Lexington, KY - July 31, 2011 - The final day of the Kentucky Summer Horse Show was filled with nothing but sunshine and a practically cloudless blue sky. The $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Classic witnessed talented horse and rider combinations striving to showcase their skills and claim the winning title in the Stonelea Ring. Stacey Arani and Bolero led the class from start to finish and eventually led the victory gallop after earning a total score of 185. Olivia Herbert and Capistrano finished second falling five points behind Arani and Bolero, while Abbygale Funk directed Enough Said to the third place award.
Today's courses were designed by Bobby Murphy and simulated riding over a hunt country with all of the fences set to 3' with four 3'5'' high options and four handy options. Stacey Arani of Dover, MA, and Bolero took an early lead as the first rider of the Classic, scoring a 90 during the first round with three bonus options for a 93 total. Although they were the last to return during the handy round, the duo did not hold back. After executing a slice during an inside turn to an optional fence, they stayed consistent and smooth, receiving scores of 88 with four bonus points for a score of 92. Their two-round total of 185 points landed the pair the blue ribbon prize.
"I had so much fun out there with him," Arani exclaimed as she patted Bolero's neck. "He was great in both rounds and I feel as though everything went really smooth and flowed really nicely. The handy was slightly more difficult, but Bolero was so good, he turned back for me, I did a slice I wasn't intending, but when I was out there and turned, the option presented itself and we took it."
Since the introduction of the National Derby in 2010, the program has continued to grow and experience success. "The National Derby is a great option for people that don't want to do the big derby classes," Arani explained. "I haven't been able to compete in a classic since I was a kid." For Arani the USHJA National Hunter Classic provided a fun class with a course that has 3' jumps with higher options,which make it so she can relax and enjoy the ride. According to the USHJA, the popularity of the International Hunter Derby Program prompted them to develop a separate series of competitions modeled after the Derby but geared toward the up and coming horses and riders. The National Hunter Classic Program was launched in 2010 to provide both horses and riders a place to gain experience in Derby competition at a lower height and difficulty level.
"The one amazing thing about my horse is that he jumps the 3' as well as he jumps the 3'6" obstacles," said Arani. "I can't believe he does it, but he jumps just as hard and high over the 3' as he does the 3'6", and that's what makes him so good for this, truth be told, he covers up a lot of my mistakes."
After having Bolero for four years, and originally buying him as a First Year Green, it is apparent that the two have a connection both in the ring and out. "He has given me more than any horse could ever give," noted Arani. "He's won so much for me and he always tries so hard; every day I see him, and honestly, I just can't believe he's mine."
Speaking fondly of the Kentucky Horse Shows, Arani admitted that she even moves to Kentucky for the Spring Shows and stays throughout the Summer Shows as well. "I love the Kentucky Horse Shows, they are my favorite due to the exceptionally nice people, wonderful venue, fields, spacious areas to ride, great rings with outstanding footing; it's my favorite place to show."
Arani's sister, Leslie Emerson, lives in Kentucky and Arani has an immense amount of gratitude for the amount of hard work she puts out to make sure that the horses are in shape for the upcoming shows. "She does all the training and all the work in our absence so literally we are able to arrive and jump on," she explained. "The shows are amazing, and for a mother with three kids, I'm having the time of my life, and that's what it's all about."
Olivia Herbert was aboard Capistrano, owned by Mimi Herbert of Houston, TX, and followed closely behind the winning duo to take the second place ribbon. After earning a score of 87 with four optional points added, Herbert ended the first round with a score of 91 claiming the second place position during the first round. The team returned and executed a seemingly flawless handy round for a score of 85 with four bonus options accumulating a score of 89, bringing their two round total to 180 points and garnering the second place prize. "In the first round, everything went pretty well," Herbert said. "In the handy round, I think we were 'handy', but we could have improved if we had done the hand gallop."
Herbert and Capistrano have been a duo for the last five years training and showing mostly for the Amateur-Owner Hunters. "He needs you to hold his hand because he can be a little scared of new jumps," she explained. "To a few of the jumps today I had to ride slightly more cautious, but once he's happy, he's very easy to handle and ride." The third place award went to Abbygale Funk aboard Enough Said, owned by Emma Wilsky of Aspen, CO. During the first round, they earned a score of 85 plus four bonus points resulting in an 89 and an 83 in the handy with four bonus points, concluding in an 87 taking third place in the handy and solidifying third place for both trips with a combined score of 176.
Kelly Arani and Stars Go Blue, owned by Stacey Arani, received the fourth place award, earning scores of 85 and 75 during the first two rounds to finish with a total of 160. "The hunter classics are really fun, especially since my daughter and I recently started doing them," said Stacey. Kelly usually does the Junior Hunters with Stars Go Blue and Stacey competes in the Older Amateurs with her horse Bolero.
The fifth place honors went to Ali Naugle of Park City, UT, and Theodore N resulting in an overall score of 155. Shannon Kelly of Naperville, IL, and her mount, Trust Me, secured sixth place with a total of 153.
Earlier in the day, the Amateur-Owner Hunter divisions showed in the Stonelea Ring completing their second day of competition. Reaching the conclusion of the divisions, Holly Labry of Memphis, TN, was aboard Ruby to take home the Amateur-Owner 18-35 Hunter Championship, while Natalie Allen of Mendota Heights, MN, and Val D'isere took reserve championship honors. Stacey Arani and Bolero also claimed the championship award competing in the Amateur-Owner 36 & Over Hunter division, followed by Chris Brown of Oakland, NJ, aboard Up Front for the reseve championship prize. The final division of the morning went to Ellen Mitchell of Brooklyn, NY, and her horse Air Force One the champions of the Amateur-Owner 3'3", while Sarah Ingram of Nashville, TN, claimed reserve championship tricolor aboard Even Par.
The Kentucky Summer Classic will kick-off with thrilling hunter/jumper action at the Kentucky Horse Park on Wednesday. Highlight events will include the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic and the $40,000 Rood & Riddle Grand Prix. August 9th, the 2011 USEF Pony Finals will begin, shortly followed by the Bluegrass Festival Classic and the KHJA Horse Show.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
RESULTS: $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Classic
1 1151 BOLERO STACEY ARANI 93.000 92.000 185.000%
2 332 CAPISTRANO OLIVIA HERBERT 91.000 89.000 180.000%
3 1354 ENOUGH SAID ABBYGALE FUNK 89.000 87.000 176.000%
4 1150 STARS GO BLUE KELLY ARANI 85.000 75.000 160.000%
5 816 THEODORE N ALI NAUGLE 79.000 76.000 155.000%
6 712 TRUST ME SHANNON KELLY 72.000 81.000 153.000%
7 818 RIGHT ON CIARA MURPHY 68.000 84.000 152.000%
8 1173 DEBONAIRE LAUREN WESTERHOUSE 77.000 74.000 151.000%
9 721 RECOUP TIFFANY WALKER-VAZAREZ 70.000 76.000 146.000%
10 819 CELANO CASSANDRA SHIPP 74.000 71.000 145.000%
11 700 EYE REMEMBER RIO VICTORIA WATTERS 80.000 56.000 136.000%
12 1147 DIAMOND RISK ABBY CONVERSE 56.000 40.000 96.000%
Photo Credit: Stacey Arani and Bolero won the $2,500 USHJA National Hunter Classic at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show. Photo By: Kendall Bierer/PMG.