For the second week in a row, Angel Karolyi of Venezuela stood in the winner’s circle following the Grand Prix at HITS Ocala in Ocala, FL.
Having claimed the $50,000 Purina Animal Health Grand Prix on Sunday, March 8, riding Wings, Karolyi returned to Post Time Farm to capture the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix on Sunday, March 15, this time riding Venus. Both horses are trained by Karolyi’s business partner, Andrea King of Aiken, SC.
As a sign of good things to come, Karolyi and Venus won the $10,000 1.45m Prix before topping the standings in the $100,000 Sullivan GMC Truck Grand Prix. Back-to-back Grand Prix victories do not come easily, however, and Karolyi had his work cut out for him, facing off against a 46-horse starting field. Only six entries managed to pass the tough test set by course designer Manuel Esparza of Mexico to qualify for the tie-breaker.
When Karolyi watched the first jump-off contender, David Beisel, make quick work of the shortened jump-off track with Ammeretto, he wasn’t sure he could catch him.
“I watched David Beisel, he was first to go and he is always a fast rider,” explained Karolyi. “He went around so fast I didn’t know whether or not I should try to beat him. I thought he was going to be really hard to catch. I don’t know Venus that well, but as I walked in the ring, I thought to myself, “I’m going to go for it!”
“I thought I was a little slower than David at the beginning, and then I got a green light,” continued Karolyi. “I didn’t know if I was quite fast enough to beat him when I landed from the last jump, but I think I was able to catch him because the mare is just so naturally fast across the ground and over the jumps.”
Crossing the timers in 44.78 seconds, Karolyi shaved a full second off Beisel’s time, and none of the four entries that followed were able to catch the leaders. Olympian Kirk Webby of New Zealand came the closest, placing third with Brando du Rouet.
While Karolyi and Venus are a new combination, the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Julius) is no stranger to international competition. Owned by Ray and Lynne Little of Raylyn Farms, Inc., Venus was campaigned throughout the 2012 season by Kent Farrington before Marilyn Little, who competes in both show jumping and eventing, took over the reins in 2013.
“She’s been around, she’s jumped all over the world,” said Karolyi of the mare that has competed everywhere from Spruce Meadows and the Hampton Classic in North America to various international events in Europe. “She is a very careful mare with all the scope, and she’s just a fighter. You’ve got to balance her to the jumps, but other than that, she tries to leaves the jumps up for the rider. She’s a great horse with lots of experience!”
Of how he came to ride Venus, Karolyi explained, “We started helping Lynne with some young horses in Wellington last winter because Marilyn was focusing on her eventing career. Andrea and Lynne starting talking about Venus and discussed getting her back in the show ring. I started riding her about a month ago, just going slowly to build her up and to get to know her.
“Last week, she was fourth in the $10,000 1.45m Prix,” continued Karolyi of the pair’s progression. “This week, I only jumped her in the $10,000 Prix and she won it. Andrea and I talked about it, and decided to put her in the $100,000 Grand Prix.”
It proved to be a wise decision, and one that paid $30,000 in prize money for the win. With back-to-back Grand Prix victories, Karolyi is looking forward to showing both Venus and Wings, a 17-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding (Lexicon x Columbus) owned by Mclain Ward, in the CSI2*-W Live Oak International in Ocala, FL, from .
“I’m really happy,” said Karolyi, 28, who is based in Wellington, FL. “Andrea and I have been apart for a little bit, and we started about a month ago getting the horses ready for the end of the HITS Ocala circuit and for Live Oak. Wings won a $10,000 Prix and then the Grand Prix, and then Venus won the $10,000 Prix and now the Grand Prix. We are happy that the plan has come together, and the horses feel in top shape for next week at Live Oak. That really brings our winter plan to conclusion.”
Karolyi was quick to acknowledge those who have made his success possible, saying, “Thank you to Andrea and the rest of the team, as well as Ray and Lynne Little of Raylyn Farms for allowing me to have such a nice horse to ride.”
In addition to partnering with King, Karolyi also rides several mounts for the Andrade family of Venezuela. Karolyi spent the majority of the 2014 season campaigning their top international mounts around the world, scoring a major victory in the $210,000 Cenovus Energy Classic Derby during the Spruce Meadows Summer Series in Calgary, Canada, with Indiana 127 and representing Venezuela at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France, with Amigo.
In the fall, Karolyi was again a member of the Venezuelan Show Jumping Team for its debut in the Furusiyya Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain. He then headed to Mexico for the Central American and Caribbean Games in Veracruz where he won the Silver Medal in the Individual Final riding Indiana 127.
Karolyi’s next major goal is to compete for Venezuela at the 2015 Pan American Games, hosted in Toronto, Canada. The Pan American Games act as a qualifying event for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where Venezuela hopes to be one of two teams to earn an Olympic berth.
Photo by © ESI Photography