It was a very exciting night for Ireland's Richie Moloney as he captured his first international grand prix victory, riding Slieveanorra during the $75,000 Mary Rena Murphy Grand Prix at the Kentucky Spring Classic. The talented duo have been runner up on numerous occasions, even placing third during Thursday's $32,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, but tonight the luck was on their side. Six horses advanced to the jump-off, but only three were double clear, with Moloney landing at the top of the leader board, while Margie Engle took second aboard Royce, and Egypt's Nayel Nassar rode Raging Bull Vangelis S to third.
Germany's Olaf Petersen Jr. created a very technical course for tonight's main event in the Rolex Stadium. With a tight time allowed, riders had to show over a triple bar, an open water obstacle, a vertical-oxer double combination, and finally an oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination, which caused errors for many of the competitors. Only six of the 31 entries were able to master the initial track and advance to jump-off, where they had to jump the double combination again while also making tight rollbacks and then galloping across the ring to reach the final oxer.
Nayel Nassar set the time to beat with Raging Bull Vangelis S after completing the first fault free round over the shortened track. In an effort to leave the fences in place, Nassar kept a conservative pace and stopped the clock at 46.56 seconds, which held up for third place.
Moloney was not going to leave anything to chance with Slieveanorra tonight, after finishing just short of the winning time with a double clear effort on Thursday with the Equinimity LLC mount. The pair held a strong gallop throughout the track, and they easily made their way through the rollbacks before flying at the final oxer. Moloney and Slieveanorra slipped through the timers in 43.99 seconds, which would prove to be unbeatable and earn them the hard fought victory."I am very happy to get a win, it's my first international grand prix win," expressed Moloney. "He was second during Week II of WEF, and won Section B during Week V. He was on the team during the Nation's Cup and he was four and clear and we finished second. It's nice to get a win because he's been second a couple times now."
This week is Slieveanorra's first week showing since the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, but down time seems to have been very good for her, after placing third Thursday and winning today. Moloney was not convinced of his victory tonight though, and felt he had the left the door open a crack during the jump-off.
"I thought I could have been faster to the vertical in the middle of the ring," explained Moloney. "To the last jump and the oxer after the vertical I was able to make up some time. I think everyone else did six to the double, but I did seven, so someone could have caught my time there."
Moloney is very excited to have the ride on Slieveanorra, who was started by his brother in Ireland, and he hopes to take him over to Europe this summer to represent Ireland in Nation's Cup competitions.
"Slieveanorra is just naturally very quick," stated Moloney. "Around the turns he's always going, in the jump-off you don't have to think about going faster, he's always going to be quick enough. He's a little bit nervous, so you just have to take your time around him. He can jump bigger classes, so we'll have to see how the next few months go."
Margie Engle was next with her new eight-year-old mount Royce, owned by Elm Rock Partners LLC of Wellington, FL, and the pair was quick, but not quick enough. The talented mount showcased his scope and left all the rails intact, but Royce's hang time in the air proved to be a slight disadvantage as they stopped the timers a second shy of Maloney at 44.94 seconds, but good enough for tonight's red ribbon.
"I have loved this horse since I saw him as six-year-old," smiled Engle. "Royce has got all the jump in the world and he's really a lot of fun. He's never gone fast, in fact, this is the fastest he's gone in a jump-off. He's starting to ride better and better so that I can give it a shot. It took me awhile to figure out which bridle to use to have full control. I am just keep getting to know him, this year is all about learning experience for both of us, at a eight years old a lot of horses aren't even doing the grand prix classes yet."
Engle added, "He's got more scope than almost anything I've sat on, the power is amazing, you feel like you can jump a house. For a stallion he's very kind, he's got a very good attitude, he's brave at the jumps, the main thing I had to do was get the rideability and have him learn to go faster."
Three other horse and rider combinations competed over tonight's jump-off track, but they each had a pair of rails to add eight faults their total. Katie Prudent and V, owned by Mike Smith of Winchester, VA, placed fourth with the fastest eight fault round, while Derek Braun and Lacarolus, owned by MRN Family Group of Wellington, FL. placed fifth and Blythe Marano and Riverview Farm's Urban rounded out the top six.
The Kentucky Spring Classic will come to a close tomorrow, where the featured events will include the $20,000 Bluegrass Classic, as well as the Show Jumping Hall of Fame High Junior and High Amateur-Owner Jumper Classics. In addition to trying to earn the championship, the High Junior Jumpers will be competing for $1,000 in bonus money as a part of the SSG Riding Gloves 'Go Clean for the Green' promotion.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.KentuckyHorseShows.com.
Source: Press release from Phelbs Media Group, Inc. International.
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