Mill Spring, NC - Andy Kocher (USA) piloted Zantos II to the pair's second victory this week, taking top honors in the competitive $130,000 Suncast® Grand Prix CSI 3* at Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC). Kocher and Zantos II dashed through the jump-off timers, finishing nearly two seconds faster than the rest of the field, stopping the clock in 35.836 seconds.
Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Main Road finished in second place, crossing through the finish in 37.982 seconds, while Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) piloted Toulago to third place with a time of 38.238 seconds.
Competition at the 2016 Tryon Fall Series presented by Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District commenced on Thursday, September 22, and will continue through Sunday, October 30, featuring hunter and jumper competition, alongside two weeks of FEI CSI 3* classes and the highly anticipated FEI CSI 5*.
Kocher and Zantos II, owned by MKO Equestrian LLC, finished a strong effort in the first round, contesting a technical track set by Michel Vaillancourt (CAN), which featured 51 entries. After making a quick move in the jump-off, the duo secured the win to best the eight-horse jump-off.
"I made a few mistakes on my first horse but this little guy is just so fast. I knew that we weren't going to have time faults, but I wanted to not hit the in-fence of the combinations, especially if it was a vertical. He typically doesn't have rails, but if he will tap one that's where it will be," commented Kocher. "We had a bit of trouble warming up to be honest because he was still so excited from how fast we went on Thursday. I had to get on and off of him a few times to get him to relax a bit."
Zantos II has proven he's a top contender for Kocher, who initially believed the gelding would be a good sales prospect when he arrived from England earlier this summer. After collecting a win in the $35,000 1.50m Suncast® Welcome FEI CSI 3* on Thursday, October 13, he felt confident that the pair could secure a fast finish in tonight's class, but did not expect to earn another win. As Kocher has learned and adjusted to the ride, he believes the pair has found common ground when competing in the ring through the help of a few bit adjustments.
He laughed, "I was informed today by my owners after this class that he is no longer going to be a sales project. He's just a little bullet and we've found a bridle that's a happy medium for him."
"This win really means a lot to me. My dad is from here and he's been in this area from the beginning. When I competed here last year, it was in some of the biggest classes I've ever done in my entire life. I came back this year aiming to qualify for FEI World Cup Finals and we've had an exciting season so far."
The two horses Kocher had entered this week in international competition are both new additions to his string and program, as he is saving his ace ride, Uppie De Lis, for larger classes later this season. Kocher noted that the horses have helped to fine tune his own skills, as he cannot make as many mistakes as a rider to ensure they produce clear rounds.
"This is a big deal for both of them, but especially Zantos. They have to stretch to jump this high and I can't make too many errors as a rider. I pushed myself this fall and the results are starting to pay off. I haven't had all great shows, but this week has just been amazing."
Looking ahead, Kocher has plans to now contest the indoor circuit in order to gain valuable qualifying points ahead of FEI World Cup Finals, before setting his sights on a strong winter campaign at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) in Wellington, FL.
"I think we're going to try and do a lot more FEI classes next year. That's really going to be the focus. I want to get world-ranking points so that we can start getting into some bigger shows. I'd like to get high enough up the rankings that I could go to whatever shows we wanted. That's the big goal for me right now," he elaborated. "I have to thank the owners too, Bob and Robin Mulkey, we each own a third of him and they've been great owners for me."
Kocher's groom, Cesar Uribe, was awarded with the Groom's Initiative Award presented by Tryon Equestrian Partners (TEP), in an effort to recognize the dedication and passion of the individuals who play an integral role in the success of top horse and rider combinations. Kocher graciously spoke of Uribe, who joined his team just over a year ago.
"It's actually kind of a funny story. We had a few guys who didn't work out for a couple of reasons and we brought Cesar in last year to help in the barn in New Jersey, but he had very little horse experience. He's really taken over the role and stepped up to help manage the barn," explained Kocher. "This is the first show that he's been able to get to this year and I'm so happy that it was on a night where he could be recognized for his hard work. He's one of the best guys I've ever had work for me."
The Leading Lady Rider Award presented by realtor Meg Atkinson, was awarded to Laura Kraut (USA) for her consistent top finishes throughout the week in FEI competition. Kraut piloted two mounts to the jump-off in the $130,000 Suncast® Grand Prix FEI CSI 3*, finishing in seventh with Confu and eighth aboard Nouvelle. Kraut also earned a third place finish in the $35,000 1.50m Suncast® Welcome CSI 3* aboard Confu.
The 2016 Tryon Fall Series presented by Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District offers six weeks of hunter and jumper competition, including three weeks of internationally recognized FEI show jumping featuring two FEI CSI 3* weeks and an FEI CSI 5*. For more information on Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) and surrounding amenities please visit www.tryon.com.
To view results for the $130,000 Suncast® Grand Prix CSI 3* click here.