Lexington, KY - May 11, 2011 - It was warm and sunny for the opening day of the Kentucky Spring Horse Show, as the jumper action kicked off in the Rolex Stadium. This afternoon, riders had the opportunity to showcase their mounts in the Open Jumper classes. Ian Millar of Canada had a great start, taking home first and second place honors in the 1.45m Open Jumpers aboard Star Power and Instyle, respectively. In the 1.40m Open Jumpers, it was Columbia's Mark Bluman who stole the show with the fastest effort riding Athena.
Anthony D'Ambrosio designed the course today in the Rolex Stadium, putting together an excellent track for the 1.45m Open Jumpers. The first round began with a large oxer, and included a wall fence, a vertical-oxer double combination, and an oxer-vertical double combination going towards the gate. Five horse and riders advanced to the jump-off, which included the wall fence, the second double combination, and two inside routes.
Ian Millar and Instyle were the first pair to master the first round track and advance to the short course. The duo had an unfortunate rail in the second combination after they sliced in. Their time of 42.186 second would be difficult to beat though, and they would eventually score the second place prize.
Regan Roberts and Quipit L.F. took a shot at the jump-off course but they also incurred four faults, lowering the height of the second fence. The duo broke the beam at 43.152 seconds to place third. Jonathan McCrea and Twister followed in fourth after scoring four faults in 43.523 seconds. Aaron Vale had the fastest jump-off time with Quito in 40.818, but their eight fault score would earn the fifth place honors.
Millar and Star Power were the only pair to master the short track. After a small spook coming to the last line during the first round, the duo was able to successfully advance to the jump-off. They were focused on the task at hand, and Start Power quickly made his way over each of the obstacles. They crossed the finish line in 41.534 seconds with all the fences intact to take home the winning honors.
"It was a 'get started' competition for me, the big competitions are the money classes on Thursday and the Grand Prix on Sunday," noted Millar. "Star Power is inexperienced enough that it's important for him to get in a new competition venue once before he really gets down to business, and I couldn't have asked for more, he was fantastic."
Millar added, "He's French on the father line. There's a lot of blood and character there; he's a very strong character. You're not going to tell him what to do, you work with him, it's very, very much a partnership thing and what you try to do is put the conditions in place that he ends up thinking it was all his idea, but really he only had the one obvious way to go."
The Kentucky Spring Horse Shows are a favorite event for the experienced Olympian. "What a thrill to come back here, and compete here," expressed Millar. "It is such credit to the planners and the fathers of this whole concept and development because the legacy is incredible. For us to be able come here and have a facility like this is just really fantastic, and it will do a lot for this country, it will do a lot for every horse and rider that comes here."
Earlier in the day, riders had the opportunity to show over another course by D'Ambrosio in the 1.40m Open Jumpers. The speed class required the horse and rider combinations to show over two vertical-oxer double combinations and an open water option fence going towards the gate.
Eight riders were able to master the track without fault, making it a very close run for the top spot. Mark Bluman and Athena went straight to the top of the leaderboard after they left all the rails in place and dashed through the timers in 58.839 seconds, almost two seconds ahead of the second place finisher. Luis Larrazabal and G&C Lepanto stopped the clock at 60.085 seconds for the red ribbon, while Paige Source and Ulster finished third with a clear effort in a time of 60.910 seconds.
"Athena is a horse that I got just a couple months ago," commented Bluman. "He is a little bit green, but just started doing the bigger classes. I think he is a very fast horse and pretty careful."
Bluman continued, "My trainer called me and said you have to win and so I went for it. I tried to not miss time at 3A, I went inside for the water jump and I left strides out in some lines."
The exciting jumper action at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show will continue through Sunday, May 15, and will be followed by the Kentucky Spring Classic next week. Tomorrow's highlight event will be the $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic, the first event in the 2011 Hagyard Challenge Series. The event will get underway at 6:30p.m. in the Rolex Stadium, and on Sunday, the $55.000 Commonwealth Grand Prix will wrap-up this week's competition.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Photo Credit: Ian Millar and Star Power won the 1.45m Open Jumper class at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show. Photo By: Rebecca Walton/PMG.