Lexington, KY - August 21, 2011 - It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon at the Kentucky Horse Park as the final day of the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show commenced. Today, top jumper riders turned out to compete for the winning title in the $40,000 Bluegrass Festival Grand Prix in the Rolex Stadium. Christina Kelly and Camirage stole the show after completing an incredible double clear-effort with a blazing jump-off time of 35.655 seconds. Although Kaitlin Campbell navigated Rocky W to a double-clear effort, the duo fell less than a second behind Kelly, earning the second place prize.
Today's class featured courses designed by Allen Rheinheimer with the first course including an oxer-oxer double combination with two long strides, a single stride triple bar-vertical double combination, a vertical-vertical two stride double combination, a water jump followed by a tall vertical, numerous related lines, and rollbacks. Thirty-two starters were vying for the top spot, and 14 riders were able to show perfection over the technical first round track and advance to the jump-off, but only five of them were able to go double clear.
The short course began over the same first fence, a wide oxer leading to a tall vertical. Next, riders rolled back to the right over another wide oxer, then turned to the left and headed to the vertical-vertical combination from the first course. Riders then rolled back to the left over a single tall vertical. Finally riders turned to the right and finished over the last two oxers.
"A lot of the riders went clear and it looked like it seemed to be a more rideable course then Friday night's Grand Prix course," noted today's winner Christina Kelly. "I thought it was definitely still technical and difficult enough and was a great course."
Friday night's Hagyard Lexington Class Grand Prix winner, Yann Candele and Game Ready were the first horse and rider combination to complete the jump-off without fault. Candele and Susan Grange's Game Ready cut turns, keeping a fast pace. They tripped the beam in 37.871 seconds without fault to become the leaders and set the bar for the rest of the riders. However, with many more to go, their efforts were only good enough for the third place finish.
The next pair to have a competitive time was Shane Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farms' O' Splendido. They stopped the clock in 38.670 seconds, which would have earned them the fourth place finish, but with an unlucky rail they settled for the sixth place award as the fastest four fault round.
Sharn Wardley and Filip Amram's Bukowskis Conan cleared the fences leaving all rails in tact. They took a more conservative track and stopped the clock in 41.076 seconds, which would earn them the fourth place honors.
Kaitlin Campbell of Brookeville, MD and her mount Rocky W took over lead when they entered into the ring. The duo blazed around the short track without fault. They broke the beam in 36.286 seconds, but with other riders to follow, their effort earned them the second place award.
"I have had Rocky W since I was doing the Junior Jumper classes and Christina and I actually rode at the same barn a few years ago," noted Campbell. "Even then, Christina was always a big competitor and we were always finishing one in front of the other. So, I know she is a really fast rider. My horse was really careful out there today. I could kind of dig him at the jumps. Her horse has a bit bigger stride and she did the four stride from fence one to two and that wasn't an option for me."
"The course was definitely more inviting than Friday night's Grand Prix course under the lights, that was really big," said Campbell. "This wasn't as difficult of a course for myself and my horse, but it set up a really good jump-off with a lot of fast riders in there. It was a lot of straight lines and numbers to remember if you count the strides and get there, you could have a chance to win. I just wanted to focus on my jump-off round even though I knew Christina was going in last and there was a good chance she would win, she is always fast. She wants to win as much as I do, so I knew it was going to be a fast jump-off. I wanted to go for it a bit and Rocky W jumped the double vertical so clear that I knew after that I could really gallop because he didn't want to have a rail out there."
Hector Florentino and Ultimo, owned by Stransky's Mission Farms, Inc., put in a competitive round and had spectators on the edge of their seats. They were trying to be quick and upon landing after the second oxer, the crowed gasped as Ultimo tripped, but quickly recovered. However, they did have a rail at the second to last fence resulting in a four-fault penalty with their time of 40.312 seconds they settled for the seventh place finish.
Yann Candele was the next rider to go clean. He returned to try and take back the lead this time aboard Susan Grange's Carlotta Singular La Mag. The duo took inside turns and sped around the course, but their time of 44.176 seconds was only good enough for the fourth place award.
The last horse and rider combination to enter the jump-off would prevail. It was Christina Kelly and Diamond Edge Farm's Camirage who earned today's victory. The team took all the inside turns and kept and extremely fast pace throughout the course. They tripped the wire in 35.655 seconds to take the win.
"Camirage is an awesome horse. I have had her for two years and she has progressively gotten better and better," expressed Kelly. "For her to win a Grand Prix is unbelievable, she is an amazing horse."
"I was actually worried. I thought it was difficult with the triple bar with the one stride to the vertical and with the other double with the brushes under it she is quite spooky sometimes," explained Kelly. "Camirage handled it amazingly. Some of the places where I planned to add or take out strides I actually did the opposite of what I planned, but it worked out. In the jump-off I think she was super about the time from fence one to two. I did the four instead of the five because she has a massive stride and I thought she could make up time there. Also we cut time at the last two fences since she is very good at galloping to oxers like that."
"I love Kentucky this ring is amazing and the whole place is great. All the Junior and Amateurs riders get to ride in the Rolex Stadium all the time which is pretty cool," Kelly concluded.
Today's $40,000 Bluegrass Festival Grand Prix was the final event during the month-long Kentucky Summer Horse Show series. Now, the Kentucky Horse Park will begin preparing for the 2011 National Horse Show, where the top horses and riders will compete at the highest level of the sport.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Horse Shows please visit www.KentuckyHorseShows.com.
Photo Credit: Christina Kelly and Camirage won the $40,000 Bluegrass Festival Grand Prix Victory at the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show. Photo By: Heather Bellock/PMG.