Syracuse, NY - October 31, 2009 - The 2009 ASPCA Maclay National Championships have come to a close, and it was 17-year-old Zazou Hoffman of Santa Monica, CA, who prevailed through three rounds to win this year's coveted equitation final. The ASPCA Maclay National Championships are the highlight event of the 126th National Horse Show. The 126th National Horse Show is featured at the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament, which holds jumpers classes through Sunday, November 1 in the War Memorial at the Oncenter Complex in Syracuse, NY. In the first round of competition, 150 riders were tested on a course designed by the judges, Bill Moroney of Middleburg, VA, and Jack Towell of Camden, SC, in cooperation with course designer Richard Jeffery of Dorset, England. The course featured an option two-stride and multiple opportunities to make inside turns. The riders who rode the course smoothly, out-of-stride, and with style were the ones called back in the top 30 to test on the flat. Three groups of 10 were tested, and from there the judges called back the top 24 riders for a second round over fences.
The top 24 returned in the following order, with Samantha Harrison of La Canada, CA, called back on top.
1. 18 Hayley Barnhill 2. 83 Michael Hughes 3. 53 Laura King 4. 29 Tina DiLandri 5. 40 Hasbrouck Donovan 6. 106 Victoria Birdsall 7. 95 Lillie Keenan 8. 57 Samantha Schaefer 9. 90 Molly Braswell 10. 136 Julianna Richardson 11. 47 Quincy Hayes 12. 139 Lucy Davis 13. 1 Amber Henter 14. 99 Christy DeStefano 15. 129 Chase Boggio 16. 76 Christina Lin 17. 132 Sara Green 18. 142 Morgan Hale 19. 147 Alexandra Arute 20. 21 Jennifer Waxman 21. 77 Laura Pfeiffer 22. 145 Catherine Pasmore 23. 131 Zazou Hoffman 24. 69 Samantha Harrison
The course for the second round was a unique design, with 12 jumps available for riders to make their own nine-fence course. The trot jump was required, as was a hand gallop to a fence of their choice. Judge Jack Towell explained, "Years ago Ronnie Mutch had done that, so I give him credit for that. We didn't have a course made up ourselves. I thought everybody did a fantastic job." Moroney added, "That was the beauty of the second round. Every rider could create a course that best showed off their strengths and their horses and hid their weaknesses, hopefully. They're learning to be horsemen."
Hoffman chose to take turns off the left lead, which is Ivy's strength, and to keep everything moving forward and fluid.
Hoffman explained, "I tried to do as much as I could off the left. It's my better lead on Ivy. I kept it open and flowing and did things that would make sense. I didn't take too many ridiculous risks. I hand galloped the brush jump because I was less likely to have a rail there. The rest just worked out."
Third place finisher Morgan Hale explained her decisions on course, including why she did the trot jump first. "My horse jumps really well off the right lead, so we did a lot of right leads and kept it more flowing. We wanted to get the trot jump over with and out of the way!"
The judges made the decision to call back four riders for a test after the second round. The test included a broken line, two rollbacks to oxers, and a bending line down the long side of the ring to finish. While the test looked relatively simple, the catch was that the riders had to do this without stirrups.
The first rider called back was Samantha Harrison on Triple Lutz. Harrison had a smooth round, but had several rubs at the jumps.
Following her was Hale of Odessa, FL, on Urco. Hale had a very solid test and performed a nice slice across the third jump after the first rollback. "We definitely do a lot without stirrups, and I'm really tight, so I felt like this was an advantage for me," Hale admitted. "I felt like I rode really well."
Hale's trainer, Don Stewart, noted, "I really felt like she was knocking at the door. She had two solid rounds last week (in Washington). She was called back tenth in the Medal Finals, and she ribboned in our (ASPCA Maclay) Regionals. She's been very consistent, and I thought it was all going to happen for her today, which it did."
Fifteen-year-old Chase Boggio of Canton, GA, was next in on Golou II. While he had some slight rubs, his body stayed quiet, his leg was solid, and his pace never wavered.
In addition to today's second place finish, Boggio won the North American Equitation Championship at the Capital Challenge Horse Show, was seventh in the USEF Medal Finals, and placed second in the WIHS Equitation Classic Finals. However, those ribbons were on his usual horse Graphiq. Today, he rode Golou II, owned by Horizon Hill Farm.
He spoke of his decision to ride a new horse and said, "The Lubranos lent me their really great horse, so I took that opportunity. It was the first time I've ever shown him. Today was only the third day I've jumped him around a course. It just felt great to keep putting in consistent round after consistent round."
The last to test was Hoffman, who had to feel the pressure of being on top. Hoffman placed third in the National Championships last year, and this was her last competition as a junior rider. She and Ivy, the horse she rode last year, performed a smooth test and made the work without stirrups look very easy. The crowd erupted after she jumped the final fence, but she would have to wait for the awards presentation, and the countdown of the top ten riders, before she knew the outcome.
On riding without stirrups, Hoffman said, "I wasn't too concerned. We do enough of that at home, but Ivy does have a big enough jump that it could have been bad!"
Hoffman and Ivy showed sparingly together this year while Hoffman qualified for the most part on other horses like Catwoman, who Laura Pfeiffer showed tonight to fifth place. Hoffman feels that she and Ivy have a special relationship. "Ivy is just amazing. He's the coolest horse I've ever ridden. Missy owns him and he's a little older, but he still feels amazing and perfect. He has such a great canter and the best rhythm. I get along with him great. He's a little bit more sensitive, and he doesn't need much leg. He's really soft and has a great jump," she described.
The judges rewarded Hoffman's style and consistency with the honor of winning the longest-running and most historical of the equitation finals. She said through tears, "It's unreal. It's nice to see that I've improved that much over last year. I was just so excited that it finally happened and that I finally did it."
Hoffman trains with Missy Clark, John Brennan, and Kristy McCormack at North Run and spends much of her time on the East Coast as a working student. The North Run team was in tears when Hoffman was announced as the winner. Clark said, "I'm so thrilled for Zazou. She's worked so hard. She's such a great worker and really devoted to the whole part of horsemanship. It isn't just about riding for her. It's the whole picture, which is really refreshing and unusual. She's in the barn working all day. She really deserves it, and I'm very proud of her."
Judge Bill Moroney pointed out that Hoffman made smart decisions that eventually put her to the top of their list. He commented, "She was consistent. In the second round, she created a course that suited her horse. They had a shot to show off, and it did change the order a bit. That's what we liked about her. She continued to ride forward. She didn't get overly conservative and try to play it safe." ~reprinted from the Phelps Media Group Press release.