Lexington, KY - It was all about speed and accuracy during tonight's $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Summer Classic, and Lauren Crooks had it with Cincinnati La Silla. The pair topped six other horse and rider combinations by completing the fastest clear round during the hotly contested jump-off. Debbie Stephens and Clue captured the second place prize with a clear round, while Margie Engle also left all the fences standing aboard Lord Spezi for the third place honors.
David Ballard designed a very technical track for tonight's class, which was held in the new Indoor Ring at the Kentucky Horse Park, home of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Thirty-six riders competed over the 12-fence opening round, which included a double combination, a triple combination, and a liverpool fence, all joined by very tight turns and options.
Only seven riders were able to complete all 15 jumping efforts without fault and advance to the short course. It began with a large oxer off the left lead to a bending vertical. Riders then had the option to make a sharp right turn to another large oxer, before making a second sharp turn off the left lead to an oxer-vertical double combination. Finally riders made a sharp right turn to another oxer before galloping down to the timers over the last obstacle, a wide oxer at the end of the ring.
Margie Engle and Indigo, owned by Shay Griese and Gladewinds Farm, were the first to go during the opening round and they set the pace by posting a clear round and advancing to the jump-off. The duo made an excellent attempt when they tackled the short course, but after a sharp inside turn to the double combination Indigo had to make an extra effort over the first oxer and kicked -out her hind legs to bring down the back rail. Their four-fault effort in a time of 36.807 seconds was good enough for the sixth place award.
Junior rider Reed Kessler and Onisha were next to compete over the short course. The pair had two excellent opening fences, but after a sharp turn to the third obstacle Kessler tried to stretch-out Onisha's stride and ran-out of room. They added a stride and were short on the backside, accruing four-faults in 32.679 seconds for the fourth place honors.
The next rider on course was Lauren Crooks with Cincinnati La Silla, owned by Glen Youell. The duo added a stride to the first fence, but chose to take the first inside option where they did another add and held steady through the double combination. Crooks asked La Silla for an extra effort at the single vertical and then opened her stride with ease to the final fence. They crossed the finish line with all the rails in their cups and set a blazing pace of 33.550 seconds, taking over the lead and eventually winning the class.
"This mare has a huge stride so she can cover ground really quickly," noted Crooks. "I have to think about keeping my calm because she is so quick through the turns. I just knew she can leave out the stride down the first line and just turn and turn and the last line I actually did leave out a stride and I was waiting. I just try to keep my composure and leave the speed up to her because she's so naturally good at that."
Debbie Stephens was not about to let Crooks take the lead with out a fight. She qualified Cleu, owned by Centennial Farm, for the jump-off and did not hold back. The pair lost a shoe over the first fence, but they were able to keep going successfully. They chose to make the outside turns to avoid slipping, but they had a long distance to the second to last fence and kept moving, leaving a stride out to the final oxer for a clear round in 34.783 seconds. Stephen and Cleu laid down an amazing trip to fall just behind Crooks in the standings and take home the second place title.
Stephens was thrilled with the pair's performance and has deemed Cleu as her new indoor mount. "He's just come into his own, he's the most incredibly nice, caring, trying, scopey, careful jumper," she explained. "I'm very excited because he has a great attitude; he's always looking to do the right thing. I haven't had a nice indoor horse in a long time. He is very scopey with a big stride and he can turn on a dime so I'm really excited."
Maurice Beatson of New Zealand entered the ring next with Apollo Van Evendael. They made a nice inside turn to the third fence, but a light rub caused the rail to fall and they incurred four-faults. They then chose to take the outside options and added a stride to the final oxer for a time of 38.420 seconds and the sixth place ribbon.
Margie Engle qualified for the jump-off with a second mount, Lord Spezi owned by Ashland Farms, and she was not about to make the same mistake twice. They took the first inside turn and kept up a quick gallop, but then chose to take the outside route for the second two options before make a quick dash to the last obstacle. The duo posted a clear effort in a time of 35.106 seconds for the third place award.
Also returning with a second mount was Maurice Beatson, this time aboard Jedi Warrior. The pair took all the outside options to have a consistent round with Jedi Warrior's large stride, but a rub on the back rail of the first oxer in the double combination caused them to gain four-faults. They added a stride to the final oxer and stopped the clock at 35.191 to take home the fourth place honors and seal Crook's victory.
"I am really excited, I feel great," smiled Crooks after her second grand prix win. "I was only supposed to show her during Kentucky Spring after my brother broke his leg, but it went well and he gave her to me in Spruce. Then it went amazing and now here I am so I think he's going to give her to me full time."
Crooks just started her own business partnership with her brother, Sean Crooks. The pair has formed Crook Show Jumping and this is their first show as a new team. "It's a great win for us and hopefully it will help us get things rolling," she said.
During tonight's class Crooks certainly showed off her elegant style as she tactfully maneuvered through the difficult courses. "It was a nice first round, it was all about the track," she commented. "The indoor is beautiful and it rode very well. I just had to think about keeping myself together at the end. I haven't had that many courses that are that big like that and just maintaining my composure around the whole course was key for me."
Crooks was thrilled with Cincinnati La Silla's performance over the two rounds of competition. "She loves a soft ride, you almost feel like you're on a regular hunter when you ride her around," she explained. "She's amazing, just a dream to ride; she's light, she's soft, she's adjustable. It's really fun to get this opportunity."
Tonight's class was the fourth event in the Hagyard Challenge Series, which features five grand classes throughout the spring and summer. During the Series, riders compete for points towards the $50,000 Leading Rider Award, which is presented to the rider that accumulate the most points following the completion of the final event, the $50,000 Hagyard CSI-W Lexington Grand Prix on August 20, 2010.
"The Hagyard Challenge Series offers a great incentive," said Crooks. "It makes people really fight for the top and want to be there. It makes people want to compete and its great to be able to compete for more than just the class."
The final event of the Hayard Challenge Series will be held during the Bluegrass Festival Horse Show, which runs August 18 - 22, 2010. The excitement will continue at the Kentucky Summer Classic this week when the top grand prix riders return to the Indoor Ring to compete during the $50,000 Rood & Riddle Grand Prix on Saturday, August 7, 2010.
For more information about the Kentucky Summer Classic please visit www.KentuckyHorseShows.com.
$25,000 HAGYARD LEXINGTON CLASSIC NAT ST II 2a
1 968 CINCINNATI LA SILLA LAUREN CROOKS GLEN YOUELL 0 0 0 75.351 0 0 0 33.550
2 1472 CLEU DEBBIE STEPHENS CENTENNIAL FARM 0 0 0 74.081 0 0 0 34.783
3 850 LORD SPEZI MARGIE ENGLE ASHLAND FARMS & STADIUM SPORT HORSES 0 0 0 72.033 0 0 0 35.106
4 307 ONISHA REED KESSLER REED KESSLER 0 0 0 67.782 4 0 4 32.679
5 50 JEDI WARRIOR MAURICE BEATSON MAURICE BEATSON 0 0 0 70.123 4 0 4 35.191
6 242 INDIGO MARGIE ENGLE SHAY GRIESE AND GLADEWINDS FARM 0 0 0 74.303 4 0 4 36.807
7 52 APOLLO VAN EVENDAEL MAURICE BEATSON MAURICE BEATSON 0 0 0 73.515 4 0 4 38.420
8 937 SANSIERRA LAUREN TISBO TEQUESTRIAN FARMS, LLC 4 0 4 64.289 0 0 0.000
9 1567 HIDDEN CREEK'S PAMINA L MARGIE ENGLE HIDDEN CREEK FARM, INC. 4 0 4 69.262 0 0 0.000
10 738 SYDNEY DEBBIE STEPHENS CENTENNIAL FARM 4 0 4 69.816 0 0 0.000
11 721 VSILVERADO LUIS BARREIRO PABLO VIVERO 4 0 4 70.257 0 0 0.000
12 306 MIKA REED KESSLER REED KESSLER 4 0 4 70.332 0 0 0.000
Photo Credit: Lauren Crooks and Cincinnati La Silla won the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic at the Kentucky Summer Classic. Photo By: Kenneth Kraus/PhelpsSports.com.