorse Invitational Tournament</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com