Sunny skies greeted the exhibitors as they kicked-off the Kentucky Spring Classic in the Rolex Stadium of the Kentucky Horse Park. Once again it was Reed Kessler at the top of the leader board as she piloted Ligist to the only double clear effort in today's 1.45m Open Jumper class to earn the blue ribbon prize. Earlier in the day, Andre Rodriguez and Remonta Eden sped to victory in the 1.40m Open Jumpers, just topping Kessler and Onisha, who placed second during the speed class.
Germany's Olaf Petersen Jr. built a technical track for the 1.45m Open Jumper class that snaked through the Rolex Stadium and included a triple bar, two double combinations, and an open water option. Only two horse and rider combinations were able to master the first round and advance to the jump-off, which featured three new fences and a double combination.
Reed Kessler, of Lexington, KY, and Ligist were third on the posted order, and made the first round look easy as they made their way over each obstacle. Advancing to the short course, Kessler picked up a quick gallop, and despite a hard rub at the first part of the double combination, they left each rail intact and dashed across the finish line in 32.588 seconds.
Wilton Porter and Paloubet, owned by Sleepy P Ranch of Bartonville, TX, were next in the ring, and they also managed to leave each fence up and qualify for the jump-off. Their luck did not continue though, and as they took a sharp cut through a double combination to the final oxer. They were not quite steady enough, and the last obstacle hit the ground, adding four faults to their score. The pair was faster, clocking in at 32.309 seconds, but their effort was only good enough for second place. The third place award went to Meagan Nusz and Dynamo, owned by Amalaya Investments of The Woodlands, TX, who were fault-free over the first round, but just a tick over the time allowed for one time fault.
"Ligist was great," smiled Kessler. "I thought there would be a lot more in the jump-off so I got a little lucky there. Wilton came right after me and he was faster, but he had the last jump down. I actually meant to do the inside turn to the last oxer, but he had a better slice on the vertical than I did, so I think he really beat me there."
Earlier in the day, Venezuela's Andres Rodriguez was victorious in the 1.40m Open Jumper speed class. The talented rider piloted Remonta Eden, owned by Sandra Van Dyke of Lake Worth, FL. to a very quick and clear round breaking the beam at 65.548 seconds. He edged out Kessler and Onisha by almost a full second, and they earned the red ribbon for their clear time of 66.32 seconds. Rounding out the top three was Ilan Bluman and Quatro, owned by Daniel Bluman of Weston, FL, who stopped the clock at 69.898 seconds with all the rails in place. Rodriguez picked up the fourth place award with his final mount Da Vinci, owned by Cavallo Farms of San Diego, CA, who was clear in 70.359 seconds.
"This is my first show with Remonta Eden," explained Rodriguez after his win. "We got the horse to show in Calgary in the Speed Derby events. Last week he won a class, and I was very surprised because I thought of him being more of a big scopey horse, but he's a wonderful speed horse too. He's won two out of the three classes we've shown him in, so I am very excited about Calgary and this horse."
Rodriguez added, "He's very hot. The quieter you stay on him, the better he is. In the show ring he likes to be a little hyper. Today, I think we were pretty fast going across the ring. I had a good sprint, and I knew after that I was fast enough." Second place finisher Kessler said, "Onisha was great. I think I was a little wide to the third jump and one of the rollbacks, but she was pretty quick everywhere else. She's so careful, she can go fast every single day and never lose carefulness, it's really nice for her, like a little vacation."
Kessler's current focus is qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics with her top mounts Cylana or Mika. Both horses will compete later this week in the grand prix competitions, before heading to Spruce Meadows for the final U.S. Show Jumping Team Observation Event. "That was Katie's [Prudent] plan," concluded Kessler. "She doesn't want to change what we've been doing, just keep going like it's a normal show and not get out of practice before Calgary."
The jumper action at the Kentucky Spring Classic will continue tomorrow with the $32,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic. This is the second in the seven part series, where riders have the opportunity to vie for valuable points towards the $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus. Riders will also be competing for $6,000 in Bonus Money as part of the SSG Riding Gloves "Go Clean for the Green" promotion. The main event on Saturday at 6pm will be the $75,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix, sponsored by Audi of Lexington.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.KentuckyHorseShows.com.
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