A horse that wasn't there, a reformed rogue and a jumper that wouldn't stay in the ring starred in their various fashions at the Detroit Horse Show.
The absent horse, Windsor Castle, last year's "stop-and-go champion" at Harrisburg (SI, Nov. 10, '58), starred by virtue not of performance but of price—he was sold for the tidy sum of $25,000 a week before. Chicago's Harold Marzano and Si Jayne bought the sensational gelding from Carl Miller Jr. and then promptly withdrew him from the show. Si Jayne had strong objections to the water obstacles on the Bloomfield Open Hunt grounds where the show is held, claiming that jumpers do not face this test at the rest of the shows and, lacking the proper schooling, could have bad wrecks. Ironically enough, while Windsor Castle stayed in his stall the other jumper exhibitors, after the first night, also complained so lustily about a water jump 12 feet wide with a 2½-foot brush in front of it that it was eliminated from the future jumping courses.
Since Windsor Castle didn't go, the field was well open to the other competitors, and the upset victor that very first night over the criticized course was a 16-year-old gelding named Challenge. Ridden by Mrs. Bruce Campbell, a tiny (5 feet 1 inch) teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing in Ida, Mich., Challenge twisted, turned and jumped the intricate course with deceptive ease.
Only a few years ago Challenge, then known as Tops All, had been showing in Canada, where he earned a reputation for being slightly crazy. But Oscar Riepp of Toledo was one man who felt sure he could change him. He bought the horse. "We treated him like a human being," he says. "I talked to him a lot and worked him very quietly."
Riepp's confidence paid off, but later he suffered a heart attack and had to give up competition. So Mary Campbell now guides Challenge over the show ring fences, talking to him all the way. "It gives him confidence," she says, "but it takes big fences to make him keep his mind on his business." Challenge minded his business so well that besides the opening Big Jumping Event, he won two more classes (plus a second place) and the jumper championship.
Although Challenge did not get to-face Windsor Castle, that horse's new co-owner, Harold Marzano, turned up with four other jumpers to spice up the competition. One, a little roan gelding named Cochise who traveled as though he'd been nicked by a stray arrow, was something of a show stopper. A onetime Canadian champion, Cochise would usually get over anything he was aimed at, but the trick was to get him aimed. The horse knew where he wanted to go, and that was out. So one evening he leapt over the gate, still wearing his rider, Harold Marzano, and disappeared into the night.
At the neighboring Grosse Pointe show, held the week before, Cochise had managed four such exits from the scene of action. But the biggest news around the Grosse Pointe ring was the manner in which Windsor Castle changed hands.
Just before the event, Max Bonham, who trained and showed the horse, had a physical checkup. The results meant that Max was grounded. In Max's place Morton (Cappy) Smith rode Windsor Castle, and for five classes the big gelding did not touch a single fence.
The night before the show ended, Si Jayne was sitting with Harold Marzano when Si announced, "I am getting tired of having that Windsor Castle beat me. Let's go buy him." So 15 minutes later Marzano and Jayne returned minus $25,000 but co-owners of the champion.
Meanwhile, Cappy Smith's Passport picked up the green working hunter prize, as well as reserve in the regular working hunter division, and another Smith horse, homebred Grey Pennant, took the green conformation hunter championship. Altogether, it was a highly satisfactory show for Cappy, the more so because it was part of a farewell tour. He leaves next month for Ireland to make final arrangements about going into the horse business there. Though he will be back in the U.S. for the fall circuit, his headquarters will be near Dublin, where, in an equestrian version of bringing coals to Newcastle, he will bring Virginia horses, including Grey Pennant, to Ireland.