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Paige Johnson best in Kentucky

Friday, 27 July 2012

Paige Johnson and Chiron S. Phot by Kendall Bierer//PMGThunderstorms plagued the Kentucky Horse Park as riders gathered beneath the lights of the Rolex Stadium to compete in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. Paige Johnson proved to be the best of the best, controlling the jump-off with one of only seven double-clear efforts aboard Chiron S to lead the victory gallop. Shane Sweetnam and Danielle Goldstein also tackled the short course, but their times could not catch Johnson's speed, each placed third and fourth, respectively.

Marin Zevedo designed tonight's course, using obstacles such as a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination, bending lines, an oxer-oxer double combination, a triple bar, roll backs and tight turns. The jump-off allowed 47 seconds for horse and rider to break the beam, using a serpentine path to guide them to the finish. Starting over the first oxer and making a right to a vertical, riders then took a standalone red-and-white vertical to the oxer-oxer double combination. Upon landing, they were in full gear, racing against the seconds as they maneuvered over the SSG Digital Riding Gloves vertical and finished over the final oxer.To say that time was the name of the game tonight would be an understatement. Danielle Goldstein was the first to go clear during the first round, and entered the jump-off with an obvious confidence. She left all rails intact with Waliba VDL, owned by Starwyn Farms of Wellington, FL, and stopped the clock in 30.885 seconds, an astounding pace.

"I saw Danielle go, I went up to watch her, I wanted to learn from her being the first to go," Johnson explained. From one to two she lost her footing, which is really easy for that to happen, but she still got her quick distance there. I thought to do the same thing, but was really careful on that turn. I made sure to stay balanced and keep tight and neat. He's a really fast horse, but I needed to make sure I just galloped with him here. Land before you turn is what I remembered to do. It was important to me to make every jump count."

Paige Johnson was only the second rider to successfully post a clear round during the first course, and managed to post the single fastest time of 29.663 seconds during the short track, taking the lead with a differential of 1.22 seconds-a time that proved untouchable. Johnson rode veteran mount Chiron S, owned by Salamander Farm of The Plains, VA, with a firm plan in mind. They jumped easily over each obstacle, and raced across the finish line to go straight to the top of the leader board.

"Basically I wanted to be as smooth as I could and make it worth it," Johnson described. "I wanted to base everything off a rhyme and a reason. He was really rideable and everything came up really nicely and he was smooth which brought on a win. This was his first time showing in two weeks, and I literally got on him right before the class and rode him in. It's no wonder he is acting so proud of himself tonight."

Shane Sweetnam threw caution to the wind as he guided not one, but three mounts over the jump-off track, making remarkable times as he battled against Johnson's time for the blue. Sweetnam guided Siri, owned by Spy Coast Farm of East Setauket, NY, to a double-clear effort in 31.313 seconds, eventually securing the fifth place position. Aboard Esquina Van Klapscheut, owned by Spy Coast Farm, he was on pace to match and possibly better Johnson's time, but an unfortunate rail at the standalone vertical cost him, earning him the ninth place position just behind Andres Rodriguez and Caballito, owned by Arao Enterprises of Wellington, FL.

"I saw Paige in the jump-off early on, and she was very fast. We knew we had to be faster than her, and with Siri I went quickly, it still wasn't good enough," Sweetnam remarked. "I knew what I had to do, but it wasn't good enough, as they say 'No cigar.'"

It was Sweenam's final effort that had the crowd on edge. He seemingly blasted out of the in gate aboard Diktator Van De Boslandhoeve, owned by Spy Coast Farm, launching over the obstacles with ease. As he landed from the final oxer, there was nothing but silence and then an eruption of applause. He left all rails in their cups, but his speedy time of 30.645 seconds was one second shy of the prize.

"I've had Diktator for two years now, he's still up and coming, he's been coming along better and better, and the more classes he participates in the better he gets," Sweetnam continued. "I am very happy with how tonight went, we went out there and did our best, and we have a lot ahead of us."

Tonight's class was the third of seven grand prix events that make up the Hagyard Challenge Series, sponsored by Hagyard Medical Institute and presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Following the final event in the series, a cash prize of $50,000 will be awarded to the rider accumulating the most points throughout the series for the Leading Rider Bonus. A new addition to this year's Series will also be the $10,000 high point Thoroughbred Award.


Order Entry # Horse Name Rider Name AF2 Time 2 Preview Purchase
1 319 CHIRON S PAIGE JOHNSON 83.735 29.663
4 1210 FIEONA JACK H. TOWELL 86.701 31.199
5 636 SIRI SHANE SWEETNAM 86.197 31.313
6 339 COVER GIRL 27 ALISON ROBITAILLE 83.180 31.557
7 399 LORENA 90 CHELSEA MOSS 88.677 33.540
8 1358 CABALLITO ANDRES RODRIGUEZ 80.559 4 faults 31.168
9 631 ESQUINA VAN KLAPSCHEUT SHANE SWEETNAM 81.389 4 faults 33.185
10 1213 NOLDE JACK H. TOWELL 84.600 8 faults 30.310

Source: Press release Phelps Media Inc.

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