Ryan Wood and Dominic Schramm Take Top Honors in U.S. Open $50,000 Arena Eventing at Central Park Horse Show
The U.S. Open $50,000 Arena Eventing presented by The Fite Group Luxury Homes was a crowd favorite at the 2017 Rolex Central Park Horse Show, 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. Ryan Wood and Dominic Schramm ultimately topped the class, besting 22 other riders to capture the win in the inaugural event. Tonight’s competition marked the fourth day of national and international competition showcasing top equestrians from around the world in the heart of New York City.
Team East Village comprised of two Australian teammates, Ryan Wood and Dominic Schramm, made their way to the top of the leaderboard after completing two rounds of the track, which 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.
“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,” said Schramm. “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. He elaborated, “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 saw the team effort of Holly Payne-Caravella and Boyd Martin for Team Times Square, as they were rewarded for their dual trips around the track and danced easily through the first round. The duo also produced a near foot-perfect second round only to be bested by Team East Village as the second to last team on course at the end of competition.
“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,” laughed 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 longtime CCI 4* mount Never Outfoxed, a nimble Thoroughbred, 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 class was formatted uniquely, as any faults on course were converted to add four seconds to an individual rider’s overall time, pushing an intense race against the clock and finishing with a show jumping oxer. Twelve teams contested the class, each named after notable New York neighborhoods, while the top six teams completing with the fastest overall cumulative time moved forward to the final phase of competition. The class featured numerous Olympians, accomplished CCI 4* competitors, and a plethora of national and international talents.
The only team to compete for Great Britain was comprised of two iconic British eventers, as the Rolex Central Park Horse Show welcomed William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend to New York City for the first time. Townend, the most recent winner of the Burghley Three Day Event CCI 4*, was partnered with the legendary Fox-Pitt for Team Chelsea piloting Indian Mill and Prince Renan, both borrowed mounts for the competition, and finished 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.”
Fox-Pitt’s teammate, 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,” said Townend.
The U.S. Open $50,000 Arena Eventing presented by The Fite Group Luxury Homes was a recent addition to the official competition schedule at the Rolex Central Park Horse Show and replaced what has traditionally been an evening of Dressage. Mark Bellissimo, CEO of International Equestrian Group (IEG), commented on his excitement for the expansion of the event and his appreciation for the eventing community.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank The Fite Group Luxury Homes as a new partner here in Central Park. This event, in many ways, didn’t exist two and a half weeks ago. Obviously, we had some late cancellations with Dressage, and while trying to create a strategy, I called Michael Stone, our president, and asked what we could do. We work with a group of people who are always ready for a challenge,” explained Bellissimo. “I think eventers are always fun to work with and they were all excited about this. We had eight of the top ten U.S. riders and nine Olympians. We were able to put this together in a way that I think was very interesting, and pull it together very, very quickly and with a high level of quality.”
Nadine Fite of The Fite Group Luxury Homes, a market-leading luxury real estate firm serving the South Florida region, discussed the company’s eagerness to participate in the 2017 Rolex Central Park Horse Show, and felt honored to have The Fite Group’s name tied to the major success of the first annual Arena Eventing competition. “When Mark called us and asked if we would be interested in sponsoring the inaugural Arena Eventing here at the Central Park Horse Show, we were thrilled to tie the Palm Beach theme in with the New York theme. As we have expanded our business in Wellington, FL, we were very thankful to support Gladiator Polo™ and are thankful to continue to support all of these endeavors.”
Maintaining the safety of both horses and riders was of the utmost importance to the IEG team and Bellissimo elaborated on the group’s efforts to build a thrilling and technical course, while always keeping the well-being of competitors at the forefront of the competition objective. “We started talking with Captain Mark Phillips and said, ‘First, let’s make it safe.’ Together with him and Michael [Stone], who always is the one who has to execute these things, we decided on a CCI 1*-like course and took it one step further by ensuring that every competitor be an FEI CCI 4* rider, aboard FEI CCI 2* qualified horses, except for Dom, who almost fell off, but what’s great is that we were able to create a very safe event that was still very exciting to watch,” smiled Bellissimo. “We were making adjustments to the course for safety all afternoon and we saw them pay off. I think the format of this event is very interesting, as well.”
Michael Stone, President of IEG, commented on the tremendous work of the RCPHS team to pull together the evening in such a short time frame and elaborated on the process of preparing Wollman Rink for Arena Eventing in just under 24 hours time. “We brought all of the jumps in last night, after they were driven up from Tryon. We then had to set the hunter jumps up, and when the hunter competition was done today, we had to set these jumps back up,” he explained. ” We had no space to do that because we are pretty limited, so it is all like a rubix cube of sorts. We have a great team though, and everyone works really hard so it’s always a great event, and gets better every year.”
The inaugural event amassed a huge following hosted under the bright lights of the Manhattan skyline, as event tickets, which only went on sale two weeks ago, completely sold out for the evening. Following true to the theme of the entire week’s multi-discipline competition, the show allowed individuals to experience equestrian sport like never before. “I walked around during the competition and the crowd was just really excited and engaged in this format. Again, this is not to replace Eventing, but it’s an opportunity to take passionate athletes who are very courageous and gutsy at all three disciplines and put them in the spotlight here in New York, which is one of the largest media markets in the United States. At the very least we want to turn this into a three-event series, like a Triple Crown of this event. I am confident that this will become the biggest money in this country for the sport, especially with our sponsors. This is something we’re very excited about,” concluded Bellissimo.