Lexington, KY - May 12, 2011 - It was an exciting night for the first grand prix event in the Hagyard Challenge Series at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show. Thirty-seven horse and rider combinations gathered at the Rolex Stadium in the Kentucky Horse Park to compete for the winning title during the $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic. Eight horses advanced to the jump-off, and it was the Dominican Republic's Hector Florentino with Ultimo that took home the top prize after they completed the fastest double clear effort. Quentin Judge followed in second aboard HH Radco, while Ragan Roberts and Quipit L.F. placed third.
Tonight's class was the first of seven grand prix events that make up the Hagyard Challenge Series, sponsored by Hagyard Medical Institute and presented by Pfizer Animal Health. Following the final event in the series, a cash prize of $45,000 will be awarded to the rider accumulating the most points throughout the series for the Leading Rider Bonus.
The 37 riders in the original starting order showed over a technical track designed by Anthony D'Ambrosio. It included a triple bar, a liverpool, an open water, a vertical-oxer double combination, and a vertical-oxer-vertical triple combination. Only eight competitors were able to master the first round and advance to the short course. Ken Berkley aboard Ax-Cent, and Kent Farrington riding Uceko, were each able to leave all the fences in tact but finished just a fraction over the time allowed to place ninth and tenth, respectively.
For the jump-off, riders began over a single vertical and made a tight right turn to a single oxer. They then jumped the last two fences in the triple combination, before making a sharp left turn to a new vertical and making a bending line to a wide oxer. Finally, riders turned toward the gate to jump the Hagyard vertical, before finishing over the oxer of the double combination.
Canada's Ian Millar was the first to tackle the track with Susan Grange's Instyle. The pair made a solid effort and left each rail intact to cross the finish line in 41.22 seconds, which would eventually take fourth. Christian Heineking of Germany was next with River of Dreams, owned by Kai Handt, and it looked like they were going to take over the lead until they lowered the height of the last fence. Their four fault effort in a time of 40.76 seconds would earn the sixth place honors.
Millar made a second attempt at the track with Star Power, owned by Team Works, but once again he chose to lay down a conservative, clear round, finishing just behind his first mount in 42.84 seconds for the fifth place prize.
Young rider Quentin Judge was next on course with Double H Farm's HH Radco. The duo quickly jumped to the top of the leaderboard as they tripped the timers in 40.33 seconds with all the fences standing. Ragan Roberts tried to catch Judge's time aboard Quipit L.F., owned by the Quipit Group, but they were 1/10th of a second short. The broke the beam at 40.48 seconds with a clean round, which would be good enough for third.
"I saw Ian go and he was really, really fast on both horses," commented Judge after his ride. "Radco is not fastest in the world, but he has a big stride, and I was lucky to do eight strides from 1 to 2 in the jump-off. I was planning tentatively to do eight in the last line and it was a little bit rough, I had to ride him hard, but he was really good and did it for me."
Judge added, "I was thinking if I had a really good second to last jump I would leave the stride out and do eight, but if I didn't I would do nine. He jumped the second to last well and I thought I'd try, I had to work hard, but he did it."
When Hector Florentino stepped in to the ring with Ultimo, owned the Stransky's Mission Farms, the pair was prepared for a victory. They picked up a quick pace and never held back, make a sharp turn after each obstacle. Florentino and Ultimo galloped to the last oxer and easily made their way through the timers, breezing through in 39.68 seconds to win the first leg of the Hagyard Challenge Series.
Luis Larrazabal attempted the track with Sacramento, owned by Anabel Simon, but they had difficulty at the combination and eventually left the ring with 12 faults for the eighth place award. Blythe Marano and Riverview Farm's Urban rounded out the class, and incurred just four faults after lowering the height of the second fence. Their time of 46.650 would be good enough for seventh and seal Florentino's victory.
"In the first round I was a little concerned about the triple combination, explained Florentino. "I had seen many riders go before me and I had seen there was a trouble spot, but I think I rode really well the combination and he was really balanced and he just overpowered everything."
Florentino continued, "In the jump-off, I saw Ian Miller go first, I saw the turns he did so I planned to do a little bit faster from 1 to 2 and I did also the roll back after the combination a little faster than him; I think that did the trick."
Ultimo is a mount that just began jumping at this level, but Florentino is very excited about his future. "Ultimo already has the confidence to jump at this level and he's developed into a grand prix horse," he said. "This is maybe the best horse I have ever ridden. I try to be really soft with him, let him balance. I try to keep him balanced all the time and just let him do his job. I put him at the right spot with the right speed, and let him jump."
The Kentucky Spring Horse Shows offer an exciting event for Florentino, and he hopes to continue earning points towards the Hagyard Leading Rider Award next week. "This is a great place," he noted. "One of the most beautiful places for horse shows. The footing is great, the prize money is very good, and it's really good for the horses. I think the Hagyard Series offers a great motivation for riders to come and jump for the bonus."
Tomorrow, the jumper action at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show will continue in the Rolex Stadium with the Open Jumper classes and the Junior/Amateur-Owner Jumper classes. The show will wrap-up on Sunday with the $55,000 Commonwealth Grand Prix, which gets underway at 4:00 p.m. Next Wednesday will mark the start of the Kentucky Spring Classic, which runs through May 22, 2011.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Horse Shows, please visit www.kentuckyhorseshows.com.
Results - Class 450, HAGYARD LEXINGTON CLASSIC CSI2* 1.50m
Order Entry # Horse Name Rider Name JF1 TF1 AF1 Time 1 JF2 TF2 AF2 Time 2
1 1009 ULTIMO HECTOR FLORENTINO 0 0 0 77.950 0 0 0 39.680
2 200 H H RADCO QUENTIN JUDGE 0 0 0 78.830 0 0 0 40.330
3 4 QUIPIT L.F. RAGAN ROBERTS 0 0 0 77.020 0 0 0 40.480
4 570 INSTYLE IAN MILLAR 0 0 0 78.860 0 0 0 41.220
5 569 STAR POWER IAN MILLAR 0 0 0 78.000 0 0 0 42.840
6 434 RIVER OF DREAMS CHRISTIAN HEINEKING 0 0 0 78.090 4 0 4 40.760
7 142 URBAN BLYTHE MARANO 0 0 0 78.680 4 0 4 46.650
8 967 SACRAMENTO LUIS LARRAZABAL 0 0 0 77.950 12 3 15 57.460
9 229 AX-CENT KEN BERKLEY 0 1 1 81.900 0 0 0.000
10 395 UCEKO KENT FARRINGTON 0 1 1 81.990 0 0 0.000
11 932 ALWAYS CULLOHILL DAVID BEISEL 4 0 4 76.120 0 0 0.000
12 568 COSTA RICA Z AMY MILLAR 4 0 4 77.620 0 0 0.000
Photo Credit: Hector Florentino and Ultimo won the $30,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Spring Horse Show. Photo By: Rebecca Walton/PMG.