Venezuelan rider Pablo Barrios is proving to be unstoppable with his talented young mare Zara Leandra. With a speedy double clear during yesterday's jump-off, the duo won their third $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic. Only four horses advanced to the tiebreaker in the Rolex Stadium during the Kentucky Summer Classic, and Aaron Vale was the only other rider to leave all the fences intact a second time to capture the second place prize with Palm Sunday, while Ireland's Richie Moloney and Alsvid placed third.
Marina Azevedo of Brazil set a very technical track for tonight's 51 starters, which only yielded four clear entries. It included an open water, an oxer-vertical double combination, a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination and a very technical bending line at the end to a skinny set just past the gate. A short time allowed also had four riders finishing with only time faults to their name.
"I think that this is the shortest time allowed that we have had during these summer weeks," explained Barrios. "I think it should have been an eight horse jump-off. To be honest I also think it's a little unfair that the first half of the class jumped with the sun almost in their faces while the second half had beautiful lights. Especially at fence number three, it came down many times because the sun was in the eyes of the horses in the first part. Then they started to jump it well. I think that helped a little bit to keep the number down. When you win though you always think it was a good course. I think the combinations that were in the jump-off there were very good combinations."
For the jump-off, riders began with a roll back from a single oxer to a single vertical, before jumping through the double combination and then continuing to the skinny vertical. They then made their way to a single oxer before galloping across the arena to a final vertical-oxer bending line.
The first to complete the first round without fault was the second in the order: Aaron Vale riding Palm Sunday for Amen Corner Farm of Folsom, LA. The duo put on the gas and took some chances during the tiebreaker, but carefully left all the fences in place, crossing the finish line in 40.144 seconds, setting a difficult pace to for the remaining riders to follow.
"I was just trying to go as fast as I could get my horse to go," admitted Vale. "The other riders are really, really fast as well. My horse is fast, but just in general, he's not quite as fast as the other horses when we get in the grand prixs. I was just trying to put in as good a round as I could and hope that that was something that would hold up. I didn't feel like I could get there well in one less stride in the last line, and that's enough for someone like Pablo to beat you."
Richie Moloney was the next to enter the ring aboard Alsvid, owned by Equinimity LLC of Stoneybrook, NY. They wanted to take the top spot, and they had the speed to do so, but a heartbreaker at the last rail added four faults to their time of 38.051 seconds for the third place honors.
The youngest rider in the jump-off was Wilton Porter with his new mount Radio City, owned by Sleepy P Ranch of Bartonville, TX. In an attempt to beat the clock, they misjudged the distance into the double combination, causing rails to be lowered at the oxer, for four faults in 41.587 seconds, earning the fourth place prize.
The last to show proved to be the best of the day, and it was his third time being the best. Pablo Barrios and Zara Leandra, owned by the ZL Group of Wellington, FL, had all the answers once again, speeding easily over all of the obstacles and leaving a stride out to in the last line as they dashed across the finish in 38.918 seconds to notch another victory and relegate Vale to second place.
"The jump-off was perfect for Zara Leandra," smiled Barrios. "I did eight to the last line, and I saw Aaron did nine. She didn't even see the first jump in the last line until the last stride, but she still jumped it beautifully."
Barrios continued, "She's still so young, but she's so fit. She got so fit in Calgary for those big rounds with long courses. I think the horses are having more opportunity to maintain and keep their energy up because the weather has been really nice here as well. Some horses are just like athletes - the more you practice something, the better it gets. You get better and better and better, and you know more each time what you have to do."
Zara Leandra is just nine years old, and Barrios found the mare in Germany just over a year ago, successfully showing her in the Eight-Year-Old Jumpers last spring. She and his second mount Ambosell, an eight-year-old that finished just over the time allowed in seventh place, are two that he is aiming towards the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.
"Ambosell is is surprising me every time I go to the ring," noted Barrios. "It would be nice to have the two choices. He is a year younger, but getting more mature and quick. He really has the scope for the championship to jump big fences three days in a row. I think he's more scopey. Zara Leandra is very scopey, but Ambosell is a really scopey horse, and I think he's only going to develop more in a year."
Tonight's class was the fourth event in the seven-part Hagyard Challenge Series, which features a $50,000 Leading Rider Bonus to the top rider at the end of the season. In 2010, the winner of the Series was Barrios, who has made it goal for this year as well following his win in the first event in May and last's week's victory. That fact played into how Barrios rode his first and second rounds.
"I needed to win because the difference between the first and second in the bonus rider standings isn't that much," said Barrios. "I knew that Richie would not take the first place because he had a rail, so I really went for it. I knew that I needed a clear round. I think that I am always at my best under pressure. I always have been very good under pressure. It's when I ride the best. I think the bonus helped me a little bit to focus on my riding today."
Hagyard Equine Medical Institute is one of the oldest and largest equine veterinary practices in the world. Founded in 1876, the institute offers a staff with qualifications unparalleled by any single non-university veterinary group in the equine industry, and Hagyard veterinarians have dedicated themselves to the health and well-being of the horse for more than 130 years.
Several generous sponsors have helped make this exciting series event happen. These gracious supporters include: title sponsor MWI Veterinary Supply, and presenting sponsor Zoetis, as well as Audi of Lexington, Dean Dorton Allen Ford, Hagyard Flex-tra HA, Johnson Horse Transport, Hallway Feeds, Kirk Horse Insurance LLC, Pike and Preston, and Stoll Keenon Ogden.
For more information on the Kentucky Summer Series please go to www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
RESULTS: $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
1 57 ZARA LEANDRA PABLO BARRIOS 0 0 0 87.113 0 0 0 38.918
2 663 PALM SUNDAY AARON VALE 0 0 0 84.912 0 0 0 40.144
3 988 ALSVID RICHIE MOLONEY 0 0 0 87.558 4 0 4 38.057
4 478 RADIO CITY WILTON PORTER 0 0 0 87.331 4 0 4 41.587
5 220 NKH SELENA CHRISTIAN HEINEKING 0 2 2 89.556
6 1333 CARRABIS Z RICHIE MOLONEY 0 2 2 89.693
7 1288 AMBOSELL PABLO BARRIOS 0 2 2 89.715
8 872 GELEDIMAR HANNAH VON HEIDEGGER 0 3 3 90.390
9 864 BARIANO EUGENIO GARZA 4 0 4 82.798
10 1723 EREGAST VAN'T KIEZELHOF SHANE SWEETNAM 4 0 4 84.179
11 1020 FINEMAN SHANE SWEETNAM 4 0 4 84.821
12 399 ACCORDANCE JUAN ORTIZ 4 0 4 84.988
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group, Inc. International
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