Australian eventers Ryan Wood and Dominic Schramm took top honours at the inaugural U.S. Open $50,000 Arena Eventing at the 2017 Rolex Central Park Horse Show in New York.
The competition, presented by The Fite Group Luxury Homes, was a crowd favorite at the bringing a sold-out audience to their feet, as many of the world’s top three-day event riders tested a tough and technical track set by Captain Mark Phillips in Wollman Rink. Twelve teams contested the class, each named after notable New York neighbourhoods, while the top six teams completing with the fastest overall cumulative time moved forward to the final phase of competition.
In taking the win, Wood and Schramm, representing team East Village, beat 22 other riders walk away with the $50,000 prize.
The track included both cross-country and show jumping elements and featured an iconic apple keyhole obstacle. Wood rode Alcatraz, while teammate Schramm piloted No Objection to the top of the podium.
Afterwards Schramm said: “Our first round we wanted to chance it but not be reckless. We didn’t want to dance with the devil in the first round. After we went back to the stables, we decided to switch up the order. Mine was a bit quicker. He was a slow starter, like a diesel, once we got started he gets quicker. This is not what our sport looks like day in and day out, but rather than be negative about it, I like the fact that we get to come here and expose people to it. People get a bite of it, and then they’re hooked for life and that’s what we want.”
His teammate Wood added that the backdrop of the New York City skyline captured his attention as he entered the ring and motivated to impress the enthusiastic crowd that packed the stands commenting: “There was a moment in the second round when the crowd was amping us up and then I looked up at the lights from the sky rise buildings and I thought, ‘Bloody hell. We are in the middle of New York City!’ It’s pretty awesome. It’s a long way from home!”
Second place went to American riders Holly Payne-Caravella and Boyd Martin for Team Times Square.
“I was over the moon when I saw that I was partnered with Holly, as Holly always has a crack at these things whenever she’s riding. I knew that it’d either go really well, or we’d bomb out,” commented Martin. “We just decided to cruise around the first round and we came back and just really decided to have a crack. We had a bit of luck on our side in the second round, and it went very well.”
Payne-Caravella was aboard her long-time CCI 4* mount Never Outfoxed, who proved essential to the Team Times Square as they shaved time off the clock in the right places, ultimately setting Martin up for the finish aboard Kyra.
“I got a little aggressive in the first round, but I think in the first round we wanted to make sure that we got through. In the second round we knew that we had to be way riskier in our inside turns and it went over really good,” added Payne-Caravella.
The only team to compete for Great Britain was comprised of two iconic British eventers – William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend, representing Team Chelsea, who were partnered with Prince Renan and Indian Mill respectively. And the Brits provided a good showing finishing in third place.
“This was great fun. I’m not a star at this Arena Eventing thing, but this was really well executed. I was very happy to remember the course, as I thought that jumping the same jump twice in a different direction was pushing it,” laughed Fox-Pitt. “But it all worked out and I’m glad that we had some nice horses.”
Team-mate Townend elaborated on the format of the class and felt it provided a great platform to expose eventing riders to an engaged audience and was beaming following his first experience in New York City and in Central Park.
“For William and I both, the biggest setback was remembering our way! We went over it again and again and again. This is just an unbelievable setting and a privilege to be here. I’m very grateful to Mark and the whole team for having us here because we’ve enjoyed this experience tremendously,” he said.