Twenty-three of the world’s best horses and riders jumped in the inaugural $210,000 Central Park Grand Prix CSI 3*, presented by Rolex, with an exciting victory for New York’s own Georgina Bloomberg riding Juvina. The Central Park Grand Prix, presented by Rolex was televised live on NBC Sports Network as the first live primetime broadcast of equestrian sport on a major sports network. Later in the evening, New York native Lucy Deslauriers rode her horse Hester to victory in the $20,000 Under 25 Grand Prix, presented by PwC. The Central Park Horse Show, presented by Rolex continues through Sunday, September 21.
Trump Rink in Central Park played host to Thursday night’s first ever $210,000 Central Park Grand Prix CSI 3*, presented by Rolex, featuring a course set by renowned international course designer Steve Stephens of Palmetto, FL. With twenty-three entries, the evening’s grand prix was held in a format where the top six entries returned for a jump-off. The winner was then determined by combined faults from both rounds with ties broken by the second round time.
Charlie Jayne, of Elgin, IL, was the only rider to clear the first round course without fault aboard Pony Lane Farm’s Valeska while Bloomberg and Gotham Enterprizes’ Juvina returned for round two carrying four faults. When Bloomberg jumped the second round course clear in 38.28 seconds, the pressure was on Jayne to stay on zero as the last entry to go, but an unlucky rail at the final fence tied up the faults. Jayne’s time of 38.81 seconds left him in second place as the victory, along with the winner’s share of prize money and a beautiful new Rolex watch, landed in the hands of Georgina Bloomberg. The daughter of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg jumped Juvina to a momentous victory in front of a sold-out hometown crowd.
Also completing two great rounds over the course of the evening were Paige Johnson of The Plains, VA, and Salamander Farm’s Dakota. The pair had one rail and a time fault in round one, but returned to jump clear in round two and finished third overall on a five-fault total.
Winning this unprecedented event on home turf was a dream come true for Bloomberg, riding a very special horse in Juvina. She bought the 13-year-old Austrian Warmblood mare (Cassini I x Grannus) a couple months before she stopped riding for back surgery and her pregnancy and never skipped a beat as she quickly returned to the show ring.
“I have had a long road back,” Bloomberg noted. “For the last three years I haven’t really been competing at the top level, so for me this is my first win back. It is proof that I have really worked hard and accomplished a lot to be able to get back to the top level. I got her at a time when I knew I was going to be taking a little time off and the timing wasn’t ideal, but I knew she was a horse that I could come back very quickly on.”
“She is absolutely the most talented horse I have ever sat on,” the rider declared. “She is a dream come true, and I was so lucky to find her. She sort of makes it easy; you really just point to the jumps. She throws her head a lot, but I have always gotten along with horses that have a little bit of a quirk. I like her style. I like a horse with a little bit of a fight, and I like that she knows she is good and makes you work for it.”
After a disappointing finish in a grand prix a few weeks ago, Bloomberg was determined to make her round in Central Park count.
“Our last hometown show at the Hampton Classic I didn’t have a very good round in the grand prix,” she admitted. “I wasn’t happy with the way I performed or the way my horse performed. In the car on the way home I told my son that not every day can be good. You have to get back up and try again when you have a bad day, and I remember turning around and saying to him, ‘I’m gonna win Central Park.’ I think I have proved to myself now that you need to set a goal for yourself and work hard in accomplishing that, and sometimes it actually does pay off.”
“This is obviously my hometown and the most special place on the planet to me,” Bloomberg acknowledged. “I competed at the National Horse Show when it was here in Madison Square Garden its final year, and I remember walking into the arena for the last time there and knowing that it was the most amazing feeling in the world to be able to compete in this city. To have it come back here – I really did take a minute to enjoy the moment and look around. To win is absolutely amazing to me.”
With a fantastic first night in the books, Mark Bellissimo of IEG thanked Bloomberg and supporters such as Mr. Donald Trump and Rolex for their help in making his dream of a Central Park Horse Show a reality.
“We are very excited about our inaugural Central Park Horse Show,” Bellissimo stated. “I would like to thank Donald Trump, who envisioned this with me about two years ago. He said we would make it happen. To his word, we did it, and very quickly. I am very thankful because I think this was just an amazingly transformational event for this sport, and I am very proud.”
“After my conversation with Donald, the next conversation was with Georgina,” Bellissimo added. “I called Georgina and said that we were going to do an event in Central Park and she said, ‘Good luck.’ She said, ‘Every year someone calls me. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but if it does, I will be there.’ What I think was spectacular is that once we got some trajectory, she has been absolutely supportive. She has a very busy schedule as a new mother and has come back with what is an amazing horse in Juvina. That is a great partnership, and I am proud to be presenting her with the winning check tonight.”
“I would also like to thank Chris Welton, the CEO of USEF. With the help of USEF we got approval to do this, and they were very supportive in making this happen,” Bellissimo continued. “Sheila Johnson has been phenomenal, a big supporter and partner, and it was so fitting that Paige was in third place today. We have a great partnership with Rolex. They have sponsored us in Wellington and other venues, but this is something that is rare for them, to put their reputation and brand on an event that was unproven and that was a very difficult event to create. We only had five days to transform Trump Rink into something that I think is one of the most spectacular show jumping destinations in the world.”
Bloomberg praised Bellissimo for putting on a great event despite her initial doubts. “One lesson I always learned from my father was that the more somebody says you can’t do something, the harder you have to try to get it done and the sweeter it is going to taste when you do it, so hats off to Mark. He has done amazing things for equestrian sport all over the country and especially here, so I have to thank him and of course Mr. Trump. Without him becoming a fan of our sport and hosting us here, this dream would not have come true.”
Sponsors of the event, including Trump and Salamander Hotels & Resorts’ Sheila Johnson were on hand to speak to the incredible success of its first evening in Central Park.
“I just want to congratulate everybody, especially our three great champions,” Trump stated. “Georgina and I spoke a year ago at Mar-a-Lago and I said, ‘What do you think?’ It was not an easy situation and we never thought this was going to happen, but it has, and we are very proud of it. The rink is spectacular, and the location is second to none. I would imagine with Mark and his great team that this will be a very special event over a period of years. It has been a really special night. It’s a beautiful sport, and now that people see it, they are all talking about it. I just think it is amazing.”
Johnson was thrilled with her daughter’s third place finish and congratulated the riders and the producers of the event as well.
“I want to congratulate all three of the riders. They have grown up together, and I have watched them since they were young,” Johnson remembered. “Most importantly, I want to congratulate Mark. His vision to put this show on is just remarkable. He has been able to do something with the help of Mr. Trump to bring something to New York City that is so unique and so unbelievable. To look at the backdrop, to see a show ring here with all of the buildings in the background, is just amazing. I think we have been able to put horse shows on the map. Mark is really a leader and a game changer.”
Chris Welton, CEO of the United States Equestrian Federation added, “I want to congratulate the great athletes that we have here and the remarkable performance on this stage. The background tonight was spectacular. We have a lot of responsibilities at USEF, but one of the things we are putting renewed emphasis on is growing the sport – building awareness of the sport, building the visibility of the sport, building participation and building viewership. The cooperation (here) was tremendous, and one of the things I hope comes out of this is that this show continues to prosper and grow. It should become an iconic event in one of the most iconic locations in America.”
With a clear first round and a great second place finish, Charlie Jayne had a wonderful experience in the first Central Park Grand Prix with his mount Valeska and thanked the sponsors for putting on an amazing event.
“It was a packed house, and when you ride in a packed house, it feels a little bit like home pride when you are riding in the United States,” Jayne stated. “Clearing that last fence definitely gives you goosebumps every time you jump a clear round, and I really felt the crowd riding the last three fences when I was jumping.”
“I want to emphasize how important it is that this is here in New York,” Jayne added. “I compete all over the world. When you think about a country like Ireland you think Dublin, when you think about a country like Italy you think Rome, and most people that haven’t even been to the States, when they think about the United States, they think about New York. I think it is so important that it is here in the forefront where everybody knows. I think it is the best exposure we could have.”
Finishing third, Paige Johnson was very happy with her mare Dakota and also loved the incredible backdrop of New York City.
“The atmosphere was incredible. I get excited just thinking about it,” Johnson smiled. “The crowd was so into it, and I think it makes you want to do better when you have people cheering you on. I think the sport needs more recognition, and I think this is the exact show that will do it. It was fantastic, and my mare was really good tonight. I can’t wait to come back next year and spread the word about how wonderful this venue was.”
Final Results: $210,000 Central Park Grand Prix CSI 3* Presented by Rolex
Place, Number, Horse, Rider, Nationality, First Round Faults, Second Round Faults, =Total Faults, Second Round Time, Prize Money (Top 6 returned for second round, faults cumulative, second round time is tiebreaker)
1 139 Juvina Georgina Bloomberg USA 4 0=4 38.28
2 153 Valeska Charlie Jayne USA 0 4=4 38.81
3 173 Dakota Paige Johnson USA 5 0=5 41.75
4 154 Quality Girl Todd Minikus USA 4 4=8 38.52
5 103 Pjotter Van De Zonnehoeve Molly Ashe-Cawley USA 5 4=9 39.50
6 162 Baronez Kirsten Coe USA 5 5=10 42.27
7 138 D’Elia Van Het Molenhof Darragh Kerins IRL 5 72.23
8 157 Bonanza Van Paemel Catherine Pasmore USA 6 73.26
9 117 Andretti S Laura Kraut USA 8 67.84
10 130 Prof De La Roque Darragh Kenny IRL 9 69.42
11 147 Kismet 50 Candice King USA 9 69.55
12 156 Onira Brianne Goutal USA 9 71.56
Source: Noelle Floyd.com
Photo courtesy of Lucio Landa