Seventy-four horse and rider combinations faced off Thursday evening in the first $34,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic CSI2* of the season, but it was Ramiro Quintana (ARG) who took the night's victory with Whitney. The talented combination beat out a field of 24 during the nail-biting jump-off, tripping the timers in a speedy 41.27 seconds.
Quintana and Whitney, owned by St. Bride's Farm of Upperville, VA, have proven their partnership over the last two years, claiming top honors at shows across the country. They are now amping up for the Pan American games in Toronto, Canada this summer. Their efforts kicked off the seven-part Hagyard Challenge Series featuring the $50,000 Leading Rider Award.
"She's a really seasoned horse," Quintana said of his winning mount. "We're campaigning her for the team to make the Pan Ams, so this is kind of like her preparation. It's a bit of similar venue for what we're going to see in Toronto in July, so this is why we're here. The courses, the competition and the venue all put our training on the right path for Toronto."
Richard Jeffery designed the long track, creating a course that would ask the right questions without over facing the horses. He utilized a water jump, liverpool oxer, three double combinations and long stretches of the Rolex Stadium to challenge the pairs.
Alise Oken and Kaid Du Ry, owned by High Hopes Farm LLC of Charlotte, NC, were the first to post a double clear effort over the shortened track. Their time of 46.56 seconds set the pace to beat; however, it would prove conservative with the South American riders hot on her heels. Three trips later, Daniel Zetterman (SWE) surpassed her time with Chellana B, owned by Gyllebo Farm of Wellington, FL, soaring over the final oxer in 43.34 seconds to take the lead.
Wilton Porter was in hot pursuit of Zetterman's time, but he was a fraction off with Patriot, owned by Sleepy P Ranch of Bartonville, TX, finishing in 44.680 seconds without fault. It was not until Venezuela's Andres Rodriguez and Fifty Fifty 111, owned by Arao Enterprises, took their turn at the track that defeat seemed a possibility. They put in a blazing time of 41.64 seconds, surpassing Zetterman by nearly two seconds to take the lead.
"It was a great round," Rodriguez said. "I knew there were two very fast guys-Roberto Teran and Ramiro [Quintana] at the end, and Kaitlin [Campbell] also; there were many fast horses after me. I was really pleased with her round, she jumped amazing; she's been great this year, she won at WEF and she won a ranking class in Wellington. I've had her since she was 5 years old, and this year everything seems to be coming together, and she's bringing home great results. We're using her more and more, and we're counting more on her as one of the main horses for the string. I think she's going to keep getting better and better."
Three-time Hagyard Challenge Series winner, Pablo Barrios attempted to catch Rodriguez's time, and he did. An unfortunate rail in the double combination, as well as a final nick on the final fence would cost Barrios and Antares the victory, even with their faster time of 40.68 seconds.
Quintana and Kaitlin Campbell were the final two of the class, and as the penultimate rider, Quintana knew he had to leave no stone unturned. He kept a consistent pace from beginning to end; however, and early distance to the second to last fence would shave off the crucial four-tenths of a second that would knock Rodriguez out of the lead and have Quintana's name take the top spot on the leader board.
"It was really close; I honestly wasn't sure how fast I was going," Quintana laughed. "I think maybe I was a bit quicker than Andres [Rodriguez] to the last jumps. I was lucky I saw an early distance, and I took it, and it was quite a severe angle, it was risky, but it paid off. I think to win tonight you had to take a shot like that. This was our first class back from Wellington, so it is nice to be back in the winner's circle."
Campbell and the 17-year-old Rocky W were the last to go, but they were a nickel shy of the top two times, breaking the beam in 42.71 seconds for the third place.
This is the first time in two years that the Kentucky Horse Shows have reinstated the FEI competition, offering two weeks of CSI2* and CSI3* classes.
"This is the way the sport is going," Quintana said of the FEI competition. "Congratulations to Hugh Kincannon for getting the FEI status here once again. It's nice to see the managers catching up to which direction the sport is going. The Europeans show pretty much every week at the highest level under International rules, and I think that's a good step for the shows here, especially in the summer. In the summer it's a little bit hard to find shows, and I like that this venue is doing the FEI shows."
Quintana continued, "Just look at the numbers. It's been incredible, the effect, the show is sold out. It proves that people want the points, and they don't want to get left behind in the FEI ranking list. I think a lot of the riders that stay home and they don't go to Europe, they get left behind in the ranking, and it's really hard to get to shows when you're not in the top 50 in the world."
Tonight's victory will also earn Quintana valuable points towards the Hagyard Challenge Series, which seven grand prix classes to be held during the 2015 show series at the Kentucky Horse Park. Following the final event, a cash prize of $50,000 will be awarded to the rider accumulating the most points throughout the series, as well as a $10,000 prize for the reserve champion.
The jumper action at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show will continue tomorrow with the 1.45m Open Jumpers and the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumpers in the Rolex Stadium. This week's highlight events also include Saturday evening's $85,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix CSI2*, the $25,000 Bluegrass on Sunday and the $25,000 Under 25 Grand Prix.
For more information on Kentucky Horse Shows LLC and the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group
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