November 15, 2014 - Las Vegas, NV - Saturday's highlight events kicked off in winning form with a tremendously exciting $10,000 1.40m Winning Round Classic, presented by Cardflex Financial. The ten riders with the least faults and fastest times from the first round are brought back for round two, and given a clean slate to compete for the top prize.
Set over a solid 1.40m, the course featured 15 efforts in a time allowed of 78 seconds. Course designer Olaf Petersen, Jr. of Germany set a tight time, so riders had to make efficient use of the track while also testing adjustability and scope.
Petersen elaborated on his course plan. "It's a 1.40m class with many horse and rider combinations that compete at 1.50m, so I presented several options to take inside turns. The line with the triple combination, an oxer in a forward four strides to an oxer to a tight two is going to be the most difficult," he said.
As predicted, the triple combination, particularly the final element 11c, was a source of many rails throughout the first round.
The second round had a series of twists and turns that finished with a daring gallop down to a skinny vertical. Despite the impressive star power of experienced riders in this round, with names like Smolders, Simpson, Menezes, Navet and Coe, the youngest competitor in the class set a blazing time that earned the blue. In an exemplary display of efficiency and speed, sixteen-year-old Howard aboard his own Balvino stopped the timers in 35.99 seconds.
Eduardo Menezes and La Fleur (Franscisco Pasquel, owner) rode after Howard. They had a fast, fault-free round in 38.91, ending up third. Will Simpson and The Dude (owned by Monarch International) blasted around the course, but they also couldn't catch Howard, going clear in 36.18 to take second.
Howard spent last night helping his horse, unknowingly preparing for this win. "My horse had felt a bit sore and stiff leading up to the competition. My parents bought me an early Christmas present here - a laser machine - so last night I spent a lot of time lasering all his sore muscles. And then today he felt amazing and jumped better than he's ever jumped before. He really felt better because of the laser."
He explained a bit more, "I've been riding him for two years now and we started doing the grand prix classes this past spring. We were quite successful in Colorado in the summer. This is my first time competing in Las Vegas and I love it. The level of competition here is the best I've ever competed against, so it is nice to ride against some of the bigger names in the sport."
The talented teen took his victory to heart. "It feels amazing, I can't believe it right now. I'm still in awe."
$10,000 1.40m Winning Round Classic, presented by CardFlex Financial
Place - Entry - Horse - Rider - Owner - Faults/Time
1. 890 - Balvino - Brandon Howard - Brandon Howard - 0/35.992
2. 519 - The Dude - Will Simpson - Monarch International - 0/0/36.181
3. 111 - La Fleur - Eduardo Menezes - Franscisco Pasquel - 0/0/38.915
4. 213 - Basimodo - Eric Navet - Signe Ostby - 0/0/39.402
5. 676 - Arjo - Audrey Coulter - Copernicus Stables, LLC - 0/0/39.542
6. 690 - Aiyetoro - Harrie Smolders - Copernicus Stables, LLC - 0/0/39.704
7. 643 - Arly - Enrique Gonzalez - C & M Partnership, LLC - 0/0/41.024
8. 897 - RMF Viva Colombia - Kirsten Coe - Ilan Ferder - 0/0/41.806
9. 258 - Courtown - Karrie Rufer - Morning Star Sporthorses, LLC - 0/4/38.942
10. 937 - Arivederci Alex - Peter Petschenig - Pam Bilek - 0/4/42.772