Rolex’s Central Park Horse Show

For Mark Bellissimo, September 23 was a special night. At a press conference, Bellissimo, the founder of the Rolex Central Park Horse Show, expressed his pride for both Olympic equestrian course designer Guilherme Jorge and the athletes who competed in that evening’s Rolex U.S. Open Grand Prix, the main event of a five-day equestrian spectacular held at Wollman Rink. “When we started,” he said, “the goal was to put together something that had top equestrian sport in a unique setting. I think [the] competition was the best of the three years.”

“The two main concerns here at Central Park for a designer are to find a good track on a small ring and one that’s an unusual shape,” said Guilherme Jorge, the course’s designer. “I was happy today. They had a lot of room to gallop and to get to the fences. That was my main priority. With the atmosphere and lights it takes an exceptional horse to win here.”

When the event began, the crowd was at capacity. Thirty-four riders from 11 nations were set to compete. With the New York City skyline in the background, jumpers took to the course, hoping to clear all the obstacles and finish in the allotted course time. But as they faced the challenging jumps, faults were assessed, times missed by just seconds.

After 11 nail-biting series, the crowd was finally rewarded with a clear round—when a jumper clears all the obstacles within the course-given allotted time. Rider Jimmy Torano—on Daydream—was 18th to go, and his precise round ensured that he made it through to the jump-off. Rolex testimonee Kent Farrington, aboard Creedance, and fellow silver-medal winning team member at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, McLain Ward, were among those to join him.

After the preliminary rounds, a total of 10 made it to the finals.

From the starters, two riders produced a double clear—two consecutive rounds of obstacle-clearing within the allotted course time. The fourth-to-go Torano set the challenging time of 37.05 seconds to beat. Although Farrington produced a faster time, he incurred four faults after the slightest touches on one rail took him out of contention for the title.

After his victory, Torano commented on Daydream: “He’s a very brave horse so I wasn’t worried about the bright lights or the electric atmosphere. I didn’t think he was going to win the class as he’s young and there are some top combinations here. I really can’t say enough about this event. What gets better then riding in New York City with the incredible skyline like this?”

But what makes the event truly special is the way it allows so many people to participate, offering equestrian competitions in many classes and styles, and even having a family day where children can ride ponies around the course. It’s clear that Rolex wants to share its love of the sport with all. And that’s what makes this event one of the best in its class.