Traverse City, MI - July 28, 2016 - Nick Novak consistently competes as the Flintfields Horse Park, and has since the destination horse show first moved to the location in 2007. He returned to the venue for the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival (GLEF) with his eye on the prize, and a string of top horses ready for the two-part series. The 28-year-old rider has been knocking on the door, establishing himself as a top contender at the nation's top horse shows, and Thursday he continued that trend. Novak captured the win in the 1.40m Open Jumpers, tripping the timers in 39.572 seconds with his own Cico.
It was only a year and a half earlier that Novak's eye landed on Cico, who at the time was competing in lower-level eventing. The 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, out of Mr. Blue, showed all the potential of a show jumper, and Novak has taken him up through the ranks, cultivating that anticipated talent.
"Cico is pretty easy-he loves to jump and loves to go," Novak smiled. "Cico is kind of quirky, which I think makes for the best horses. He is careful. He can be a bit of a pony in the barn [laughs], and can be a little stubborn, but he loves to jump and loves his job, he is a spunky little thing."
FEI level-four course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral set a technical track for the Thursday schedule, with only two horse and rider combinations jumping his opening round with decisive clears. Lisa Jacquin, two-time Olympic silver medalist, was the first to show the way, stopping the speed-round clock in 42.865 seconds with Cleopatra, owned by Ivan Rakowsky.
Novak stated, "I saw today that the lines were trickier than they had been. At this stage, I just wanted to be double-clear with Blue today. He is quick across the ground, and he is a really fun horse to ride."
"I thought the courses were great," Novak continued. "It is nice to get the horses in the ring and acclimated. I have always loved [Bernardo's] courses, I thought it was a great track, and a good test for the harder stuff on the weekend."
Novak took the win in a speedy 39.572 seconds, with Jacquin settling for the second place and Dana Wille and Mach 5 picking up the third place as the fastest of the 4-faulters.
"I have been coming here since it came to the new facility, and we will be here all three weeks for the FEI CSI2*. It is a great atmosphere. We love it here, and so do the horses," Novak said.
Novak plans to compete with his top horses, Climbus and Dirkie Z, on Friday and Sunday for the $25,000 Welcome Stake and the $50,000 Flintfields Farm Grand Prix, presented by Meijer.
"I am ready to win a grand prix, so I can get back at it again," Novak concluded.
During the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers, it was Sophie Michaels who sealed the victory as the only double-clear of the class.
|Sophie Michaels and Balouba
"I have had Balouba for about two years. She is a really awesome horse, she has so much heart," the 18-year-old competitor said. "She is quick, which is good for me, because sometimes I go a little too slow. She is always ready to win. She is an unconventional type in terms of her jump, but she is really great and it is a lot of fun to ride her."
Michaels took the first place finish in 42.239 seconds with Balouba, while Claire McKean earned the second place with an 8-fault jump-off completed in 41.155 seconds aboard Eregast Van't Kiezelhof. Third place was awarded to Alliy Moyer and Etoile Van't Lambroeck for their quick 4-fault round of 69.428 seconds.
Michaels is a firm believer in the High Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers, stating "I think that being able to have the High Juniors is really nice because I can do multiple horses in it, and the courses are difficult and complicated. It is really nice to get the confidence at this height because it is still real and technical, especially when you are competing in bigger classes."
She is aiming for the Week IV grand prix, as well, and with the win under her belt, she feels prepared for Friday's $25,000 Welcome Stake.
David Jennings took a one-two finish during the 1.35m Open Jumpers Speed class, with S & L Puppy Love and KM Corfina, respectively. Although the 8-year-old chestnut has competed in several small grand prix, Jennings likes to back him down after bigger weeks because, "He is so young, and is still green and developing."
|David Jennings and S&L Puppy Love
"He is a very nice horse: easy to ride and very scopey, he can jump the top of the standards," Jenning said. "I thought the courses were great. I am a big fan of Bernardo, and I have jumped many of his courses. They are always well thought out, and fluent. His courses get them experience for going fast in the jump-offs."
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 feature the $25,000 Welcome Stake on Friday, July 29, as well as the $50,000 Flintfields Farm Grand Prix, presented by Meijer, on Sunday, July 31.