Darragh Kenny and Obelix Win $10,000 Open Welcome Stake in Vermont

East Dorset, Vermont — Ireland’s Darragh Kenny claimed victory in the $10,000 Kenneth Cole Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, on Thursday, August 4, at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, VT.  The six-week equestrian competition is running at Harold Beebe Farm from July 6 through August 14, 2011. Kenny, who is based out of North Run stables in Warren, VT, rode Obelix to victory with a clear jump-off performance in a blistering fast time of 29.16 seconds.  One week earlier, Kenny rode another mount, Castello, to victory in the $10,000 Giorgio Armani Open Welcome Stake, also presented by Manchester Design Outlets.

The course, designed by Canadian Olympic Silver Medalist Michel Vaillancourt, posed some problems for the riders, garnering only seven clear rounds out of the original 22 entries.  Four horse and rider combinations were unable to complete the course.  Of the seven who advanced to the jump-off, four were able to repeat their faultless performance. Kenny appeared to have no problem with the course, guiding Obelix to victory and also placing fourth with Wannahave and eighth with NLF Trans Atlantic.

“There was a lot of trouble with the third fence,” explained Kenny of the course’s challenges.  “It was off a tight turn, a big square oxer, a long five strides to another big square oxer, and then a short two strides to a vertical.  As you came off the turn, if you had a deep stride to the oxer, your horse jumped up and down, making the five even longer, so if that was how you got there, you had the back rail down and if you ran down there you probably had the vertical down.”

Kenny praised his 15-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, saying, “Obelix is such a great horse to have in my string.  He always pulls it out when I ask him.  He is always focused and has won so much at this show, and everywhere.  He was great again today.  I am so lucky because, half-way through Florida, Missy [Clark] bought him so now I get to keep the ride on him.  Hopefully he will keep going as well as he is now.”

For his victory, Kenny won $3,000 in prize money as well as a $1,000 gift card for the Kenneth Cole store in Manchester, VT.  Last week, his $1,000 gift card was for the Giorgio Armani store.  “Thanks to these shows, I am going to have some really nice clothes,” smiled the 23-year-old Irishman who hails from County Offaly and has been based in the United States since 2009, where he works for Missy Clark and John Brennan.

The final rider in the jump-off, Jimmy Torano of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, had the last opportunity to catch Kenny’s leading time.  He and Wayne, owned by Palm Meadow Farms, sped around the jump-off track but crossed the timers in 31.13 seconds to finish almost two seconds behind the winner for second place.

The Vermont Summer Festival marked the first competition back for Hillary Dobbs of Sussex, New Jersey.  The United States Equestrian Team member injured her knee during the winter season in Florida and subsequently required surgery.  Back showing after a five-month break, Dobbs proved she is as competitive as ever, riding her young stallion Udento VDL to a third place finish. “I am so proud of the baby boy,” said a smiling Dobbs.  “He was so good out there today.”

Kenny will be hoping to make a return visit to the winner’s circle when he and Obelix contest the $30,000 Manchester and the Mountain Grand Prix, Presented by Hand Motors, on Sunday, August 7.  Due to a change in the schedule, the grand prix for week five will be held at 8 a.m. on Sunday, August 7.

Offering more than $750,000 in prize money, the Vermont Summer Festival is the richest sporting event based on purse in the state of Vermont.  The first five Sundays of the Vermont Summer Festival feature a $30,000 Grand Prix, culminating with the $50,000 Vermont Summer Celebration Grand Prix on Sunday, August 14.  In addition to the $10,000 Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, held each Friday, the weekly $10,000 Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior/Amateur-Owner Classics are hotly contested. New for 2011, the Vermont Summer Festival will host a $5,000 Hunter Derby each Thursday five of the six weeks.

Competition begins at 8 a.m. daily, Wednesday through Sunday.  Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children, Wednesday through Saturday.  On Grand Prix Sunday, admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children.  As always, 100 percent of the gate proceeds benefit the Friends Foundation for MEMS, (Manchester Elementary and Middle School).

For over 20 years, the Vermont Summer Festival has attracted exhibitors and their families to the Manchester region each summer.  For more information about the Vermont Summer Festival, please e-mail: info@vt-summerfestival.com or visit www.vt-summerfestival.com.

$10,000 Kenneth Cole Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets

Rider     Horse     Faults     Time
1 Darragh Kenny  Obelix 0/0   29.167
2 Jimmy Torano  Wayne 0/0  31.139
3 Hillary Dobbs  Udento VDL    0/0  34.956
4 Darragh Kenny  Wannahave  0/0  37.023
5 Charlotte Jacobs     Promised Land  0/4     30.229
6 Hayley Barnhill  Seraldo 0/4 31.189
7 Callie Schott  Wrigley 0/4 31.970
8 Darragh Kenny  NLF Trans Atlantic 4     

Photo: Darragh Kenny and Obelix won the $10,000 Kenneth Cole Open Welcome Stake, Presented by Manchester Designer Outlets, on Thursday, August 4, at the Vermont Summer Festival in East Dorset, Vermont. Photo credit - David Mullinix Photography