Lexington, KY - May 18, 2012 - Today, the amateur and junior jumper riders had the opportunity to showcase their skills in the Kentucky Horse Park's Rolex Stadium during the Kentucky Spring Classic. Topping the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers, Paige Johnson piloted Monopoly to a double-clear victory, and also claimed third with her second mount Amagedon 3. Meagan Nusz slid into third aboard Banana D'Ive Z, also completing a fault-free short course. In the High Junior Jumpers, Abigail McArdle claimed the blue ribbon with her quick and clear round aboard Cosma 20, while Emanuel Andrade placed second and third with Costa and Tiny Tim, respectively.
There was not a cloud in the sky as riders prepared for the High Jumper events. Today, Olaf Petersen, Jr.'s first round track included a vertical-oxer double combination and an oxer-vertical double combination, each causing errors for some of the entries. For the jump-off riders had to use an open gallop across large parts of the ring to shave seconds off their time, while also leaving the delicate fences in place.
Alexandra Duval of Huntington, NY, was the pathfinder during the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers aboard Tornado. They were able to produce a fault-free short course, but their time of 35.803 would only be good enough for fourth. Meagan Nusz followed right after Duval riding Banana D'Ive Z, owned by TNT Equine Partners of The Woodlands, TX, and with a clear plan she was able to jump to the top of the standings with a clear time of 34.780.
Six rounds later, Paige Johnson of The Plains, VA, and Monopoly entered the ring, and Nusz saw her lead slip away. Using her mount's excellent gallop and careful jumping technique, Johnson was able to leave all the fences in place and blaze through the finish line in 34.516 seconds, earning the blue ribbon and forcing Nusz to settle for second. Johnson was also the last compete during today's class, this time about Amagedon 3, but with the lead well in hand, she focused on a clear effort that earned a time of 35.767 seconds and went into third place.
"Monopoly is a nine-year-old horse that I've had for two years," said Johnson. "I am still trying to figure him out a little bit. He really wants to win every time he goes in the ring. He's such a super fast horse. Today he was actually extra fresh, so I was holding him back a bit because I want to keep him rideable for Sunday. This course was actually quite fitting, I thought that it was nice that there weren't that many sharp turns, so I was able to open him up and just keep that gallop going."
Johnson added, "During the jump-off, I think I made up time from one to two, I just landed and galloped. Maybe to the in-and-out as well, I just galloped right down there and was able to whoa right at the end to set him up."
With her second mount, Johnson was able to spend more time focusing on preparing for the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday, since she already had the lead well in hand. "Amagedon 3 was super rideable today," she commented. "Kent [Farrington] told me to have a nice pace in the jump-off, but don't run him off his feet. I was more cautious with him, but he's a naturally fast horse, so he was still third. If I ran him today though, I was risking not being able to turn him as easily on Sunday. For him, today was more of a set up for the Classic, so hopefully he will be good later this weekend, as well."
"I love Kentucky," concluded Johnson. "It's quieter for the horses, so I think they are able to concentrate a little bit better here. I love it, Kentucky is the best show to come to right after Florida."
Earlier in the day, the High Junior Jumpers took their turn over Petersen's course. This time it was Venezuela's Emanuel Andrade who led the way, jumping two clear rounds with Tiny Tim, owned by Hollow Creek Farm of Aiken, SC. Over the short track they clocked in at 34.577 seconds, which held up for the third place honors. With his second mount Costa, also owned by Hollow Creek Farm, Andrade was also the second qualifier for the short course. The talented young rider managed to best his own time, breaking the beam at 34.530 seconds, garnering the second place prize.
Abigail McArdle of St. Charles, IL, proved to be the best of the day with Cosma 20, carrying their success over from last Sunday's victory in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame Junior Jumper Classic. The pair showcased their quick and clear way of going as they tackled the jump-off track with a big gallop, and never touched a rail. Tripping the timers at 31.273, almost three seconds faster than Andrade, to earn the winning title. The last rider to challenge McArdle's lead was Shawn Casady with Viona, owned by Raylyn Farms of Frederick, MD, but their conservative effort ended up in fourth with a time of 34.814 seconds.
"I watched Emanuel go right before me and I thought he was really fast, especially because he beat his first time, so our plan was to do the direct route to the first two fences, explained McArdle after her win. "Where I really made up time was to the double combination, we were able to really cut across the ring there."
McArdle continued, "Cosma 20 is kind of a hot mare. She's relatively new to me, I got her in the middle of WEF, but she's super special, super careful, I am just trying to learn what she likes. She's got a great front end and it's nice to have one that's hot and has a big step, but is also very rideable and adjustable. It's nice not to have a wild ride all the time."
A Show Jumping Hall of Fame Classic will be held for both the High Amateur-Owner and High Junior Jumpers on Sunday. The junior class will feature $1,000 in bonus money for the SSG Riding Gloves 'Go Clean for the Green' Promotion, which went to McArdle last week. "I would love to win the Classic again, and of course I'll be wearing the gloves again, so I hope to grab that bonus," she stated.
Tomorrow, the highlight event in the Rolex Stadium will be the $75,000 Rena Murphy Grand Prix sponsored by Audi of Lexington. The event is set to begin at 6:30 p.m., and will feature the nation's top horse and riders competing for the winning prize, as well as $8,000 in bonus money through SSG Riding Gloves. The Kentucky Spring Classic will conclude on Sunday with the $20,000 Bluegrass Classic.
For more information about the Kentucky Spring Classic, please visit www.KentuckyHorseShows.com.
Photo Credit: Paige Johnson and Monopoly won the High Amateur-Owner Jumpers at the Kentucky Spring Classic. Photo By: Rebecca Walton/PMG.