Two of the top-five slots in Friday’s $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health, were captured by one man. Jeffery Welles of Brewster, New York rode two horses to clean rounds and won the class aboard Noel Love Gross’ Merlin, while finishing fourth on Aries, also owned by Gross.
Ken Krome of Westminster, Maryland presented riders with a challenging 13-obstacle course, which included 16 jumping efforts and its fair share of technical turns and bending lines, as well as a tight time-allowed. The track included three double combinations – a two-stride and two one-strides. The jump-off began with the return of fence nine from the first round – an airy vertical – and was followed by six more obstacles, including the first one-stride combination.
The jump-off welcomed five pairs back into the ring and Peter Leone of Greenwich, Connecticut kicked things off with an eight-fault round to finish in fifth. Welles returned second in the order to post the first clear round and set the Great American Time to Beat at 42.92 seconds aboard Aries. “There were a lot of right turn rollbacks in this course and [Aries] in particular needs to work on them, so he was resisting a little and we got off to a slow start,” said Welles of his first jump-off appearance. “After we added a stride to the Liverpool, he settled in and we finished well.”
Despite a hard rub on the ninth fence of the first round, Darragh Kenny of Wellington, Florida advanced to the jump-off and stole the lead from Welles in the irons of The Wannahave Group’s Sandor de la Pomme. Even while jumping the last two fences without his right stirrup, Kenny took the lead in a time of 42.21 seconds, which ultimately gave him third place.
After a win in Sunday’s $50,000 Grand Prix, Margie Engle of West Palm Beach, Florida was fourth to ride in the jump-off and again raised the bar with a total time of 41.88 seconds. She and Elm Rock Partners, LLC’s Royce finished in second behind Welles. “This horse is really young, but he has all the scope in the world and a wonderful attitude,” said Engle of Royce, an eight year old German bred stallion. “Sometimes I feel like he can jump anything. We just have to keep working on getting him fast enough to be competitive.”
Between Royce and her 2011 Pfizer Million mount Indigo, Engle is hoping to pick up her required qualifying classes and punch her ticket once again for this Fall’s Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix in Saugerties, New York. Welles saved the best for last and rode for the win with Merlin in a time of 40.94 seconds. “[Merlin] tends to get strong throughout the course, but the turns kept him organized,” said Welles. “He rode well and ended up having enough speed to get it done.” Welles is also hoping to join Engle in the highly-anticipated Pfizer Million this Fall. After piloting Merlin in last year’s featured event, Welles is primed to return to glory and anticipates that Aries, an 11 year old Dutch bred gelding, is just the horse to get him there.
Top Five $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Pfizer Animal Health
1. Merlin/ Jeffery Welles 0-0/40.94
2. Royce/ Margie Engle 0-0/41.88
3. Sandor de la Pomme/ Darragh Kenny 0-0/42.21
4. Aries/ Jeffery Welles 0-0/42.92
5. Lincourt Gino/ Peter Leone 0-8/46.64
Source: Press release from hitsshows.com
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