Lexington, KY - It was a busy, non-stop, wall to wall day of equestrian competition at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show at the Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, with the grand finale finally bringing down the Thursday curtain at 10:30 p.m. on a hot and muggy July day in the Bluegrass State.
And once again making headlines, it was Reed Kessler of Armonk, New York, putting together yet another day of incredible success. In addition to taking the lead in the grueling and challenging North American Young Riders Championships with a victory in the first Individual test, Kessler then went on to post her first ever major grand prix win in the $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic.
With the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships dominating the schedule, with Dressage in the morning, and then two sections of show jumping taking up all of the afternoon and early evening agenda, the Thursday feature event didn't get started until after 8 p.m.
Each week, the Kentucky Horse Shows offers the exciting race to the Hagyard Challenge Series Leading Rider Award. $50,000 will be awarded to the rider accumulating the most points. The Hagyard Challenge Series consists of five grand prix events, beginning May 13 and concluding August 20, 2010. The award will be presented following the $50,000 Hagyard CSI-W Lexington Grand Prix on August 20, 2010.
The Kentucky Summer Horse Show management, as they do on a regular basis, provided a popular, complimentary hamburger and hotdog meal for all of the exhibitors, and in so doing assured a good crowd for the Thursday night main event. Those that stuck around were rewarded with an excellent class of show jumping from the forty starters that went to the post.
Olaf Petersen, Jr of Germany is back to design the courses this year, and tonight came up with an inviting test that saw fifteen of the original forty go clear. For a while, it appeared that it was going to be a massive jump-off as nine of the fifteen clear rounds came among the first sixteen to go in the class. But then things settled down and a string of fifteen riders in a row failed to qualify for round two. When six more added their names to the second round dance card among the last thirteen to go, the jump-off roster was set.
In the tiebreaker, Maurice Beatson and Zibibbo blazed the trail with a second clear round, setting the pace in 46.200 seconds, a score and time that would hold up for tonight's eventual fourth place finish.
One horse later a new leader emerged as newcomer Diego Vivero of Ecuador shattered the pace set by Beatson by over six seconds. Vivero raced home in what, at the time, looked like an unbeatable time of 40.430 seconds.
Another couple down the list, Katie Dinan and Amoroso took over second place, cruising home handily in a speedy time of 42.811 seconds.
Two horses later, the lead changed hands for good as Reed Kessler and her new mount Onisha somehow found a way to slice 6/10ths of a second off of the pace set by Vivero, racing home in an incredible 39.896 seconds to seal the deal.
That's not to say that time didn't get topped. In fact, three riders in the jump-off were able to get home faster than Kessler. They just couldn't match the speed with a clean round. With Kessler's go on Onisha, the clean rounds were done for the night. The balance of those in the jump-off were forced to chase, and did so without success.
The fastest of the four fault rides was a heartbreaking one for Californian Guy Thomas, competing for the first time at the Kentucky Horse Park. Riding his long time partner Peterbilt, Thomas was rolling to the win, but rolled the rail on the last jump. He had easily beat Kessler's time in 39.031 seconds, but the four faults at the last jump would drop him to fifth place.
Aaron Vale also caught Kessler's time, but with a rail down on Ubico-H. Vale finished in 39.718 seconds to finish sixth.
Rounding out the top eight were Lauren Tisbo and Crème Bruele and Patricia Griffith with Man in Black, both with four faults in the jump-off. Tisbo broke the beams in 41.392 seconds, while Griffith crossed the finish line in 41.631 seconds.
"This is our first grand prix win, and our first one under the lights. I am so excited," said a beaming Kessler following the Hagyard presentation.
As far as her strategy for the jump-off, Kessler said that she didn't get a chance to see Vivero go, but noted that that didn't matter because it was really up to Onisha anyway, "She just kinda sets the tone for the jump-off and you just go out and get it done. The only thing I was worried about in the jump-off was the in and out, because we had a little trouble with that in the first round. With her, you just look for a long distance and kind let her charge up to it. So, I let her do it, and she really came through tonight."
"He's a young horse, he's just eight years old and he doesn't have much experience at all, but he's very, very brave and I have a lot of hope for him," said second place finisher Diego Vivero of Ecuador who is visiting the Horse Park for the first time. "It's amazing," he said of the Kentucky facility.
Kessler was third in the Hagyard standings coming into tonight's class and will surely make a move up in the standings. "I'm really excited to be moving up the ranks, especially now, with some of those at the top of the list not here. I'm lucky to be able to take advantage of that. The Hagyard series is such a great thing for the riders, they are great sponsors and I would love to be at the top or near the top when it's all done," she admitted.
Sponsors of the $50,000 Leading Rider Award include Dean, Dorton, & Ford; Pfizer Animal Health; Hagyard Flex-Tra 200; Kathleen Sullivan, CIMA, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney; Turf Town Properties; Audi of Lexington and The Spa at Griffin Gate Resort.
Hagyard Equine Medical Institute is pleased to announce the 2010 addition of presenting sponsor Adequan® to the Hagyard Challenge Series Leading Rider Award Program .
All grand prix classes will offer the same number of points per placing regardless of the amount of the prize money awarded. The Hagyard Challenge Series point system will be: 1st place-250 points, 2nd-170 points, 3rd-120 points, 4th-100 points, 5th-80 points, 6th-70 points, 7th-60 points, 8th-50 points, 9th-40 points, 10th-30 points, 11th-20 points, and 12th-10 points.
In 2009, Hagyard Challenge Series Leading Rider was presented to former Olympian and nine-time AGA Rider of the Year, Margie Engle.
Remaining dates for the Hagyard Challenge Series include:
August 5: $25,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic
August 20: $50,000 Hagyard CSI-W Lexington Grand Prix
Show Jumping action continues at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show through the weekend.
Photo: © 2010 Kenneth Kraus/PhelpsSports.com. Reed Kessler is presented with top honors in Thursday's $40,000 Hagyard Lexington Classic Grand Prix at the Kentucky Summer Horse Show in Lexington, Kentucky.