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Jessica Sullivan and Classic Europa win the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix on July 5 at Woodside Summer Circuit.

Sherri Scott Photography

Jessica Sullivan and Classic Europa win the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix on July 5 at Woodside Summer Circuit.

WOODSIDE — When Jessica Sullivan entered the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix riding Classic Europa at the Golden Gate Classic, the amateur rider was hoping to hold her own against the professionals. When she posted one of three clear rounds over Anthony D’Ambrosio’s course, she found herself riding against two of her riding mentors.

“Liz Denny was my first trainer and she helped me with my Children’s Hunter,” Sullivan said. “When I switched to jumpers, Helen McNaught helped me and rode some of my horses.” It was a case of the student showing her teachers what she had learned as Sullivan was the only rider of the three to post a clear round in the jump-off.

In only her fourth Grand Prix start, Jessica Sullivan piloted Classic Europa, owned by Rolling Oaks West, to victory in the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix held July 5 at the Park at Woodside to conclude three-weeks of hunter/jumper competition at the Woodside Summer Circuit. With Helen McNaught and Liz Denny in the jump-off, Sullivan knew the pressure was on. With a nifty, clear round aboard Classic Europa, Sullivan led the victory gallop and then capped a successful week with the win in the $2,000 Junior-Amateur Owner Classic.

Liz Denny of Somis, Calif., aboard MMC Electrifying, owned by MMC Electric Investments, took second. Helen McNaught of Portola Valley, Calif., riding Ocean Cat, owned by Douglas White, was third.

Sullivan was elated with her win and gave a lot of credit to her mount, Classic Europa, a mare she purchased in February. “She had lots of European experience, and when John Endicott called me, he said he had the perfect Grand Prix horse for me. The only problem was I had two broken hands,” said Sullivan, who tried the 18-hand grey mare and held the reins gingerly. “I figured if I could control her with a broken hand …” Sullivan said with a smile.

Based in Southern California, Sullivan decided she wanted a change of scenery. “This is my first time showing in Northern California and everyone is so nice. I train with Santiago Rickard at home, but I have been friends with Patrick Seaton for a long time, so I decided to bring my four horses north and work with him.” Sullivan was concerned about being coached by her close friend; “I am surprised how well it has worked!”

Sullivan enjoyed her three weeks at Woodside. “There is the same caliber of horses,” she noted. “And, I don’t think Tony D’Ambrosio looked at the ZIP code when he built the Grand Prix course.”

Course designer D’Ambrosio of Red Hook, N.Y., concurred that he built a challenging track for the class. “There were some young horses with experienced riders and some experienced horses with young riders, but none of them had serious trouble with the course,” he said. “The winner was the only rider who made no mistakes in either round. She was close on time in the first round, but she managed it well. In the jump-off, she rode clear and forced the others to make mistakes. The course was not easy; it was technical with some bigger jumps.”

This was D’Ambrosio’s first time to Woodside and he was impressed with the facility and the show. “The facility is very horse friendly and the rings are spacious,” D’Ambrosio said.

With Sullivan’s win, the Woodside Jumper Accumulator incentive went unclaimed. Both Duncan McFarlane and Helen McNaught were vying for the $5,000 prize awarded to the rider who could win two of the three Grand Prix on the same horse. If a rider won all three on the same horse the Accumulator pool was at $25,000. The horse Mr. Whoopy, owned by Simone Coxe, pulled rails in the first round of the $30,000 Golden Gate Grand Prix, so McFarlane was out of contention. McNaught posted a clear round riding Ocean Cat, the victor the first week. However, McNaught wasn’t able to manage a clear round in the jump-off and missed the $5,000 bonus.

Throughout the three-week Woodside Summer Circuit, show champions received gift cards from HighLine Outfitters. Professional Toni McIntosh loved her new green, cargo style britches from the company that aims to put the fun in casual equestrian wear. Susan Meadows, who earned ribbons in the Amateur Owner Jumpers aboard her Topper (training under Vanessa and Buddy Brown) loved her HighLine Outfitters gift card and could not wait to fine something fun and fashionable. “These are so cute,” said Lily Dashiel, who also rides in the Amateur Owner Jumpers under the watchful eye of Buddy Brown, “that I am going to wear them around town after I ride!”

Complete results from the Woodside Summer Circuit are available at: www.langershows.com/woodside.php

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