After turning 21 on Thursday, Karen Polle of New York, New York and With Wings celebrated with a blue ribbon in Friday’s $25,000SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Under clear blue skies, Polle and With Wings were definitely sporting their wings, riding to an impressively quick jump-off round and ultimately topping an original field of 50 contenders.
With Wings and Karen Polle won the $25,000SmartPak Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis
A star-studded field, including the likes of Margie Engle, Peter Wylde and McLain Ward took to a course set by Olaf Petersen, Sr. of Paehl, Germany, with Polle among them on two mounts. The course was certainly not lacking in height and tested both horse and rider in the first round with a double combination at the fourth fence and a bending line to a triple combination at fence eight. In total, Petersen set 13 obstacles, which included 16 jumping efforts. Faults were spread evenly throughout the course, but a wide oxer at fence 13 proved to be the heartbreaker of the day, delivering rails to 15 pairs.
Polle got her introduction to the course early, as she and her own Bottom Line jumped first in the order. “It’s always so nerve racking to be first in the ring – I am not a fan of going first, but today I think it actually worked in my favor. I had plenty of time to think through my round on With Wings having already jumped the course once,” said Polle.
Friday’s win was the second grand prix victory for Polle, but her first in the irons of With Wings. “He is such an amazing jumper and he has a huge stride,” said Polle of her 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding. “He was really brave and careful out there today. Most of the time his biggest problem is getting in the ring, but once he’s in there he is always focused.”
In the first round, the order was only three deep when Lillie Keenan of New York, New York piloted Pumped Up Kicks to the first clear of the day. She was later joined by eight others, including Polle aboard With Wings for a nine-horse jump-off. Keenan returned first in the jump-off to set an immediate Great American Time to Beat with a clear round in 44.96 seconds on the horse she fondly calls “Kicks”. She stayed at the helm for three more trips until veteran Margie Engle of Wellington, Florida bested her time with a clear round in 44.76 seconds on Indigo, owned by Garber, Griese, Hidden Creek & Gladwinds.
Engle’s lead was short lived as Polle and With Wings entered the ring next and shaved a full two seconds off her time. Their turns were tight and their strides were huge as the pair clocked a final time of 42.73 seconds. “I was really nervous because I knew the ones behind me were going to be fast,” said Polle. Michael Dorman of Wellington, Florida, Sarah Segal of New York, New York and Ward of Brewster, New York were still left to ride. “With Wings has a huge stride, so I definitely took advantage of that and I tried to make my turns as tight as possible to leave strides out. He’s not always the fastest galloper, so I really pushed and I got lucky.”
Segal, aboard Robert Segal’s Ramses, laid down a clear round after Polle, but could not top her time, finishing in 44.11 seconds for second. Engle was third, while Keenan ended the day in fourth. Kevin Babington of Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania capped the top five with a four-fault jump-off round in 46.81 seconds.
Ward was sixth with Ilan Ferder’s Czardas 30 and ninth with his own Zander. Dorman finished seventh with his own Valinski S, and Todd Minikus was eighth aboard his own Quality Girl.
Grand prix competition will return to the Strongid© C 2X Grand Prix Stadium on Sunday with the $75,000 AIG Grand Prix, presented by Zoetis. Viewers will be able to catch Sunday’s action by tuning into a live webcast on HRTV.com. The class begins at 2pm. As anticipation climbs for September’s Zoetis $1 Million Grand Prix at HITS Championship Weekend, riders have set their sights on the race to qualify. Once eligible, the start order for the prestigious event will be determined by a rider’s money won on their leading horse. Keep tabs on all Zoetis Million qualifying action at HITShows.com.