Until the final seconds of the last jump-off ride in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, it looked as though Pablo Barrios would add another title to his three previous victories in the 2013 Hagyard Challenge Series. But young rider Wilton Porter and his mount Paloubet took a tight inside turn and raced down the final line to shave a quarter of a second off of Barrios' time with Zara Leandra to claim the win tonight at the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show at the Kentucky Horse Park.
The thrilling upset victory served as the perfect sendoff for Porter, who will head off to college at Vanderbilt University on Saturday. "It's pretty awesome," Porter said after his win. "My horse is amazing. He did everything right for me. The course just came up just right to beat Pablo because he was really fast."
Allen Rheinheimer's straightforward course for the first round included an oxer-vertical-oxer triple combination and a vertical-oxer in-and-out. The time allowed was 96 seconds. Ten of the 42 starters in the class went clear to advance to the jump-off.
"It was a good course for the group," Barrios said. "It walked a little simple to me, but I had trouble with the first horse [Ambosell]. I think for the horses with a little bit more experience it was good. There were a lot of amateurs and juniors in this class. I think it was on the safe side for everybody."
Riders began the jump-off over the original first two fences, an oxer with a rollback to another oxer. They continued over the first two elements of the first round's triple combination. From there, they made a tight rollback to a single vertical, turned to an oxer, and then made another rollback to the final line in front of the crowd.
Alison Robitaille and Laskara R were the first to try their hand at the jump-off, finishing clear in a time of 42.998 seconds. Ali Wolff and Zidane followed with another clear effort and knocked several seconds off of Robitaille's time to finish in 38.491 seconds. Porter and his first mount, Radio City, put in a speedy round of 37.738 seconds but had trouble down the final line, resulting in a rail at the last fence. While several more riders completed clear rounds, Wolff's time held up until Barrios and Zara Leandra, owned by ZL Group Inc of Wellington, FL, entered the ring.
Barrios navigated Zara Leandra through ground-saving turns to shave more than two seconds off of Wolff's time, taking all the inside tracks and putting up a tough-to-beat time of 35.952 seconds. But Porter, the final rider, was game for the challenge. He knew he would have to match Barrios' route and find somewhere to make up just a little extra time.
"I just had to match Pablo from jump one to two," Porter said. "I did eight strides and then galloping over to the in-and-out was basically the same. I think I was just on Pablo's time the whole entire time, not faster or slower, until the very last turn to the last line. I went a little bit tighter than Pablo, and it came up just right. I was really lucky, to be honest."
The crowd cheered Porter down the last line, and he pumped his fist after seeing the scoreboard light up with his time of 35.704 seconds. Barrios echoed Porter's assessment of their jump-off rounds. "In this type of class, the last person always has a little bit of an advantage," he said. "I think he took a lot of risks, and everything went well for him. His track and my track were pretty similar. I was happy with that."
Wolff, who wound up in third place with John Wolff's Zidane, was pleased with her strong finish on a horse she is still getting to know. "He's the newest horse in my string," she said. "I'm still getting used to him, but he's such a quick horse. Going into the jump-off, I knew I had eight riders after me and they were all really fast, so I was going to take a shot in a few places but still just go his speed. He loves going fast, and he jumps higher when he goes faster."
While Barrios looked to be the one to beat after his numerous wins in the series, Porter and Paloubet had previously shown they could be competitive in top classes, achieving good results at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival and Spruce Meadows earlier this year. Porter plans to keep competing while balancing his studies at Vanderbilt, where he is considering a major in business or economics. He has his eye on some of the indoor shows this fall and will fly back and forth to compete in Florida in the winter.
Porter credits trainer John Roche with helping him prepare the challenging Paloubet, who is owned by Porter's family's farm, Sleepy P Ranch LLC of Bartonville, TX. "John rides him more than I do probably, flatting him and doing all of the hard work," he said. "I think John's the secret weapon with him. He's very strong. Once you get in a fight with him it really just gets worse from there - there's no real beating him. I stay as soft as I can be."
The 2013 Hagyard Challenge Series runs from May to September and includes seven editions of the Hagyard Lexington Classic. 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 wellbeing 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 Bluegrass Festival Horse Show and all of the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Source: Press release from Phelps Media Group
This photo has been added to your cart !Your shopping cart »