The demanding coursework required of a Harvard University student is enough to keep anyone busy. Now imagine adding competing at the international grand prix level to that schedule. Juggling the two is hectic, but for Katie Dinan it is paying off in a big way.
Dinan flew in for the Alltech National Horse Show on Wednesday, and by Saturday she was at the top of the leader board. After piloting her veteran mount Nougat Du Vallet to a flawless double clear effort in the challenging Alltech $250,000 Grand Prix CSI-W 5* presented by LIFEFORCE ELITE, Dinan will return to Harvard with a big check and valuable points in the World Cup standings.
Thirty-six of the world's top horse and rider combinations took center stage in the Alltech Arena this evening as the highlight event got underway. Course designer Conrad Homfeld challenged riders with large fences and technical lines that led to a four-horse jump-off.
The pathfinder during the second round was McLain Ward of Brewster, NY, with Sagamore Farms' Rothchild. The pair flew around the short course, easily leaving out strides and taking all of the inside options. Their luck ran out though as they galloped to the final vertical, incurring four faults in a time of 42.06 seconds, which would hold up for fourth place.
Dinan watched her trainer's round carefully and decided to give it everything she had with Nougat Du Vallet, while also being careful enough to leave each rail intact. She left out a stride down one of the last lines, but chose to do the correct number to double combination. Her plan proved to be the perfect answer to the test and she finished in 44.85 seconds, which would hold up for the win.
"I thought I was very fast, but I didn't leave the ring thinking I had won the class," noted Dinan. "You can always look back and find little moments where you could have been quicker. I think that if McLain had left all of the jumps up, at least with my time now, he would have beaten me, but I probably would have gone a little faster, too."
Dinan added, "I'm obviously really excited. My horse was jumping great, and he was unbelievable in the first round. Since there were only four in the jump-off, I knew that this was really a moment for me to take a shot, and I had nothing to lose."
Belgium's Nicola Philippaerts was tasked with trying to best Dinan's time riding Cortez for his father, Ludo Philippaerts. He had a conservative gallop to the first fence, but started making up time by taking all of the inside turns. His clear round came close, but not close enough, breaking the beam at 45.02 seconds for second place.
"I think McLain was fast, and Katie also went super fast," said Philippaerts. "I tried to ride as fast as I could. I think I did one stride too many to the wall. I think that was where I lost the most time. When they go fast, you have to go fast, and it's only moments you have to decide what you do."
The final rider to show was Russia's Ljubov Kochetova with Aslan, and while they did keep the rails in the their cups, Dinan was able to celebrate her victory when Kochetova took the outside turn midway through her effort, leading to a time of 46.42 seconds and the third place award.
"I wanted to try and be clear and fast," commented Kochetova. "I haven't jumped a lot of jump offs in difficult competitions. I am so happy that I have a double clear. I was trying to go fast, but I have third place and I am happy."
Dinan was thrilled to add this exciting victory to her resume, and it made leaving school early this week well worth it. "This month has been a little bit hectic," she admitted. "The great thing is when you have nights like this, it makes it all seem worth it. When you don't, it kind of makes you wonder what you're doing. I wasn't able to do the classes at the beginning of the week, but I've been trying to do as many Indoors as I can because I have a good string of horses, and I feel like my horses are going well. I want to try to maximize that, but at the same time I am a little bit busy going back and forth with school."
"Nougat Du Vallet is unbelievable," she concluded. "He tries his heart out. He's been my main horse for the last two years. I've been moving up and he's been doing a lot. It's his last show of the year, and to finish on a moment like this is unbelievable. He's allowed me to accomplish a lot of my goals, while at the same time being competitive, and super forgiving of my mistakes. I love him!"
Kochetova's consistent top placings throughout the week also helped her win the Martha W. Jolicoeur Leading Lady Jumper Rider Award at the end of the evening. "I am so happy," she commented. "I was happy with my other horse [Wilford 2] because he's my new horse and we don't have a lot of experience. He jumped with me for the first time indoors. I've jumped here for the last several years and I really like this show - it has good organization, a big ring and very good footing."
Philippaerts also scored top honors during the Alltech National Horse Show, winning the Audi Leading Rider Award. "I think it is super," he expressed. "I think the last two classes made it up for me. I was second yesterday, and today second again. It's super to be leading rider of such a beautiful show. I really am going to enjoy it."
Alltech Founder Dr. Pearse Lyons concluded, "Boy that was exciting! This year we decided that we needed to do something different, and that somehow or another we would engage the city of Lexington. We are delighted that the city has responded, and that so many businesses have responded. There was passion, there was fun, there was engagement. I don't know anywhere in the world where you can get footing, stadiums or barn after barn and demonstration after demonstration. It certainly wasn't me, but whoever built the horse park way back, that made this event really come into a whole new level."
Class 206, $250,000 ALLTECH GRAND PRIX CSI-W
1 307 NOUGAT DU VALLET KATHERINE DINAN 0 0 0 76.090 0 0 0 44.850
2 268 CORTEZ NICOLA PHILIPPAERTS 0 0 0 76.140 0 0 0 45.020
3 241 ASLAN LJUBOV KOCHETOVA 0 0 0 72.040 0 0 0 46.420
4 292 ROTHCHILD MCLAIN WARD 0 0 0 75.570 4 0 4 42.060
5 232 CHILL R Z CHARLIE JAYNE 4 0 4 70.230
6 244 JUBILEE D'OUILLY LAURA KRAUT 4 0 4 72.060
7 258 SLIEVEANORRA RICHIE MOLONEY 4 0 4 73.620
8 347 POLINSKA DES ISLES FRANCOIS MATHY 4 0 4 73.950
9 217 ROYCE MARGIE ENGLE 4 0 4 75.530
10 255 SPECIAL LUX JONATHAN MCCREA 4 0 4 76.990
11 339 QUALITY GIRL TODD MINIKUS 4 0 4 77.430
12 226 UNEX CHAMBERLAIN Z TIM GREDLEY 4 0 4 77.570
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group
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