The Rolex Stadium was alive with excitement as 34 entrants competed in the $40,000 Kentucky Summer Grand Prix at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. It turned into a nail-biter as five competitors progressed into the jump-off with a clear first round effort. Trailblazer Pablo Barrios aboard Zara Leandra was the first to post a double-clear effort tonight, and it seemed as though no one would be able to best the talented team. It wasn't until Aaron Vale and Tibor took their turn at the short course that the anticipation became contagious, with the crowd holding their breath as they watched his tight turns and speedy delivery. His time of 41.889 seconds took the duo to the top of tonight's leader board and the winning title.
Brazil's Marina Azevedo designed tonight's course, using obstacles such as a vertical-vertical-oxer triple combination, standalone verticals, bending lines, an oxer-vertical double combination, a triple bar, rollbacks and tight turns. The jump-off allowed 52 seconds for horse and rider to trip the timer, utilizing tight turns and long distances to direct them to the finish. Starting over the first vertical and making a left rollback to a grey oxer, riders moved forward over a single vertical toward the oxer-vertical combination. Upon landing they were required to make a tight right turn to a vertical, and then move toward the timers over the oxer-vertical line with the seconds accumulating and their speed progressing with every stride.
Pathfinder Gabriela Mershad posted the first clear effort of the evening, navigating the course with Angelstone Farm's Caprilli HSF, of Rockwood, Ontario. Her conservative effort left all rails intact; however, she was just shy of the 87 seconds allowed, incurring one time fault and moving her into the eventual sixth place position.
Each consecutive rider attempted to master the track, but it was Pablo Barrios and Zara Leandra, owned by the ZL Group of Wellington, FL, who cleared the course in a time of 85.263 seconds and moved into the pinnacle of the standings. When Andres Rodriguez gathered his reins and moved Arao Enterprises' Caballito, of Wellington, FL, forward through the course, it became clear that a jump-off was in the works. The pair easily cleared each obstacle, and seemingly unnerved prepared for the jump-off ahead.
Chase Boggio of Canton, GA, and his own Hennessey were the next pair to capture a clean course, with Alison Robitaille and Cover Girl 27, owned by M/M Bertram Firestone of Upperville, VA, following on their heels only five rounds later. Aaron Vale had guided two other mounts over the first course; however, unlucky rails left him with Tibor as his final chance. He was the last of the competitors to move into the jump-off for his clear effort aboard Tibor, owned by Bonnie Smith of Charlotte, NC.
"If I enter Tibor in the right classes, he's pretty much clean every time. I've been on him for two full years now, I know him, and I know where I can add a stride. It helps him out, and that is a big key in the first round. I think I added one in almost every line. The relationship we have lets me do that," eventual winner Vale described.
Barrios laid down the first attempt at the jump-off course, swiftly guiding Zara Leandra over the defying course. He took tight turns throughout the round, especially cutting time from the oxer-vertical combination to the single vertical. His double-clear effort and time of 43.309 seconds left the pair with a target on their backs as the other four competitors vied for the top slot.
"I feel really pleased with the Zara Leandra," Barrios remarked. "It feels amazing, much better every time I go into the ring with her. I went first in the jump-off and just focused on clearing the round and not taking too much risk but like everyone else, just go for it and hope there are no mistakes."
It seemed as though Rodriguez and Caballito had the win in their pocket as they successfully completed the first half of the jump-off in record time. An unlucky rail through the final line eventually earned them the third place finish with a total of four faults and a time of 39.785 seconds. Boggio also accrued four faults, but finishing in the fourth place with a time of 42.902 seconds. When Robitaille and Cover Girl 27 took their turn at the course, it seemed as though Barrios' ride would stick, with Robitaille crossing the finish line in 45.876 seconds and a four-fault effort.
Then, everything changed. In a flash, Vale erupted from the in gate with Tibor racing toward the first vertical. It was apparent that they were going to go for a blazing speed to knock Barrios from the lead. Vale's tidy turn from the vertical in the rollback to the oxer sliced precious time, as he raced forward into the more grueling part of the short track. After completing the oxer-vertical combination, he made a quick turn to the single vertical, clearing it with ease, and picking up momentum as he galloped over the final obstacles. As he landed from the final fence, the crowd erupted in applause. He secured the lead as the final rider, anchoring the victory in 41.889 seconds, a 1.42 second differential.
"My plan was to try to win obviously," Vale smiled. "He's a very experienced horse, he's very careful and quick. You have to be a little careful on the turn backs with him, but at least he's very fast galloping, so that helps a bit. I had to give a little extra room back to the oxer number two, but I watched Pablo go, and he had a real efficient ride. After I watched Andres and saw that he had a pole down, I had a real gage of time. I figured that my horse had a faster gallop so the foot speed would make the difference. It's always fun winning but it's especially fun when you're the last one in and you get the job done. There is a little more energy when it happens that way," Vale concluded.
Kentucky Summer Grand Prix Results
1 762 TIBOR AARON VALE 0 0 0 84.090 0 0 0 41.889
2 44 ZARA LEANDRA PABLO BARRIOS 0 0 0 85.263 0 0 0 43.309
3 1358 CABALLITO ANDRES RODRIGUEZ 0 0 0 81.564 4 0 4 39.785
4 421 HENNESSEY CHASE BOGGIO 0 0 0 84.659 4 0 4 42.902
5 339 COVER GIRL 27 ALISON ROBITAILLE 0 0 0 81.770 4 0 4 45.876
6 651 CAPRILLI HSF GABRIELA MERSHAD 0 1 1 87.825
7 444 URBAN BLYTHE MARANO 0 2 2 88.893
8 281 RIVER OF DREAMS CHRISTIAN HEINEKING 4 0 4 80.000
9 319 CHIRON S PAIGE JOHNSON 4 0 4 83.315
10 636 SIRI SHANE SWEETNAM 4 0 4 83.690
11 1213 NOLDE JACK H. TOWELL 4 0 4 84.262
12 629 DIKTATOR VAN DE BOSLANDHOEVE SHANE SWEETNAM 4 0 4 85.968
Source: press release from Phelps Media Group Inc.
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