"I like to think it's Holiday bonus time." Bob Bell president of Classic Company said of the nearly $150,000 in prize money awarded during this finale week of the Atlanta Fall Series."I like to think it's Holiday bonus time." Bob Bell president of Classic Company said of the nearly $150,000 in prize money awarded during this finale week of the Atlanta Fall Series.
"I like to think it’s Holiday bonus time." Bob Bell president of Classic Company said of the nearly $150,000 in prize money awarded during this finale week of the Atlanta Fall Series. "And given the economy now, these cash awards could mean a lot more to our hard working riders." he added.
Thursday evening saw the first big bonus check handed out to New Zealand Olympic team member Sharn Wordley in the $25,000 EMO Insurance Welcome Stake. Epson Pierreville, with guidance from Wordley, overpowered an international field of nearly 40 strong mares, geldings, and stallions in first round action to become one of only six to advance into the jump off. "He was spot on!" Wordley, who is now based in Ocala, FL, said of the coming 18 year-old Selle Francais gelding.
Taking on the task of designing the finale jumper courses was Michel Vaillancourt. An International as well as Olympic-caliber talent, Michel prepared a seemingly straight forward layout of 13 obstacles [16 efforts-4’6 to 4’9] with several sweeping tracks, but, as Wordley described, "It was pretty far from simple! David Beisel and David Jennings are always so fast, plus Christian [Currey] can come out fast, so I had to do enough to catch them, and also not go too crazy." It was what Vaillancourt does best, a thinking course, one that had riders asking questions about strides and approaches. With a generous time of 88 seconds, the first act was dubbed a tango with it’s technical snap turns and odd strides. Particularly difficult was the triple combination at 4ABC- oxer to vertical to vertical- that arched into the #5 oxer over water. "It was a funny angle to the liverpool [#5] and it was 7 ¸ strides there so you had to come direct on a square angle to the oxer. It was a bit tricky." Wordley explained the lesson learned on his first mount, Rockville, who had that rail down. "It was the half strides that made it difficult." he concluded. Epson and Wordley danced a clear round in 81.21 seconds.
The six-jump [7-effort] 48 second challenge deciding today’s victor offered it all for the spectators: speed, rollbacks, sharp turns, and split-second decision making on the rider’s part. Along with Beisel, Jennings, and Currey international competitor Bjorn Ikast claimed a spotlight with Wordley for the evening’s last curtain call. "Fast one!" Wordley began, "I think we [Epson] were the only ones to go inside from one to two [fence #15 vertical] and then I just rolled back one stride less than everybody else." A small maneuver that paid big with a clear and blazing time of 38.441. "I went the same pace as everyone, I was just able to turn a little tighter." he added, "He [Epson] was spot on!"
Look for this duo to return for Sunday’s main event, "Then I’ve got to head to my other day job, Wordley & Martin, a riding surface company that produces footing for facilities across the country, so I can keep doing this!" Wordley said with a wink.
Final results placed David Jennings and Marcus Aurelius in 2nd with a clear final time of 42.921. David Beisel, riding Patoile for owner Harlow Investment Enterprises, took 3rd with a clear time of 43.211. Fourth went to Christian Currey and Cenzo in a time of 40.910 with 4 faults, and completing the top five was Bjorn Ikast with Braveheart in a final time of 41.531 and 4 faults.
Thursday afternoon’s Prix was just the start of big-money classes during this final week of the fall series. Sunday morning hosted several moneyed events beginning with the Classic Company sponsored $10,000 NHJL Junior- Amateur Owner Jumper Classic won by Mobile, AL’s own Ann Marie Walker and Radio Flyer. Following that came Audrey Trimble of Westlake, TX riding Memphis to win the $10,000 NHJL Children’s – Adult Jumper Classic. And the long awaited presentation of the John Deere USEF Memberperks Amateur Finals at which a John Deere Gator is awarded to the rider with the high point total from the 9 Atlanta shows. This year’s champions are Meg Atkinson and Happy Hour who train with Daniel Geitner of the Aiken, SC based DFG Stables.
As the 3 o’clock hour rolled around a crowd lined the end field of the Olympic arena to cheer their favorites in the featured event, another $25,000 Grand Prix presented by EMO Insurance. Vaillancourt’s 13 obstacle [16 efforts] proved what a design virtuoso he truly is. From the 24 who endeavored to beat the layout only two emerged unscathed. Even with an 86 second allowance the "scope test", as today’s victor Archer, FL resident Derek Petersen deemed it, retired three horses retired and three were eliminated. Petersen gave his observation of the hot spot on the course, "In that triple combination [vertical-oxer-oxer] those two oxers were wide and a little short in there so you had to kick a bit more." Petersen and Lazaro, the 8 year-old Belgium gelding owned by Jordan Coyne, were 10th in the order and the first clear round, stopping the clock in a very fast 75.12. Eight more would attempt and fail until 21st in the order Bjorn Ikast and Braveheart made it clear in 80.49 seconds. "The last combination [11AB], the oxer jumping in was really wide so you had to ride that well and then it was short for the vertical out so you had to set up and bump’em a little there to ensure leaving that rail up." Petersen pointed out the other trouble area for so many horses. "It was definitely a good test for this horse, a new level and he’s ready for the next challenge now." he added about the spunky young gelding.
Scene two could have been billed as dual of champions, with Lazaro versus Braveheart battling a 50 second time limit to safely negotiate a curvy 8 fence gauntlet. "I just wanted to leave the jumps up mainly!" joked Petersen before adding, "I just tried to keep a good pace. Normally I have to go a lot faster here because 4 to 6 guys running behind or me trying to catch them, but it was kind of nice to go one on one." The pair finished clear in a comfortable 41.046. Braveheart was giving Lazaro a run for it, but after an unfortunate rail down dashed his chance Ikast elected to retire from the field. "I have no problem losing to a good rider and horse. You [Derek] were the better man today." Ikast said to Petersen. In very good humor Petersen suggested perhaps Lazaro had been drinking a Red Bull because "he just seem to have wings today and kicked it up a whole new notch!" then offered another idea, "probably was his magic Antares saddle and new bridle along with our red, white, blue Patriotic ensemble." All joking aside team Petersen is very pleased with Lazaro’s performance and now look forward to some family holiday time before the new season begins. No doubt Lazaro will find some extra treats in his stocking this year!
For more information or complete results on the Fall Classics visit www.classiccompany.com or call the office at 843-768-5503. Emails regarding upcoming winter events can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com will be answered as often as possible during the Holiday time.