Nick Novak and Climbus Capture $25,000 Welcome Stake Win at GLEF Week IV

Rachel McMullen and Clear Sailing Claim Junior 15 and Under Hunter Championship
Sophie Michaels Completes Week 4 Equitation Trifecta Taking Wins in Talent Search, WIHS and USEF Medal 
Nick Novak and Climbus win the $25,000 Welcome Stake at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Week IV.
Traverse City, Mich. – July 29, 2016 – Nick Novak finally overcame his five-year drought on Friday afternoon at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF). For years, he has fallen just shy of the victory, taking the backseat to the winner’s circle. During Week IV of GLEF, the drought came to an end for Novak, and as the old saying goes, “when it rains, it pours.” Novak first captured the 1.40m Open Jumper victory on Thursday, and then went on to top a nine-horse jump-off during Friday’s $25,000 Welcome Stake with Climbus.
“It felt so great,” Novak smiled. “I have been right there, and I have been working towards this, so it felt really good. I have been watching my videos a lot and my jump-offs. I have been trying to be tidier around the turns. At the beginning, I was feeling kind of nervous to go fast, but now I feel super comfortable having that practice. I feel like I can be tidier and take a step out here or there.”
Out of a starting field of 21, nine horse and rider combinations mastered Bernardo Costa Cabral’s Welcome Stake track. Of those who qualified for the short course, only three jumped double-clear.
David Jennings was the first to clear the eight-obstacle track, which had increased in difficulty with wider spreads and raised heights. Aboard Aventador, owned by Moffitt Lake Farms, Jennings stopped the clock at 36.468 seconds.
Jennings said, “My plan was to stay in control, not to go fast, give him a nice jump around in the jump-off and have him go double-clear. I wanted to set him up for the [$50,000 Flintfields Farm Grand Prix] so that he is not too wild and running around. Nice and controlled.”
David Jennings and Aventador
Although Jennings jumped without fault, he was not one to assume that his time would hold with the Midwest speed demons. However, his double-clear and naturally fast pace would earn the pair the second place prize.
“I thought my time was beatable,” Jennings said. “I knew I had a lot of fast riders behind me, I didn’t think that I would end up being second. Riders go fast, and poles come down pretty easy anywhere you go.”
It would be 20-year-old Alec Bozorgi who would soon duplicate Jennings’ effort. He rode Campino II to a clear time of 37.458 seconds to eventually clinch the third place.
“I just tried to keep it smooth out there,” Bozorgi said. “I was just trying to keep my head cool, we are out here playing with the big guns now, so I was just trying to keep cool with the pressure. I was really happy with both the horses.”
The sophomore at Colgate University is wrapping up his summer soon. Taking the third place finish in the $25,000 Welcome Stake was the capstone of his summer. Bozorgi believed that the course was well-suited for the field, and was happy with the jump-off.
Alec Bozorgi and Campino II
“There were some good places to turn, make up some time, and it had a few longer gallops. I thought it was good,” Bozorgi said. “I have had Campino for four years, and we have known each other for a long time now. He is my rock and my buddy. He is a super horse. He is getting me in the bigger classes. He is always competitive and has always been there for me. I can really lean on him and trust him.”
Novak followed consecutively behind Bozorgi, and he had his sights set on the lion’s share of the earnings. He laid down a quick and tidy jump-off, and as he galloped to the final oxer, he encouraged Climbus by saying, “Up boy!”
“I haven’t done that in a long time,” Novak laughed. “I also haven’t won in a long time, so I definitely wasn’t going to knock down that last jump, even if it meant talking to him over it.”
They broke the beam in 35.584 seconds, scooting past Jennings with more than a second sliced off of his time, taking the long-desired victory. The Welcome Stake win also marked Novak’s first big win with Climbus, the 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding that Novak refers to as “the perfect gentleman.”
It was only a year and a half earlier that Novak picked Climbus out while in Europe, searching for his next grand prix horse. Although Climbus had competed briefly in Europe, it was Novak who started showing him and bringing him along. During the 2016 Winter Equestrian Festival, held in Wellington, Florida, Climbus jumped two 1.50m classes clear, exemplifying the potential Novak recognized only the year prior.
Nick Novak and Climbus
“Having the support and the determination is something that makes getting back in the game really special,” Novak said. “Especially to have Nancy [Whitehead] is a huge help. I talk to her about my rides, and ask her questions. She is amazing. I have been with her for 14 years now. She and I have a great partnership, and she is like my second mom.”
GLEF will continue to welcome riders and thrill spectators over the final week of the first summer series, which runs July 27-31, 2016. The jumper highlights will conclude with the $50,000 Flintfields Farm Grand Prix, presented by Meijer, on Sunday, July 31.
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$25,000 Welcome Stake
1 1205 CLIMBUS NICK NOVAK 0 0 0 0 0 0 35.584
2 766 AVENTADOR DAVID JENNINGS 0 0 0 0 0 0 36.468
3 969 CAMPINO II ALEC BOZORGI 0 0 0 0 0 0 37.458
4 712 QUALITY ON TOP AARON VALE 0 0 0 4 0 4 34.274
5 544 ZIEZO SCOTT LENKART 0 0 0 4 0 4 34.766
6 492 CALL ME HANNES DAVID BEISEL 0 0 0 4 0 4 35.315
7 365 CALVERO IV ISABELLA RUSSEKOFF 0 0 0 4 0 4 35.816
8 165 DROOMFEE HB AIDAN KILLEEN 0 0 0 4 0 4 37.121
9 968 CAPPANALEIGH STORM ALEC BOZORGI 0 0 0 4 0 4 38.622
10 1206 DIRKIE Z NICK NOVAK 4 0 4 74.728
11 1087 ACOLINA R AARON VALE 4 0 4 75.711
Rachel McMullen and Clear Sailing Claim Junior 15 and Under Hunter Championship

Rachel McMullen and Clear Sailing

On Friday, the R.L. Polk Family Main Hunter Ring was host to the division championships for Junior and Amateur Owner Hunters. The junior riders showed off their talents in the hunter ring, but many have been putting in time in the jumper and equitation rings as well and are preparing for Saturday’s $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby presented by the Gochman Family and Baxter Hill Farm.

In the Junior 15 and Under Hunter division, the championship cooler went to Rachel McMullen and Clear Sailing, a 9-year-old mare owned by Redfield Farm. The reserve champion was Sloan Hopson and Coachella, a 14-year-old warmblood gelding owned by Avery Griffin.

McMullen was multi-tasking on Friday, taking third place in the W.I.H.S. Equitation Jumper Phase and fifth place in the Hunter Phase. The 15-year-old also has her sights set on Saturday’s $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby presented by the Gochman Family and Baxter Hill Farm.

Rachel McMullen and Clear Sailing

She was thrilled with her Thoroughbred-cross mare Clear Sailing’s performance on Friday morning. “She was exceptional today,” McMullen grinned. “She’s a bay mare, so she has your typical bay mare attitude, but she tries really hard. She has an amazing jump and a really huge stride. She’s just a top quality mare.”

McMullen praised the horse show and her experience competing in all three rings. “This is actually my second year back here but my first time with the new management,” McMullen said. “I show in all three rings, so it’s been great. Exhibitor services are amazing, the rings have been great and I’m just really thrilled with how it’s been going. I’ll be doing the equitation and hopefully the international derby tomorrow night and some of the jumpers too.”

McMullen was not the only busy junior rider winning championships on Friday. In the Junior 16-17 Hunter division, Cole Battershall and Rogelio, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Rolling Acres, took home the tricolor. The reserve champion was Emma Lena Green and Hennessy, a 10-year-old Oldenburg gelding.

Cole Battershall and Rogelio

Battershall had two horses in the division and was happy with both of their performances on Friday. “They are two completely different horses,” Battershall explained. “Rogelio I have to ride a little bit different than Foremost. Foremost is pretty young, so I was really happy that he got a first today. They were both really really good this morning, I was really happy with them. Rogelio is your basic hunter, he needs more of a looser rein, he jumps really well, he’s all around perfect for the hunters.

Batershall is another junior rider who will not just be sticking to the hunter ring. “I’ll be in the jumper ring, doing the modified jumpers,” she explained.  “I did the Pessoa and the Maclay yesterday. So I’m pretty busy in all three rings here. This is one of my favorite horse shows. I love it here and every year we seem to have a good year.”

Alliy Moyer and Carlson

Alliy Moyer and Carlson, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding, were the champions in the Amateur Owner division. The reserve champion Susan Baker and Q, a 10-year-old warmblood gelding.

Moyer was pleased with her ride on Friday. “He was great,” Moyer smiled. “He’s a professional by now, he’s 12 years-old. He’s just very consistent, if I ride well then he always performs to his best.”

The pair have a solid partnership that is a joy to watch. “I’ve had him for six and a half years,” Moyer explained. “We pretty much know each other, and know what the other is thinking. I can do whatever I want and he’s like ‘OK sure Mom’.”

Moyer enjoyed the Thomas Hern Jr. designed course. “I thought it was really nice,” she said. “I love being out here, it’s so open and the lines are long and very flowing.”

Sophie Michaels Completes Week 4 Equitation Trifecta Taking Wins in Talent Search, WIHS and USEF Medal

Sophie Michaels win the USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Week IV
For Sophie Michaels, equitation is the basis of her success in both the hunter and jumper rings, proving that practice makes perfect during the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival. On Friday, Michaels took the win in the USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search 2*, as well as the W.I.H.S. Equitation, capping off the trifecta of equitation wins during the series one finale week after taking the first place in the USEF Medal Thursday.
The USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search 2* is one of the most esteemed equitation classes in the nation, originally conceptualized to play an important role in the pipeline of show jumping, as it addresses that form follows function, and that in order to be an effective jumper rider, one must possess basic equitation skills and a solid jumper seat position.
With three levels of competition, the two-star course, designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral, was set to 1.15m-1.20m, and challenged riders with 15 efforts, including a water jump with a rail, a liverpool, three double-combinations, rollbacks and a tight time allowed of 79 seconds.
Eventual winner Sophie Michaels said, “I think [the USEF Talent Search Program] is really great because equitation, in general, helps me with the jumpers. The USEF Medal/Maclay is a little more hunter-based. Having the choice to compete in equitation classes that are more aimed at the jumpers gives technical courses that are similar to that of what you would see with even bigger specs. It isn’t necessarily about looking pretty, but about the ride, function and position. I think it is a good stepping stone and foundation.”
Michaels rides with Andre Dignelli of Heritage Farm, whose three students entered in the USEF Platinum Performance Talent Search earned the top three positions. Michaels was awarded the first place, while barn mates Emily Perez and Daisy Farish took the second and third places, respectively.
“I think that what is really helpful about [trainer] Andre [Dignelli] is that when we are at home we practice with tough and technical courses. I think that helps me a lot because when you come to the show it is never something you haven’t seen before,” Michaels said. “It is never harder than what you have already practiced. We are always working on our positions in any ring-jumper or hunter. He is a great trainer and teacher.”
Michaels is seasoned when it comes to the USEF Talent Search, already having cultivated 95 points in both the East and West divisions. She is currently aiming for the Finals, held in Gladstone, New Jersey, at the historic Hamilton Farm, home of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation. The Finals are set to take place Oct. 7-9.
With dexterity, accuracy and form, Michaels topped the leaderboard after the jumper phase, and then sealed the victory during the flat phase, where judge Scott Hofstetter tested the competitors extensively. He asked that riders exemplify lengthening of stride at the trot and canter, as well as the keeping the counter-canter at both directions in the large grand prix ring.
“I have had [Carlo] since this winter, and he has really come a long way,” Michaels smiled. “He came from Europe, where he was a jumper, and since WEF we started doing the equitation. He has gotten so much better with the flat, before he thought it was a victory gallop [laughs]. He is a really good horse, super careful and a great water jumper. He is super fun to ride. It is really a feeling going in on one of these classes with him.”
The W.I.H.S. Equitation has become the proving ground for future grand prix and Olympic riders, with names such as McLain Ward, Christine McCrea and Kent Farrington. Michaels aspires to one day join the Team USA ranks, riding for her country, but for now she is focusing on how to transpire all she learns from equitation into the jumper ring.
“I think that the equitation and learning timing and body control is really helpful in the jumper ring,” Michaels said. “Your horses will want to jump more clear rounds. I think that doing these classes will help me to reach my goals.”
Sophie Michaels and Acortair
Aboard her second mount of the morning, Acortair, Michaels took the top spot during the W.I.H.S. Equitation Jumper phase. She rode to the score of 88 points in 70.890 seconds. Farish clinched the second place with 85 points, while Emily Perez finished third with 81 points.
The W.I.H.S. Equitation Hunter phase continued in the afternoon as the 17 contenders gathered at the Polk Family Main Hunter Ring. Although Michaels held the first place position, she knew that ranking could change in a matter of moments. It was only the day prior that she took the first place finish during the USEF Medal with Acortair, after testing with the top four and impressing the judges.
Even with a target on her back, Michaels stayed confident in both her and Acortair’s abilities throughout the hunter course, designed by Tom Hern. It paid off as she once again finished in the first place with a score of 87, capturing the win with an overall score of 175 points.
There was an upset in the ranks after the hunter phase concluded. Emily Perez moved from the third place to the second place with her scores of 81 and 85, while Farish lost her hold on the top three, with Isabella Russekoff moving in to round out the top three with the overall score of 157 points.
Competition at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival will continue through the weekend, with Week IV concluding on July 31. The highlights include the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, sponsored by the Gochman Family on Saturday, July 30, as well as the $50,000 Flintfields Grand Prix, sponsored by Meijer, on Sunday, July 31.