The 2013 Hagyard Challenge Series kicked off with a big win for Venezuela's Pablo Barrios and Zara Leandra during the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic. Topping an 11-horse jump-off at the Kentucky Horse Park during the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, the duo made a dash for the cash that was uncatchable with a double clear effort in 38.258 seconds. Ireland's Richie Moloney was right on his heels with Slieveanorra to claim second, while Margie Engle and Indigo took home the third place award.
The first round of tonight's event proved very difficult with a triple bar, an open water that scored the pole and the tape, a vertical-oxer double combination, a vertical-vertical double combination, and an oxer-oxer double combination. Only 11 of the original 46 entries were able to master the track without fault. Eventual winner Pablo Barrios stated, "I think it was a pretty tough course, it was tougher than I thought. I think the combinations that were clear were good combinations. The distance to the open water was difficult and the rail was very close to the take-off. That was a little difficult for the horses, because there was a lot of space between the rail and the tape. The double after the water was also difficult. You really needed your horse to be really careful."
For the tiebreaker, riders had to start over a large oxer and then gallop to a single vertical, before making their way toward the line with the vertical-oxer double combination and making a sharp roll back to a wall fence. They finished over a single vertical coming towards the gate to a wide oxer. Margie Engle of Wellington, FL, was the pathfinder over the short course with her veteran mount Indigo, owned by Griese, Garber, Hidden Creek, and Gladewinds. They had a more conservative time going early in the order, leaving all the rails in place and breaking the beam at 42.273 seconds, which was good enough for third place. "We still have Sunday to go, so I was just planning on going kind of neat, just smooth and try and go clear without getting too crazy," explained Engle. "I just wanted to try and have a double clean round."
Engle was bested by the next duo on course, Richie Moloney riding Slieveanorra for Equinimity LLC of Wellington, FL. Despite having a break between the Winter Equestrian Festival and the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, the pair was right on the pace, slicing turns and galloping across the ring. The careful mount left all the fences intact and stopped the clock at 38.847 to earn the second place honors.
"Slieveanorra is a careful horse," stated Moloney. "He's quite sensitive so you kind of have to sit as quietly as you can. He's had six weeks off now so he was looking at things a little bit because he hasn't been in the ring that much lately. He felt good after his break though. I was planning to be as quick as I could, but to the last jump I think I could have done one less stride. I was happy him with him since he's just back in the ring this week. He was in good form."
Moloney's lead over Engle was short lived when Barrios and Zara Leandra, owned by the ZL Group of Wellington, FL, entered the arena. Making a sharp turn after the combination, and opening his mount's stride to the last oxer, Barrios jumped to the top of the leader board with a time 38.258 seconds to eventually claim the victory. "The jump-off was great, it had everything, turns and space to gallop and go fast," noted Barrios. "I think Richard was testing everything. I caught a very nice path from the double combination to the wall. I got there at a sharp angle to help win the class."
Barrios continued, "Zara Leandra is a super horse. I've had her for exactly one year, last year she won the eight-year-old class the first week here. She's shown that she has a lot of quality and scope. I think this is the best horse I have ever had. She's only nine years old, but I think she is going to be very good. Yesterday she was a little heavy, she may have had too much rest, but with these two weeks she should get back in shape and ready for Spruce Meadows. I have very big hopes for her."
"Zara Leandra is very easy," added Barrios. "When the horses are good they have a lot of instincts, they are very smart. She knows what she is doing. I've never had a horse this smart or clever. She has good technique and scope, I think she has everything; I have big hopes to do the World Equestrian Games with her next year."
Three other combinations had clear rounds but were unable to catch Barrios' time. Angel Karolyi and Indiana 127, owned by Hollow Creek Farm of Aiken, SC, placed fourth, followed by Schuyler Riley and Waterloo, owned by Michael Meller of Tiverton, RI in fifth, and Derek Braun was the slowest of the clear's aboard Cyraneiky, owned by Split Rock Farm of Wellington, FL.
Kent Farrington had a single rail with each of his mounts, Zafira owned by Haity McNerney of Lake Forest, IL and Venus owned by Raylyn Farms of Frederick, MD, to finish seventh and ninth respectively. Blythe Marno took home the eighth place award after having a four fault score aboard Urban, owned by Riverwiew Farm of Franklin, TN. Engle and her second mount Celena Z, owned by Elm Rock LLC of Bronxville, NY, had eight faults for tenth, while a refusal and a rail saw Victor Segovia and Romeo, owned by The Romeo Group of Wellington, FL, round out the top eleven.
Tonight's class marked the start of the Hagyard Challenge Series, which features seven grand prix events throughout the spring and summer where riders can compete for valuable points toward the $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus. "I think it's a great idea," said Barrios, who has previously won the award. "I love showing in Kentucky. I think the bonus is a good incentive for the riders. It's always nice to finish the summer with a big check in your pocket."
Barrios concluded, "I want to thank my team, I have a very good team. My grooms and the group that works with me have been very supportive this last year, and I think I am getting back to where I was before."
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 morning's $20,000 Bluegrass Classic and the $75, 000 Commonwealth Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit http://www.kentuckyhorseshows.com/.
RESULTS: $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
1 279 ZARA LEANDRA/PABLO BARRIOS
2 350 SLIEVEANORRA/RICHIE MOLONEY
3 644 INDIGO/MARGIE ENGLE
4 649 INDIANA 127/ANGEL KAROLYI
5 445 WATERLOO/SCHUYLER RILEY
6 135 CYRANEIKY/DEREK BRAUN
7 175 ZAFIRA/KENT FARRINGTON
8 19 URBAN/BLYTHE MARANO
9 1061 VENUS/KENT FARRINGTON
10 788 CELENA Z/MARGIE ENGLE
11 1148 ROMEO/VICTOR SEGOVIA
12 790 ZIPPO II/AARON VALE
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group, Inc. (PMG)
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