Capturing the first place finish was no easy feat during Saturday night's $85,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, sponsored by Audi of Lexington. Forty-four starters contended for the lion's share of the earnings in the FEI CSI2* event, but when nine qualified for the jump-off, it came down to the wire. Besting the clock and the short course was Aaron Vale aboard Quidam's Good Luck, tripping the timers in 37.800 seconds for the first place finish. Charlie Jayne and Valeska followed closely in second with a clear effort in 39.29 seconds, while Andrew Welles and Boo van het Kastanjehof earned the third place in 39.610 seconds.
Richard Jeffery of Bournemouth, England, set an inviting course for the CSI2* event at the Kentucky Horse Park. The first round included an open water option, a vertical-oxer double combination, and a tricky oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination. Nine were able to traverse the track and advance to the jump-off, where speed and accuracy could not be compensated in the attempt to win.
Eventual winner Aaron Vale said of the course, "Richard [Jeffery] is a master. I know he could only build to 1.45m specs, so his hands were tied a little bit, but he did a beautiful job with this class, as well as the Hagyard Classic on Thursday. I had just a green rail the other night with Quidam, but it was probably a blessing that I didn't go in that jump-off. Everything works out the way it is supposed to. I may not have had the brain available tonight that I did for this class had I made it into that jump-off. We got the bigger purse, so it all worked out for us."
Only four of the nine were able to ride both courses without fault. Jayne was second in the order to return, and set the pace at a speedy 39.29 seconds as he broke the beam with no faults.
Jayne said, "I thought Richard Jeffery did a great job tonight with the 2* specs of making it a horseman's course, a rider's course. There were a lot of options, and it was really about knowing your horse. I thought it was very technical in that aspect. Most of the options today you had a water, skinny, a liverpool, a hedge oxer underneath, so you had basically all the tools out there, and I thought he did a great job and had the right number clear."
Andrew Welles was hot on Jayne's heels, riding Boo van het Kastanjehof to a fault-free round in 39.61 seconds. Just a nickel off Jayne's pace, it seemed as though with only three left to go that victory was in sight, yet Aaron Vale and Quidam's Good Luck were in it for the win, leaving no stone unturned.
Jayne said, "It's a little tough, the position that I drew going second in the jump-off out of nine. The footing is so fantastic here; we can really pick up some speed, and the class got quicker and quicker. I knew I needed a little luck on my side, but I thought she jumped fantastic. If anything, maybe at the end I took it a little conservative, and that's where I could have made up the second and a half that Aaron caught me."
Vale caught a good first fence, heading forward through the opening line where he stuck to the nine strides that Charlie did, finding a deep distance. After landing from the oxer, he did a very fast and long five strides to the vertical, clearing the line and gaining enough momentum to have spectators on the edge of their seats as he more than a second ahead of Jayne's pace. He was able to clear the final efforts in 37.800 seconds, setting an untouchable time.
"We didn't come to canter around and look pretty, we were in it to win," Vale said. "I knew Charlie has a quick time tonight, and that he got everything the way he wanted for it to appear. The only thing: I got kind of tricked. I thought when I was walking the course that I could get eight strides from one to two when I watched Charlie go, but somebody dissuaded me from that decision. I had a lot of momentum after doing the long five, and he is a thoroughbred-like galloper with a lot of foot speed. I could have done eight, it would have been smoother, but the momentum I had out of the five carried me over the next jumps. I had to get going. The big share of the prize money goes for first, so usually I like to try for that portion if it is possible."
Quidam's Good Luck is a 9-year-old who still has a few green moments, but Vale said that when the jumps stay in their cups, he can usually win the class. With the added FEI CSI2* events, his knack for clearing rounds with speed is proving useful. Vale plans on staying through the Kentucky Spring Classic where he will compete with his string of mounts in the CSI3* events.
"This is how the sport is going," Vale said. "With the influx of foreigners, the way the world ranking list is working, I think that this is going to stick here in Lexington. There is enough depth of people who need it. It looks like there is enough support."
Jayne agreed with Vale's sentiments, "It's fantastic having the FEI competition reinstated in Lexington. You know, going from last year at this time, where we had no FEI shows, to now competing in five weeks consecutive weeks of FEI events, you can't beat that. Now we have the opportunity to stay in North America-I'm not planning on going to Europe this summer, there are options now. I just thank the Kentucky staff. I think this is great for the organizers and the riders; it was a win-win situation. A lot of new riders came here this year for FEI, and I've only heard good things."
Juan Ortiz aboard D'Ulein van de Smeets and Jorge Matte with Perle du Marisas were the only others to jump double-clear, completing the night in the fourth and fifth place, respectively. Sixth place was awarded to Margie Engle and Royce, the fastest of the four-faulters.
The grand prix was held in memory of the late Mary Rena Murphy, one of the horse industries' most influential people. She worked diligently to promote the Kentucky Horse Park and was a big influence upon the first hunter jumper shows at the venue. Her vision for an exhibitor-friendly competition at a world-class facility helped shape the Kentucky Horse Park into what it has become today.
The Kentucky Spring Horse Show will conclude tomorrow with the $25,000 Bluegrass Classic and the $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix set to start at 8 a.m. in the Rolex Stadium. For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit http://www.kentuckyhorseshows.com/.
RESULTS: $85,000 MARY RENA MURPHY GP CSI2* II 2a
1 847 QUIDAM'S GOOD LUAARON VALE USA 81.45 37.80
2 1014VALESKA CHARLIE JAYNE USA 79.93 39.29
3 689 BOO VAN HET KASTANDREW WELLES USA 80.13 39.61
4 441 D'ULEIN VAN DE SJUAN ORTIZ VEN 81.56 42.99
5 1190 PERLE DU MARISASJORGE MATTE CHI 79.80 43.41
6 644 ROYCE MARGIE ENGLE USA 79.96 4 38.78
7 867 CHELLANA B DANIEL ZETTERMAN SWE 80.34 4 39.87
8 488 ELOUISE DE MUZE RICHIE MOLONEY IRL 78.66 4 41.92
9 191 QUABELLE BLYTHE MARANO USA 81.36 4 41.96
10 963 WOKLAHOMA ROBERTO TERAN COL 4 73.78
11 552 ZARA LEANDRA PABLO BARRIOS VEN 4 77.06
12 1105 COS I CAN REED KESSLER USA 4 77.59
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