Leslie Howard (USA) and Donna Speciale, owned by Laure Sudreau, went early in the field of 41 competitors from five nations, but the Darien, CT resident managed to hang on to the fastest clear round and win the $40,000 Sovaro Speed Stake, the first or four FEI-recognized competitions to be featured at the 41st Annual Hampton Classic Horse Show.
Howard was fourth in the lineup and watched as each remaining rider failed to beat her score. Howard's time of 62.81 seconds was the fastest of the eight clear rounds, but she thinks it was just good fortune.
"I think it was just luck," said Howard. "I went in there for a nice day, I didn't push it. I think there were a lot of riders pushing for a win and just got unlucky. McLain (Ward) was brilliant and then had a rail. Peter Wylde had a very fast time and then had a rail. I think it was just the way things ended up."
Richie Moloney (IRL) finished in second place by only eight one hundredths of a second on Ypaja Yando, owned by Equinimity, LLC, going in 62.89 seconds and Charlie Jacobs (USA) was third with 65.72 on Quality Time Tn, owned by CMJ Sporthorse, LLC. A few places on the course trapped the riders. The in and out away from the gate early on the course caused a few rails as well as the Liverpool and a vertical.
"I think it was a well presented and thought-out course. Alan Wade, the course designer, is a genius," said Howard. "He builds these tracks that look so nice on paper and as you walk it and then riders have rails scattered throughout the course, which is always a sign of a great course designer."
Howard's has high hopes for Donna Speciale. She is only 8-years-old and Howard believes the Dutch Warmblood has a promising future. "My mare is really fabulous. I've had her since January and she's won at just about every show she's competed in this year. She has had a phenomenal record. She seems to have all the desire and all the scope. We just have to wait for her to grow up another year and maybe we'll have the real deal."
Richie Moloney's runner-up spot kept the Irish rider on top of the leaderboard in the $30,000 Longines Rider Challenge with 198.5 points. Catherine Tyree remains in second place with 147 points and Beezie Madden is third with 145 points.
Source: Press release from Classic Communications // Picture © Shawn McMillen Photography
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