The 114th Devon Horse Show and Country Fair was one for the history books as virtually every record was shattered as of Saturday evening. Over the course of the eleven days the new footing in the Dixon Oval enhanced the performance of every discipline to the delight of the over 110,000 spectators. Saturday night's $50,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake was no exception. Horses were able to run faster, turn sharper, and jump higher.
For those who couldn't be there in person, free online live streaming coverage courtesy of Equestrian Life brought the horse show to their computers covering the showcase events for the last four days. This was not your Grandfather's Devon, yet all the iconic things that make Devon so special are alive and well.
The last two classes of the year were the $50,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake held Saturday night and the $25,000 Chronicle of the Horse USHJA Hunter Derby on Sunday morning. These two classes could not be more reflective of today's Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, an Open Jumper class honoring Harry Gill's phenomenal Idle Dice ridden by the great Rodney Jenkins, and the Hunter Derby honoring the days of old in the hunt field. As George Morris so eloquently put it, "Back to the future."
The Open Jumpers
The last night of the 114th Devon Horse Show was an incredible one with Show Jumping legends Laura Chapot and Peter Leone vying for the Open Jumper Championship and Leading Open Jumper Rider titles, and it all came down to Saturday night's class. As with Thursday night's class, where the favorite Pavarotti didn't make it into the jump off, the winner of that very class, Peter Leone, had a rail at the first fence in round one on Saturday night, eliminating him from the 5 horse jump off, and knocking him out of contention for both the Open Jumper Championship and the Leading Open Jumper Rider titles.
The Open Jumpers
Pavarotti and Minikus went first and essentially slammed the door shut for anyone to come close to beating their second clear round in a blistering 37.139, a full 13 seconds under the time allowed. The pair, who had competed in the FEI World Cup in Geneva in April, had the audience holding their breath as they went from one end of the ring to the other at a dead gallop toward to a 1.50m vertical. The moment they landed the crowd erupted. The next four riders knew they were competing for second place. Both Callan Solem on VDL Torlando and Charlie Jayne on Urbanus were clear with times of 43.190 and 39.306, which put them in 3rd and 2nd place respectively. Maggie Jayne on Thomas Edison, posting a time of 42.972, and Georgina Bloomberg on Mila, with a time of 44.367, each had four faults and earned the 4th and 5th place honors.
Minikus, who has never won the Grand Prix of Devon, was ecstatic about the jump off, "Going first and with Charlie Jayne and Georgina coming behind me I thought I needed to go a little bit. I did the 7 from 1 to 2 and turned to the liverpool. I actually didn't pay enough attention to see that the course designer (Alan Wade) had moved it from the front side of the jump, and when I turned the corner I was riding it to protect it because I thought it was still an offset liverpool, and it was only 4 or 5 strides before I realized it was in front and I should keep going! Then on the long run from this end of the ring to that end of the ring.....Pavarotti was really good."
Asked if he thought anyone could beat his time, Minikus replied, "I told Charlie Jayne, 'You're gonna have to go kid'. It was fast, but there were a lot of fast riders. I was lucky Laura Chapot wasn't in there."
Laura Chapot, who had two mounts in the class, finished 7thon Tsarin with 4 faults and a time of 72.658 and 13th on Bradberry with 8 faults and a time of 66.944, but still had enough points to walk away with both the Open Jumper Champion and Leading Open Jumper Rider titles. Chapot may have set a record by winning seven jumper classes throughout the course of the week.
"It's been a great week, I have to say...all my horses went fantastic...everyone did well, so we're coming out of here smiling," says Chapot. A winner of numerous Leading Rider titles at Devon, Chapot said it never gets old, "This sport is so unpredictable. One second you're riding on top thinking you're a genius, and the next minute you're on the ground, so every win you get, you can take it and smile, because you can turn the corner, and something else will come back to bite you."
Chapot shares her insights about the two horses she rode in Saturday night's class, "Brad is kind of like a soul mate to me. We just suit each other really well so it's great to have him back and showing. This is the second show for Tsarin, so I'm just really getting to know her. She went better and better every single class here, so I'm really excited about that."
Minikus summed the night up from a rider's perspective, "I don't know how we can express to the Devon fans how much we appreciate them. They do make this special for us."
Devon was the final USHJA Hunter Derby competition of the 2009-2010 year and for the title sponsor, The Chronicle of the Horse. The list of 29 starters was beyond impressive. Among them, 2009 USHJA International Hunter Derby Series Champion Jennifer Alfano and Jersey Boy, AHJF Hunter Spectacular winners Castello (2005), Early Applause (2009) and Brunello (2010), as well as 2007 Washington International Horse Show High Performance Hunter Classic winner Take Away, to name but a few. Peter Pletcher rode for the first time during the show on Macarthur Park, and Elizabeth Towell Boyd came with Brunello and Castello just for this event. Devon put a unique spin on the event, limiting riders to a maximum of three horses each.
The first round course appeared to be inviting, but looks can be deceiving as the first horse on course stopped, and the second horse had a rail down over the last natural oxer. That oxer, and fence number two, proved problematic for a number of horses, many looking at number two and more than half the class rubbing the last fence. The course was long and flowing with lots of room to gallop home. The highest overall first round score of 198 went to Jersey Boy and Jennifer Alfano, followed by Francesca ridden by Maggie Jayne posting a 194 and Timber Ridge and Kelley Farmer rounding out the top three with a score of 193. The highest single score of round 1 was a 101.4 given to Francesca.
The top 12 were called back for the second handy round in reverse order, Taken & Kelley Farmer, Macarthur Park & Peter Pletcher, Take Away and Alise Oken, Castello and Elizabeth Towell Boyd, The Specialist and Jennifer Alfano, Joy Ride and Louise Serio, Bases Loaded and Kelley Farmer, Brunello and Elizabeth Towell Boyd, Rock Star and Louise Serio, Timber Ridge and Kelley Farmer, Francesca and Maggie Jayne, and Jersey Boy and Jennifer Alfano.
The second handy round included negotiating a chute at a walk, a natural log trot fence, which took its toll on Timber Ridge who spooked at the obstacle, and a hand gallop to the final oxer. One by one the horses and riders took their best shot. In the end, it was Jersey Boy and Alfano leading the victory gallop with Francesca and Jayne 2nd, Rock Star and Serio 3rd, Bases Loaded and Farmer 4th, The Specialist and Alfano 5th, Brunello and Boyd 6th, Take Away and Oken 7th, Castello and Boyd 8th, Macarthur Park and Pletcher 9th, Taken and Farmer 10th, Joy Ride and Serio 11th, and Timber Ridge and Farmer 12th.
Alfano was thrilled with the concept of a Derby Day, "I think it's nice that Devon highlighted the Derby. I thought the first round course rode really well, and my horse Jersey Boy was just really on today. Right from the beginning, he really felt great today. I think the last jump in the first round (the oxer) was hard because the horses thought they were finished. They jumped a lot of jumps and you had to turn and go away from the In Gate to get to it, and if you jumped the higher of the two sides it was a big oxer. It was hard for them to really focus on it as a last jump. I thought the handy round was nice, too. There were some places to make tight turns, and they said they were going to really emphasize the hand gallop jump (the last jump) so I really hand galloped!"
Alfano spoke about how much she is looking forward to riding in the Hunter Derby demonstration at WEG in the fall, "I'm so excited...just to be there and to be a part of that, and be with the greatest riders in the world is so special, and for the hunters to have that sort of spotlight is going to be amazing."
Another Chapter in the Book of Devon
Wade McDevitt, President of the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair, could not have been more pleased with this year's 11 day event, "This was a record breaking year as it relates to attendance as well as revenues. The new footing was extraordinarily well received. The exhibitors have noticed that we're moving forward and pushing Devon to be best in class. We intend to continue on that path. We're always challenging ourselves to think outside the box to maintain our position as the best horse show in the United States."
For complete results please visit: http://www.ryegate.com/shows/devon/DATE_LST.HTM
Photos: Pavarotti & Todd Minikus- Winners of the Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake, VDL Torlando & Callan Solem were 3rd in the Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake, Maggie Jayne & Thomas Edison placed 4th in the Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake, Francesca and Maggie Jayne finished 2nd, Jersey Boy & Jennifer Alfano winners of Sunday's USHJA Hunter Derby