Ireland's Shane Sweetnam is well known for helping produce top young mounts, and today he showed how it is done with the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Bijzonder. When seven horses go double clear in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, the only way to win is with speed, and although Bijzonder is just learning to go fast, he clearly has a knack for it. Sweetnam sped across the finish line two seconds ahead of second place finishers Ramiro Quintana and Caramello Z to lead the victory gallop.
Fifty entries gathered at the Rolex Stadium to compete during tonight's event at the Kentucky Summer Classic. Great Britain's Richard Jeffery set a technical track with a triple bar-oxer combination, a vertical-vertical combination and an oxer-vertical combination, as well as an open water obstacle. Only two riders managed clear rounds in the first half of the class, but as riders began to figure out the answers to Jeffery's questions, six more advanced to the tiebreaker.
The first to return was the pathfinder in the jump-off, and Caitlin Hope set the time to beat at 43.933 seconds with Kathleen Hope's Total Touch, which held up for seventh place. Hannah Von Heidegger with Monarch International's Geledimar and Blythe Marano aboard Riverview Farm's Quabelle and were both clean as well to take home fifth and sixth place respectively, but the real race started when the South American's began to battle it out with the Irish rider.
After winning last Saturday night's $50,000 Rood and Riddle Grand Prix, Argentina's Ramiro Quintana was hunting for another blue ribbon, this time aboard St. Bride Farm's Caramello Z. He dashed over the obstacles and made a quick gallop to the final oxer, going straight to the top of the leader board with a time of 39.191 seconds.
"I was very pleased with my horse," noted Quintana. "She jumped amazing. She's only 9 years old, and I thought it was a really big test for them. She has a lot of temperament and good character. She's very eager, and sometimes that gets in the way because she doesn't really take the time to jump the jump. I think we've done a really good job, Barb [Roux] and our team, of taking her slowly through the ranks. We couldn't be happier." Owner Barbara Roux added, "Ramiro picked her out as a 7-year-old. He's been taking the time to develop the partnership with the horse, and I think it's really starting to pay off."
Juan Ortiz of Venezuela was second to Quintana on Saturday, and he made another bid to beat him tonight with the Synchronicity Group's Tina De Noyelles. Although he was clear, he was a second shy of the time in 40.046 seconds, which would only be good enough for fourth place.
Shane Sweetnam was the next to enter the arena with Sweet Oak Farm's Bijzonder. He knew he was going to need to go quick for a top placing tonight, and he began taking chances early, leaving a stride out in the first line, as well as to the final oxer, while also making quick turns. The effort paid off and they broke the beam at 37.618 seconds to take over the top ranking from Quintana.
The crowd held their breath when Venezuela's Pablo Barrios stepped into the ring, knowing that he has won all three of the previous Hagyard Lexington Classics. This time he was aboard his newer mount Antares, and although they gave it a shot, a slip turning back after one of the verticals proved costly, and they galloped home in 39.681 seconds to take home the third place award.
"I got to see Juan Ortiz just before I went. He looked very fast so I knew that I was going to have to go very fast," admitted Sweetnam after his win. "Bijzonder is only an 8-year-old, so I haven't really had that much experience going fast on him. He's got a big stride, and he really covered the ground."
Sweetnam purchased Bijzonder when he was 7 years old last December, and they found success in the 7 and 8-Year-Old Jumpers at the Winter Equestrian Festival. "I took him to Spruce Meadows with me, and he did some 1.40m and 1.45m classes," he noted. "Bijzonder learned a lot up there. Last week was his first grand prix. He was clear in that, but he got a little green in the jump-off when I was trying to go fast, so he learned something from that. Today he was perfect in the jump-off."
Sweetnam added, "He's learning to go fast, and he's quite a quick horse. He covers the ground quite well. He rides in a snaffle. He's uphill. He's very brave. He just gets a little green sometimes like they do at that age, but he's a lot of fun." Based next to the Kentucky Horse Park at Spy Coast Farm with his own Sweet Oak Farm, the Kentucky Summer Series is a natural fit for Sweetnam. "It's like being at home. It doesn't feel like I'm away. My family's here; the horses are here, and my clients are here, so it's a fun place to be."
Tonight was the fourth event in the Hagyard Challenge Series, which features a $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus to the top finisher. Sweetnam was ranked third in the standings prior to tonight's victory. "It's a great thing to have the bonus," he expressed. "It's great prize money, and they're great classes. They're very competitive, and there are nearly 50 in each class every week. It's great show jumping. You can develop a younger horse or do an older horse, and there's good incentive for it."
The next event for Sweetnam will be Saturday night's $50,000 Kentucky Summer Grand Prix, sponsored by GGT Footing. The event gets underway at 7:00pm in the Rolex Stadium, and the week will conclude with the WIHS/NAL Children and Adult Jumper Classics on Sunday.
RESULTS: $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
1 688 BIJZONDER SHANE SWEETNAM 0 76.867 0 37.618
2 1196 CARAMELLO Z RAMIRO QUINTANA 0 78.233 0 39.191
3 624 ANTARES PABLO BARRIOS 0 77.074 0 39.681
4 344 TINA DE NOYELLES JUAN ORTIZ 0 76.534 0 40.046
5 19 GELEDIMAR HANNAH VON HEIDEGGER 0 77.311 0 41.008
6 660 QUABELLE BLYTHE MARANO 0 77.201 0 42.482
7 1105 TOTAL TOUCH CAITLIN HOPE 0 78.349 0 43.933
8 1832 WILCO EMANUEL ANDRADE 0 79.488 4 41.884
9 1142 TWISTER SHAWN CASADY 4 74.838
10 760 SPIRIT OF ALENA AARON VALE 4 75.305
11 692 FINEMAN SHANE SWEETNAM 4 75.645
12 1054 PUNCHY DORCEL BRITTNI RAFLOWITZ 4 75.745
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group, Inc.
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