Who ever said lightning never strikes the same place twice has not met Pablo Barrios. The Venezuelan rider once again piloted Antares to the top of the pack in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic presented by Zoetis, mimicking his effort two weeks prior in the $50,000 Kentucky Summer Grand Prix.
The win comes just in time for Barrios to add to his stockpile of points for the Hagyard Leading Rider Bonus before he jets off to Normandy for the World Equestrian Games. The $50,000 bonus is given to the rider accumulating the most points throughout the Hagyard Challenge Series, a summer-long set of seven show jumping events at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Friday night's prix marks the fifth class in the series.
"I'm really, really happy with the result today, because I was looking for this from the beginning to make sure I got the bonus," Barrios said of the win. "I'm not going to be able to go to the last two Hagyard Series prixs because I'll be in Europe, so I wanted this to happen and I think I've done all I can to keep the bonus."
That's an understatement. Barrios has more than twice the number of points as the next closest rider, and he has earned them on a number of different horses, Antares being his most recent victor. The 9-year-old bay gelding is getting ready to compete in the WEG with Barrios, and looks to be in fine form.
"Antares is a new mount for me. I just got him in April, but we have already developed a very good relationship," Barrios said. "I was a little concerned if he would be fast enough, because he's a big horse, but he's really fast. He turns really well. He moves quick off the ground. He's pretty special to me."
Barrios is not kidding when he says the big gelding is quick and agile. Thirteen horses jumped clean over the Allen Rheinheimer designed course, and Antares went early in the jump off with plenty of speed horses behind him, including second place finisher Ramiro Quintana on Caramello Z. Barrios shaved seconds off his time by taking an inside turn coming out of a one stride combination to a vertical before galloping for the finish over the Hagyard fence.
"He's so clever," Barrios said of Antares. "I mean when I turned to that vertical after the in and out, I found the vertical at the last minute after the inside turn, and he just pats the ground and jumps beautiful. He also has a big stride, so I could leave a stride out to the last fence, and he still tries to leave the rails up," Barrios continued. "I'm very happy with that horse."
In sharp contrast to Barrios' big horse was second place finisher Ramiro Quintana's mount Caramello Z. The short and spicy 9-year-old mare missed the winning time in the jump off by fractions of a second. "Her grandmother is Ratina Z, so she's got a lot of blood in her breeding," Quintana said of the mare. "She's definitely has a lot of blood and a lot of character, which is a good thing, but you have to keep her contained, because otherwise she's like a loose cannon."
Quintana is pretty confident he could have outpaced Barrios and Antares, but a momentary lapse in focus cost him in the jump off. "I was planning on doing six strides one to two," Quintana said of his jump off plan, "but I had a hard rub at the second fence, and after that it was an inside turn. I lost my concentration for a second because I was listening to hear if the pole was coming down. So I couldn't really cut the stride going into the horseshoe jump," Ramiro continued, "and I lost the class there. I just lost my concentration for a fraction of a second, and it cost me."
Speaking of the horseshoe jump, the fence Quintana is referencing caught a fair number of horses and riders off-guard in Friday's class, collecting more than its share of rails and refusals. Designed and built by Steve Stephens, the uniquely shaped jump was used earlier in the day in the first round of the USHJA International Hunter Derby Finals, and both Quintana and Barrios admit they made an error in how they approached it with their first mounts in the class. "It's not a fence we're used to jumping, but I made a mistake with my first horse and with Antares to go show them that fence," Barrios said. Both he and Quintana let their horses halt and sniff at the fence prior to starting the course.
"They really got very nervous, I think I shouldn't have shown them it," Barrios continued. "I think they were expecting for the whole course when that jump was coming, and they were jumping a little tense. The last horse I didn't show it, and he looked at it but he jumped it really well."
Quintana is in agreement on both the challenge of the fence and how to address it, though he learned the hard way. He rode Versus before Caramello Z in the first round, and chose not to continue on Versus after running thorough the top rails of the horseshoe fence. "I had a lot of problems there with my first horse, he spooked really hard there," Quintana said. "When I went in with Caramello Z, I didn't even show it to her. With my first horse I went in and I showed it to him and it almost spooked the horse even more. She went around and came to the fence and saw it at the last minute and jumped, and it was too late to do anything," Quintana continued. "Sometimes that's better - if you address it too much they get scared and they don't know why you're shoving this jump in their face."
For more information on the Kentucky Summer Series please go to www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
To learn more about the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, please go to www.hagyard.com.
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group, Inc.
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