A Special Day for Jonathan McCrea: Gazelle ES wins $77,300 CSI2* Grand Prix
onathan McCrea (USA) had a dual reason to celebrate Sunday in Traverse City. Along with celebrating his 18th wedding anniversary with wife and business partner Christine McCrea (USA), he clinched victory with Gazelle ES in the $77,300 Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel CSI2* Grand Prix, marking the season’s first international grand prix at Flintfields Horse Park.
The course was built up from the previous days of FEI action, set by Manuel Esparza (MEX) and welcomed 26 top entries to start out the season strong. Of those, nine jumped clear rounds, and McCrea was the first of them, putting him in a challenging spot come jump-off time.
“First is a hard place to go,” McCrea, of Windsor Show Stables, remarked. “There was a lot of talk in the practice ring among the riders whether to do seven or eight [strides] up the first line. I tried seven, and three-quarters of the way up the line I thought, ‘It’s not going to happen.’ But it actually worked out for the eight strides to turn back for the next jump really sharp. My mare loves to gallop. She’s very careful. The jump-off kind of suited her to be honest.”
McCrea’s strategy of quick across the ground held for the next eight competitors, as he nervously watched to see how the class would play out. Though a few caught the time, none were able to keep all the rails up. Ultimately, McCrea was one of only two double-clear rounds. The other, finishing less than half a second off the time, was Margie Engle (USA) with her winning mount on Thursday, Jackofhearts, owned by Gladewinds Partners, LLC. Third went to Francesca Bolfo and Jadalco with a blazing fast four-fault jump-off.
“This is my third year with her,” McCrea said of the Windsor Show Stables-owned 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Dorado x Ukato). “She’s been second I don’t know how many times. It’s long overdue. She’s a good mare; I like her.”
The temperature dropped significantly for Sunday, which was a change welcomed by Gazelle ES and no one else. “The weather today really helped her; she loves cold weather,” McCrea shared. “She’s a funny mare. I don’t ride her before the class. She doesn’t longe. It took a long time to get to know her. She was very standoffish in the barn when she came to me and now she’s a cuddly bear.”
Simplicity has always been the game plan with Gazelle, and with many horses in McCrea’s program, and it is paying off as he is seeing top results. “I’m a huge believer that less is more. She only showed one class this week. I didn’t jump her in the welcome. She’s starting to become a seasoned horse so that really helps. She wants to leave the jumps up.”